FOSTER, Robert James
(Service number 6/2387)
|First Rank||Private||Last Rank||Private|
|Date||14 April 1895||Place of Birth||Timaru|
|Date||18 April 1915||Age||20 years|
|Address at Enlistment||Ruapuna, South Canterbury|
|Previous Military Experience||2nd South Canterbury Regiment - still serving|
|Next of Kin||George FOSTER (father), Ruapuna, South Canterbury|
|Medical Information||Height 5 feet 6½ inches. Weight 142 lbs. Chest measurement 35-38 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes light blue. Hair brown. Sight - both eyes 6/6. Hearing good. Colour vision correct. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth - requires top plate. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. Slight defect but not sufficient cause rejection - teeth. No fits. No illnesses. Fit - will get plate.|
|Served with||NZ Armed Forces||Served in||Army|
|Body on Embarkation||5th Reinforcements|
|Unit, Squadron, or Ship||Canterbury Infantry Battalion|
|Date||13 June 1915|
|Embarked From||Wellington||Destination||Suez, Egypt|
|Other Units Served With|
|Last Unit Served With||1 Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment|
|Campaigns||Balkan - Gallipoli; Egyptian; Western European|
|Service Medals||1914-1915 Star; British War Medal; Victory Medal|
Award Circumstances and Date
Prisoner of War Information
|Date of Capture|
|Where Captured and by Whom|
|Actions Prior to Capture|
|PoW Serial Number|
|Date||12 June 1919||Reason||On termination of period of engagement.|
Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses
24 June 1916, France - shell wounds in legs; admitted to the Australian Hospital. 29 June 1916, embarked for England per Hospital Ship “Brighton”; admitted to Second London General Hospital at Chelsea - severe shrapnel wounds to thighs; 11 July transferred to No. 1 New Zealand General Hospital at Brockenhurst. 2 August 1917 admitted to No. 1 NZ Field Ambulance, France – sick; 16 August re-joined his unit from Field Ambulance.
Farmer, labourer, motor driver
|Date||2 June 1976||Age||81 years|
|Place of Death||Timaru|
|Notices||Timaru Herald, 4 June 1976|
|Memorial or Cemetery||Geraldine Cemetery|
|Memorial Reference||Services Section, Row 506, Plot 8|
|New Zealand Memorials|
Robert James Foster, known as Bob, was the eldest son of George Foster and his second wife, Jane (Jean) née Webster. He was born on 14 April 1895 at Timaru. George Foster married Annie Howell in 1875 and had six children by her, all at Burke’s Pass, the first-born dying young at Timaru. Annie died in 1887 and was buried at Burke’s Pass. George Foster was the manager of Rollesby Station at Burke’s Pass for the late Captain Hayter. The children of George and Annie attended school at Burke’s Pass. George married Jane (Jean) Webster, who was twenty-five years younger, in 1892 at Burkes Pass. George and Jane had ten children, all born in South Canterbury or Mid-Canterbury. About 1896, George and Jane moved to Ruapuna where he managed the Ruapuna Estate, then returned to South Canterbury after the war ended. At Ruapuna Mr Foster served for some years on the school committee. Mr and Mrs Foster were presented with a purse of sovereigns at Ruapuna in August 1910, as a token of esteem for their invaluable services in the district. Robert was educated at Ruapuna School, spending a week at Arundel in April 1908. In June 1915, Mrs Foster of Ruapuna donated four pillow slips and two bath towels to the hospital ship; on 3 May 1916 at the Ruapuna Hall she was appointed to the sewing committee of subscribers to the Red Cross Funds. Later in May, G. Foster, sen., donated stock, produce and £1 cash to the Ruapuna sale in aid of the Red Cross, while Mrs Foster was one who donated liberally with sewing, refreshments and sweets and worked hard to make everything a success. When the Ruapuna Red Cross ladies decided to form a society in February 1917, Mrs Foster was elected a vice-president. Mrs Argyle, their older half-sister Edith, had lent the piano for a very successful concert and dance in aid of the Red Cross funds in the Ruapuna Hall in March 1917. On the same occasion, Mrs G. Foster and G. Foster contributed £1 to the sale of a Red Cross flag.
At a twelve-mile bicycle road race held at Ruapuna on Good Friday 1912, R. Foster finished second in 42 minutes 30 seconds riding time, W. Foster (his half-brother) finishing first in 41 minutes 30 seconds and winning the prize for fastest time. Mary Jane Foster (Tottie), the eldest daughter of George and Jane, married Thomas Henry Amon Sadler on 19 August 1914 at the Ruapuna Hall. Mr R. J. Foster was the groomsman.
Robert enlisted at Trentham on 12 April 1915, two days before his twentieth birthday, and was appointed to the Canterbury Infantry Battalion of the 5th Reinforcements. He had registered for compulsory military training at Ashburton and was serving with the 2nd South Canterbury Regiment. He was 5 feet 6½ inches tall, weighed 142 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 35-38 inches. His complexion was fair, his eyes light blue and his hair brown. His sight, hearing and colour vision were all correct; his limbs and chest well formed; and his heart and lungs normal; while his teeth required a top plate which he would get. He was vaccinated and being free from diseases, fits and illnesses, he was in good bodily and mental health and fit. Robert, or Bob as he was known, named his father as next-of-kin – George Foster, Ruapuna, South Canterbury. Single and Presbyterian, he was a farm labourer for his father at Ruapuna. Private R. J. Foster embarked with the Canterbury Infantry Battalion of the 5th Reinforcements, departing from Wellington for Suez, Egypt, on 13 June 1915 per the “Tahiti”. His brother Walter Edward Foster embarked with the Fifth Reinforcements at the same time. Disembarking at Suez on 1 August 1915, he joined his Battalion at the Dardanelles on 9 August. Having been attached to Base Details at Mudros on 23 November 1915, he re-joined his Unit at Anzac on 7 December. He then disembarked at Alexandria on 30 December 1915. It was on 6 April 1916 that he embarked at Port Said for France per “Franconia”.
The casualty list issued on 7 July 1916 named Robert James Foster among the wounded. He had suffered shell wounds in the legs, in France on 24 June, and was admitted to the Australian Hospital. Although some newspapers reported that this was the second occasion that he was wounded, there is no record of earlier wounding or hospital admission. In fact, a 1919 report states that he was wounded only once during four years’ service. His brother Walter was by this time ill in London. And another brother, George, was in camp. Embarking for England per Hospital Ship “Brighton” on 29 June 1916, Private Foster, 6/2387, was admitted to the Second London General Hospital at Chelsea, suffering from severe shrapnel wounds to his thighs. He was transferred to No. 1 New Zealand General Hospital at Brockenhurst on 11 July and a month later he reported at Codford where he was taken on Strength. On 29 March 1917 in England, he was transferred to the 3rd Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade. Private R. J. Foster was still in England, after being wounded in France, in May 1917 when his brother Walter was to be invalided home. On 28 May 1917 he again proceeded overseas to France. On 2 August 1917 he was admitted to the No. 1 New Zealand Field Ambulance, sick. He re-joined his unit from the Field Ambulance in France on 16 August 1917. On 8 February 1918 he was attached to the NZ Divisional Wing Reinforcement Camp at Rouen. He went on leave in the UK from 21 July to 8 August 1918. He was back in France when his brother George A. W. Foster was awarded the Military Medal in November 1918. Private Foster then marched into Sling from France on 28 December 1918 and was taken on Strength.
Robert James Foster did have a couple of indiscretions while in England. In January 1917 there was the matter of the sum of 3 shillings and threepence, the cost of a Railway journey from Bristol to Codford – was a warrant issued or did he have to repay? In January 1919 he forfeited three days pay for absence from Sling without leave, and he forfeited one days pay for absence from parade at Sling on 31 January 1919.
All was good at his medical examination at Sling on 30 March 1919. R. J. Foster of Ruapuna returned by the “Arawa” (Draft 244), embarking at Tilbury on 1 April 1919 and disembarking in New Zealand on 15 May 1919. Mr Foster, of Ruapuna, received word to this effect in early May. A welcome home was tendered to Private R. J. Foster in the Ruapuna Hall on Tuesday, May 22, 1919. Private Foster was presented with a suitably inscribed gold medal, which was pinned on the soldier’s tunic. He was thanked for his fine service during four years at the front and wished the best of success in his future life. Private Foster suitably replied. Supper was handed round by the ladies, and dancing was carried on until the early hours. The music was much appreciated. Mr W. E. Foster acted as M.C. Mr Foster, on behalf of the returned boys, thanked the ladies of Ruapuna who held a complimentary dance for the local soldiers in August. Robert James Foster was discharged on 12 June 1919. He had served for over four years, all but 90 days overseas, at Gallipoli, in Egypt and in France, for which he was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. In 1967 the issue of the Gallipoli Lapel badge and the Gallipoli Medallion was authorised.
In August 1919, the ladies of Ruapuna held a complimentary dance for the local soldiers, who had previously entertained them similarly. “Excellent weather prevailed, and a very large gathering assembled in the prettily decorated hall to do honour to the occasion. The Mayfield Band played in its usual style, and everything went with a swing from start to finish. The hall was taxed to its utmost capacity to accommodate all the couples who took part in the Grand March, . . . . . .” Following entertainment, Mr Foster, on behalf of the returned boys, thanked the ladies for the enjoyable evening, and announced that the “mufti” boys would shortly entertain the Ruapuna residents and their friends. A beautiful supper was provided, and the proceedings closed with the singing of “Auld Lang Syne.”
Both Bob and his brother Bricky played football. They were selected together in the Mayfield senior team to play on 22 May 1920. The Ashburton Gala sports were held on 14 April 1921, and there was R. J. Foster competing in the 880 yards Cash Flat Handicap with a handicap of 80 yards and the 440 yards Cash Flat Handicap with a handicap of 20 yards. Later in the month he competed at the Hinds Athletic Club’s annual sports meeting, in the 880 yards Handicap and in the 100 yards Handicap (Returned Soldiers), finishing 3rd.
It appears that Robert James Foster had moved to Wellington about 1922. In 1928 he married Charlotte Ash née Muskett. Charlotte and her first husband who married in 1916 in England and divorced in 1928 in New Zealand, had two children – Winnifred Patricia Ash and Henry Edwin Ash, who was named after a paternal uncle who lost his life at Passchendaele and was himself killed in action in 1943 in World War Two. Robert and Charlotte lived for many years before retiring to Napier. Robert died on 2 June 1976 at Timaru (late of Miramar and Napier), survived by his wife Lottie. He was accorded RSA honours at his funeral at the Geraldine Cemetery on 4 June, after a service at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Geraldine. His grave is marked by a services plaque. Charlotte was buried with him when she died in 1994.
Robert had two brothers who also served in World War One - Walter (Geraldine) who was invalided home in 1917 and survived him and George (Dunedin) who was awarded the Military Medal in 1918 when Robert was in France and died in 1968. Three younger siblings also outlived Robert – Dorothy (Doris) Adamson, Don and Charlie. Several nephews are known to have served in World War Two – Thomas Henry George Sadler, Archibald Smith Foster, George Webster Foster, Walter Douglas Foster (Doug) and George Ernest Allan. George Foster, senior, died 5 July 1931 at his son’s (Walter) residence at Arundel and was buried at Geraldine. He was survived by his second wife, Jane, and by six sons and two daughters of his second marriage. Reginald Foster, the fourth son of George and Jane, died in November 1900 at the Timaru Hospital, aged 2 years and 4 months. Mary Jane Foster (Tottie), their eldest daughter, married Thomas Henry Amon Sadler in 1914 at the Ruapuna Hall. Mary Jane Sadler died three months before her father, leaving a young family. Only two daughters of George’s first marriage were living when he died; his only son by Annie, William George Foster, died in February 1914 at Waimate Hospital, following an accident when his motorcycle hit a cow. Some years after George’s death, Jane married widower Edward McCabe, who predeceased her. Jane died on 25 March 1955 at Timaru and was buried at Geraldine with George. She, too, was survived by six sons and two daughters.
Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [22 May 2016]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5537 0041622) [22 May 2016]; Timaru Herald, 26 November 1900, 7 & 12 September 1914, 8 & 12 July 1916, 6 July 1931, 13 August 1931, Ashburton Guardian, 25 August 1910, 6 April 1912, 19 June 1915, 9 & 22 May 1916, 19 February 1917, 13 March 1917, 14 May 1917, 17 January 1919, 29 April 1919, 5 May 1919, 3 June 1919, 13 August 1919, 21 May 1920, 4, 15 & 29 April 1921, Press, 8 April 1912, 8 & 11 July 1916, 29 April 1919, 15 July 1931, 26 March 1955, Dominion, 9 April 1915, Mataura Ensign, 7 July 1916, Evening Star, 7 July 1916, Evening Post, 7 July 1916, Lyttelton Times, 11 July 1916, 5 May 1919, 4 June 1919, Otago Witness, 19 July 1916, Otago Daily Times, 8 & 12 September 1916, Star, 17 January 1919, 29 April 1919, 5 May 1919, Sun, 29 April 1919, 4 June 1919 (Papers Past) [22 & 23 May 2016; 11 & 17 March 2023; 02, 06 & 07 April 2023]; Timaru Herald, 4 June 1976 (Timaru District Library) [23 June 2016]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [22 May 2016]; School Admission record (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [22 May 2016]; Geraldine Cemetery headstone image (Timaru District Council) [22 May 2016]; NZ Electoral Rolls (ancestry.com.au) [24 May 2016; 02 April 2023]
- FOSTER George A W, Robert James (6-2387), & Walter Edward - newspaper clippings (pdf, 253.5 KB updated 06-Jul-2023)
Researched and Written by
Teresa Scott, South Canterbury Genealogy Society
Currently Assigned to
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