FOSTER, Philip John Henry
(Service number 7/2092)

First Rank Trooper Last Rank Sergeant


Date 13 March 1890 Place of Birth Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Enlistment Information

Date 18 October 1915 Age 25 years
Address at Enlistment Empire Hotel, Waimate
Occupation Carpenter
Previous Military Experience 8th South Canterbury Mounted Rifles
Marital Status Married. Two children.
Next of Kin Mrs Jessie Alice FOSTER (wife), Wharfe Street, Tauranga
Religion Church of England
Medical Information Height 5 feet 5 inches. Weight 9 stone. Chest measurement 30½-33½ inches. Complexion medium. Eyes brown. Hair dark brown. Sight - normal, both eyes 6/6. Hearing and colour vision both normal. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth satisfactory. No illnesses. free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No fits. Slight but muscular. 'Fit'.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation New Zealand Expeditionary Force
Unit, Squadron, or Ship 9th Reinforcements, Canterbury Mounted Rifles, C. Squadron
Date 8 January 1916
Transport Maunganui
Embarked From Wellington Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With NZ Field Artillery
Last Unit Served With N.Z.F.A.

Military Awards

Campaigns Egyptian; Egyptian EF; Western European
Service Medals British War Medal; Victory Medal
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


Date 21 June 1919 Reason On termination of period of engagement.

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

12 August 1917 admitted to 51st General Hospital (Venereal Hospital) at Etaples, France; 1 December 1917 discharged.

Post-war Occupations



Date 9 February 1971 Age 80 years
Place of Death Christchurch
Notices Press, 10 & 11 February 1971
Memorial or Cemetery Cremated Canterbury Crematorium; ashes interred Bromley Cemetery, Christchurch
Memorial Reference Bromley Cemetery - Block 8, Plot 199
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

Philip John Henry Foster was the only son of Philip Jarvis and Mary Ann (née Thornton) Foster. He was born on 13 March 1890 at Hawthorn, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, while his two older sisters and one younger were all born in New Zealand, the oldest and youngest in South Canterbury. Philip Foster, born in Deal, Kent, England, in 1857, came out to New Zealand by the “Regina” with his parents and four older siblings, as a two-year-old. Landing at Lyttelton, the family came to Timaru in 1860, where seven more children were born, one dying in infancy. Philip and England-born Mary Anne married on 27 December 1882 at the Timaru Congregational Church. Philip Jarvis Foster was a builder and contractor who established his own business in Timaru. For many years the family lived on Arthur Street, Timaru.

Philip, junior, and his sisters were educated a Timaru Main School. Ethel, the eldest, started there in August 1894, having come from a Melbourne school, while Miriam was first educated at a private school. The weather “was all that could be wished for” at the Timaru Main School breaking-up ceremony and prize distribution on 15 December 1898, and there was a large attendance of parents and friends. Let’s imagine that young Philip’s parents were there, to see him receive the Standard I Writing prize. In 1900 he was awarded a Standard III 1st class prize and a special prize for Concert Work. He was ranked 2nd in Standard V Proficiency in 1902, was highly commended in Drawing, and received a Certificate of Merit. The distribution of prizes took place in the Theatre Royal, “and whether it was the novelty of the scene adopted, or the fact that Lady Ranfurly was to grace the proceedings by her presence and to give out prizes, it may be difficult to say, probably both; at any rate there has never been such a large attendance of spectators of the ceremony.” He had also entered the Education Board’s Junior Scholarship examination, although he ranked well scholarships were awarded to only the first six on the list. 1903 was a good year for Philip, who was named Dux (four Standard VI pupils equal) of Timaru Main School. His youngest sister, Rena, also featured in the 1903 prize list. In addition, Philip qualified for a national scholarship, placed well up on the list and noted in the headmaster’s report in February 1904.

Young Phil Foster was a talented lad. A concert in aid of the funds of the Sailors’ Rest was held in the Theatre Royal on 5 June 1901. Master Phil Foster of the Main School Cadets, was in great form in “The Lads in Navy Blue,” and in response to an encore sang a verse of “Sons of the Sea.” At the 1902 Caledonian New Year gathering, he danced a sailor’s hornpipe. In a concert and dance at the Gleniti schoolroom in September, he sang “There is no one like Mother to me” and was encored. At the 1903 Caledonian New Year gathering, the youngster Phil. Foster competed with the professional dancers in the Sailors’ Hornpipe and did so well that his performance was “highly commended”, and he was given a special prize of half a guinea. Master Phil Foster was judged most deserving of the boys’ award for fancy costume at the children’s fancy dress ball held in the Drillshed on 24 April 1903. A duet was given by Phil Foster and Ina Gilchrist at the Timaru Wesleyan Sunday school children’s service of song held on 19 October 1903 had to be repeated. At a successful Wesleyan Sunday School concert in early March 1904, he sang “Lucky Jim” which was encored, while two of his sisters gave a violin and piano duet. Later in the month, at a farewell party for couple leaving to visit their native Devon, “Master Phil. Foster delighted all who could crowd in to see him, by dancing the sailor’s hornpipe.” Master P. Foster who gave the sailors’ hornpipe, and received an encore, at an entertainment for men in the Assembly Rooms on 15 October 1904, was surely Philip.

Timaru Main School provided entertainment in the Theatre Royal on 26 July 1906, to “raise funds to provide new uniforms for the 56 cadets of No. 1 company, so that they could go to the Christchurch Exhibition creditable in clothing as well as creditable otherwise.” One of the most popular songs was Phil. Foster’s “Strike up the Band”, and sailor’s song with chorus and hornpipe (encored). His father was certainly active in the community (Caledonian Society, Timaru Port Guards, Timaru A. & P. Association, South Canterbury Builders’ Association, Acclimatisation Society). “The anglers got among the big fish on Saturday night on Burke’s pool. The palm for the trip fell to Mr P. Foster, jun., 16 years of age, who killed three big fish - 171b, 121b, and 71b. The veterans gave the enthusiastic and skilful youth a hearty round of applause when he safely grassed the big one.” [Timaru Herald. 15 January 1907.] P. Foster, jun., finished second in a skating mile championship race (22 laps to the mile) in August 1908. Roller skating was as popular in Timaru as ever. At the skating carnival in August 1909, Miss E. Kerr and Mr P. Foster were judged the most graceful couple. His fancy dress at the carnival was Cricketer. About the same time, Philip’s eldest sister, Ethel, married at their Arthur Street residence. At the closing of the skating season in October 1909, in “the half-mile handicap P. Foster won all the way in the fair time of 2min. 15sec, none of the back-markers being able to make any impression on him. He also accounted for the Potato Race in which there were several humourous incidents.” At the end of the month, Philip Foster was elected a member of the South Canterbury Motor Cyclists’ Club. He was soon competing in hill-climbing competition, and on Christmas Day, and succeeding days, with 12 others in the “To Dunedin and back” competition (a 258 miles’ run). At the Olympia rink’s 1910 mile-race, he came a good second in an exciting finish. At the carnival a couple of months later, he was a member of the winning relay team, second in the hurdle race, and first in both the mile race and the potato race. This time his fancy dress was a Footballer. A short time later, he and another crack skater, a New Zealand champion, raced a mile for a wager. The amateur Foster got a short start, and the skater of “long experience and constant practice” was unable to overtake him. The management of the roller skating facilities arranged for an extraordinary event for mid-April 1911. A well-known local motorist would race Phil Foster, he on skates. “The speedy skater is favoured by many for the mile event, as it is thought that the motorist will lose speed at the turns, but there is a division of opinion, so that the race will be well worth seeing.” Less than three months later, a remarkable half-mile contest was to take place between “Mr S. Finch and Mr Phil Foster junr., the former skating backwards from a flying start against the latter who will progress in the usual way.” Miriam Tremere Foster, Philip’s second sister, married at St Mary’s, Timaru in February 1911.

On leaving school, Philip John Henry Foster took up carpentry and joined his father in his building business. Philip continued his participation in skating and motor cycling. He was residing at the family’s Arthur Street address in 1911. Philip’s second sister, Miriam, married in February 1911 at St Mary’s Church, Timaru. She was attended by three bridesmaids – her sister Miss Rena Foster, her cousin Miss Ethel Baker, and Miss Jessie Guinness (of Tauranga). Was this when Philip and Jessie met? Philip John Henry married Jessie Alice Guinness on 15 September 1911 at Rotorua. Together they had two children - George Arthur Foster born on 7 October 1911 at Timaru and Jessie Phyllis Guinness Foster born on 20 May 1914 at Timaru. His father, Mr Phil Foster, the well-known Timaru builder, suffered a serious accident late in November 1911, when his motor cycle and a taxi collided in North Street. Mr Foster fell, breaking the small bone of one leg, and sustaining a painful wound on the head and another on one hip. Meanwhile Philip, junior, continued with motor cycling and fishing. In July 1913, both P. Foster (senr.) and P. Foster (junr.) were enrolled as honorary territorials – Philip senior with C Battery N.Z.A, and Philip junior with S.C. Mounted Rifles. By April 1914, Messrs P. Foster and Son had established a branch of their business in Fairlie. They were the builders of the new hall for St Stephen’s Anglican Parish there, and they were the contractors for the new Fire Brigade Station and the Mackenzie County Council reading room and library. Mary Ann Foster died on 12 August 1914 at Timaru, aged 55.

In October 1915, Philip John Henry Foster was working as a carpenter at Waimate and residing at the Empire Hotel, Waimate. He was among a number of Waimate men who had passed the medical examination. He had served with the 8th South Canterbury Mounted Rifles. P. J. H. Foster left for Trentham on 18 October 1915, with South Canterbury’s quota for the Ninth Reinforcements. The residents of Waimate demonstrated their loyalty and patriotism when they turned out by the hundreds to bid farewell to nine men of the 9th Reinforcements who were leaving for Trentham. Headed by the local brass band the men were marched through the principal streets to the railway station, where they were met by his Worship the Mayor, the Mayoress, the Deputy-Mayor (D. Hayes), and several members of the patriotic committee. “Addressing the men, Dr. Hayes said that they had answered the call to fight for honour, truth, and justice. . . . . . . On behalf of the people of Waimate he wished them God speed and a safe return.” Major Francis (the Mayor) also addressed the men and wished them good luck and a safe return. After three cheers were given for the men and one for their mothers, they were “marched into the train which moved out from the station amidst the cheers of the residents.”

Enlisting on 18 October 1915 at Trentham, he named his wife as next-of-kin – Mrs Jessie Alice Foster, Wharfe Street, Tauranga. He was 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighed 9 stone, and had a chest measurement of 30½-33½ inches. His complexion was medium, his eyes brown and his hair dark brown. His sight, hearing and colour vision were all normal, as were his heart and lungs, his limbs and chest were well formed, and his teeth were satisfactory. Vaccinated and without illnesses, diseases, or fits, he was in good bodily and mental health. Slight but muscular. ‘Fit'. Trooper P. J. H. Foster embarked with the Canterbury Mounted Rifles of the 9th Reinforcements, departing from Wellington for Suez, Egypt, per the “Maunganui” on 8 January 1916. He disembarked at Suez on 12 February.

He was transferred from the Canterbury Mounted Rifles to the New Zealand Field Artillery in March 1916 at Moascar. Then it was off to France. He was appointed Acting Bombardier on 12 September 1916 and promoted to Bombardier on 10 January 1917. Foster proceeded to the UK on leave on 20 July 1917, re-joining his Unit on 1 August. Having been admitted to 51st General Hospital (Venereal Hospital) at Etaples, France, on 12 August 1917, he was discharged on 1 December and marched into Base. Bomb. Foster was appointed Temporary Corporal on 22 March 1918 and promoted to Corporal to complete establishment on 22 April. He was appointed Temporary Sergeant on 26 September 1918 and promoted to Sergeant on 21 October.

All was good at his medical examination at Codford on 25 March 1919. Embarking at Glasgow on 1 April 1919, Sergeant P. J. H. Foster returned to New Zealand by the “Paparoa” which was due at Wellington about 13 May 1919. A later report stated that the “Paparoa” would not reach her destination (Wellington) before 21 May; the due date was then amended to 24 May. After more than three years’ service in Egypt and Western Europe, he was discharged on 21 June 1919 and awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

His destination on return was Tauranga where Jessie was residing in 1914 and for many years thereafter. Philip, however, was at a Wellington address after his return in 1919 and through the 1920s. He had resumed his carpentry profession. By the early 1930s he had moved to Christchurch. There was a period at Waitara in the 1940s and at Seadown in retirement in the mid-1950s, before a move back to the Christchurch area and a brief return to Timaru. His father, Philip Jarvis Foster, died on 25 March 1938 in Christchurch and was buried at Timaru.

His son George attended several schools – Tauranga DHS, Rotorua, Clyde Quay Wellington, St Mark’s Wellington (admitted in August 1919), Auckland, Kaitara Wairarapa (admitted July 1923), back to Tauranga DHS (September 1923); while his daughter Jessie is known to have attended Clyde Quay Wellington, Sr Mark’s Wellington and Auckland schools. Philip sought dissolution of the marriage in November 1923 on the ground of desertion. He stated they had married at Rotorua “and they had lived together at various places in New Zealand. One week-end in September, 1919, he found his wife left home and had not since returned. Petitioner was content that the two children should remain with respondent. His Honor granted a decree nisi, with interim custody of the children to respondent.” It appears, sadly, that Philip lost contact with his two children from this time. Philip John Henry Foster married Dorothea Constance Megson née Godden in 1939. Jessie Phyllis Foster was with her mother at Tauranga before her marriage to Gordon Douglas Sinclair in 1936; she died in August 1959 and was cremated at Purewa. George Arthur Foster was also with his mother in 1941. He married Ida Mary Keven at Holy Trinity Church, Tauranga, in 1943. Known as Gaf, he served in World War Two and died in March 2004, his ashes interred in the RSA section of Pyes Pa Cemetery.

Philip John Henry Foster (Late 1st N.Z.E.F., Reg. No. 7/2092) died on 9 February 1971 at Christchurch, aged 80 years. His funeral service was held at the Canterbury Crematorium Chapel, and his ashes were interred at Bromley Cemetery, Christchurch, with his second wife, Dorothea Constance, who had died at home in September 1966. The death notice mentions only one other person besides his late wife Dorothea – “loved uncle of Heather (Mrs R. Shuker)”. Heather is not mentioned in Dorothea’s notice and her place in the family is unknown, but it is known that one of her sons was named Phillip. Jessie Alice Foster died on 23 January 1981 and was buried at the Tauranga Anglican Cemetery.

Three cousins of Philip John Henry Foster served in World War One – Philip Stanley Foster, Howard Carpenter Foster (in New Zealand only) and Fred Stephen Brittenden. Fred who was born at Timaru, lived most of his short life with his family in Victoria, Australia. He served with the Australian Forces and lost his life at the Somme in 1916. All four men were the descendants of a Deal boatman, Philip Jarvis Foster, who emigrated in 1858/1859 and settled in Timaru. Another cousin, William Tremere Foster, who was a teacher, was called up in 1918, while two other cousins – Richard Philip Earl and Frederick Charles Earl – were listed on the Reserve Rolls. A much younger cousin, George David Foster, served in World War Two. Pilot Officer Vernon Wellington Raymond Mick), a son of Philip’s youngest sister, was killed in action in 1914. Another nephew and namesake, Philip John Henry Millichamp, served in World War Two.


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [20 May 2016]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5537 0041613) [22 May 2016]; Timaru Herald, 16 December 1898, 5 June 1901, 3 January 1902, 13 September 1902, 19 December 1902, 3 & 14 January 1903, 25 April 1903, 20 October 1903, 18 December 1903, 29 January 1904, 2 February 1904, 4 & 25 March 1904, 16 September 1904, 27 July 1906, 15 January 1907, 14 August 1908, 6 August 1909, 18 & 22 September 1909, 16 & 20 October 1909, 3 November 1909, 29 December 1909, 23 June 1910, 3, 14, 16 & 21 September 1910, 23 & 25 February 1911, 25 March 1911, 15 April 1911, 1 July 1911, 25 November 1911, 16 July 1913, 18 April 1914, 13 August 1914, 18 & 19 October 1915, South Canterbury Times, 13 December 1900, Waimate Daily Advertiser, 5 October 1915, New Zealand Herald, 1 May 1919, 28 November 1923, Dominion, 1 May 1919 (Papers Past) [20, 22 & 23 May 2016; 16 May 2020; 03 October 2022; 16, 18, 21 & 22 April 2023; Bromley Cemetery, Christchurch, burial record (Christchurch City Council) [20 May 2016] ]; Bromley Cemetery, Christchurch, headstone transcription (South Canterbury Branch NZSG cemetery records) [24 May 2016]; School Admission Records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [20 & 23 May 2016] (Rotorua & Wellington branches NZSG) [21 April 2023]; Victoria, Australia birth registration [20 May 2016]; NZ Electoral Rolls ( [21 & 23 May 2026; 19 March 2023; 11 April 2023]

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, South Canterbury Genealogy Society

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