FOSTER, William
(Service number N/N)

First Rank Last Rank


Date 31 August 1875 Place of Birth Timaru

Enlistment Information

Date 2 May 1917 Age 41 years 8 months
Address at Enlistment Wilson Street, Timaru
Occupation Yardman
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin
Religion Church of England
Medical Information Height 5 feet 6 inches. Weight 121 lbs. Chest measurement 32-35½ inches. Complexion fair. Eyes grey. Hair grey. Sight - right eye 6/12, left eye 6/9. Hearing and colour vision both normal. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of all joints. Chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. Illness - dysentery 5 years ago. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Not in good bodily and mental health and free from any physical defect likely to interfere with the efficient performance of his duties. Slight defect(s), but not sufficient to cause rejection. No fits. Arterio sclerosis. Class C2.

Military Service

Served with New Zealand Armed Forces (?) Served in
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation
Unit, Squadron, or Ship
Embarked From Destination
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With

Military Awards

Service Medals
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 Reason

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

Post-war Occupations

Coal merchant; carter


Date 21 May 1926 Age 50 years
Place of Death Timaru Hospital
Notices Timaru Herald. 22 May 1926
Memorial or Cemetery Timaru Cemetery
Memorial Reference General Section, Row 3, Plot 104
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

William Foster was the eldest son of Irish born Joseph and Sarah Jane (Jane, née McClelland) Foster, of Timaru. He was born on 31 August 1875 at Timaru and baptized at St Mary's Church, Timaru, on 7 November 1875, the son of Joseph a labourer from Ireland and Jane, Timaru, the parents being the sponsors. Joseph and Sarah Jane married in 1874 in County Armagh, Ireland, and by August 1875 were at Timaru where their son William was born, followed by three sisters and three brothers. In 1878, Joseph Foster pleaded guilty to neglecting to register the birth of his child. William and his siblings were educated at Timaru Main School, their address being Sandie Town and later Wilson Street.

Prizes were distributed at the Sandietown Branch Sunday School on 26 June 1887. There among the Boys Class I recipients was W. Foster. In September 1888, when there was a full attendance of scholars and a fair number of parents, William Foster and his sisters Nellie and Sarah received prizes at the Sandietown Branch of St Mary’s Sunday School. At the Timaru Main School he received first prize for proficiency in Standard III in 1887. In August 1891, W. Foster again received a prize at St Mary’s Sandietown Sunday School, as did his sisters Ellen and Sarah and brother Joseph.

Their father, Joseph Foster, died on 16 February 1895 at his Wilson Street residence and was buried through St Mary’s Church at Timaru Cemetery, members of the Oddfellows’ Lodge attending. A letter of condolence was sent to Mrs Foster by the Loyal Timaru Lodge, I.O.O.F. Later in the month, Mrs S. J. Foster intimated that “the that the Business hitherto carried on by my late husband, Joseph Foster, in Cain’s Terrace, will now be CARRIED ON BY ME in the same Premises. All Persons having Claims on the Estate will kindly hand same to me there for settlement, and all Indebted to the Estate will please pay same to me there.” Joseph Foster had made detailed provision for his wife in his Will, including permission for her to carry on his trade or business. Mrs Sarah Jane Foster died at her Wilson Street residence on 3 September 1905, after a long and painful illness, and was buried with Joseph. William, her eldest son and one of the next-of-kin, was authorized to administer her estate. His sisters Ellen Cameron and Sarah Foster and his brother David Foster duly signed their consent, while Robert James Foster and Hannah Sophia Foster, both infants legally), also consented. All six were of Timaru in December 1905. William prepared an inventory of his mother’s effects – cash in bank, book debts, and furniture. There was no mention of the son Joseph born in 1881, although he was recorded on the electoral roll at the Wilson Street address from 1905 till 1911. In 1896 Joseph Foster and three other lads were witnesses to an incident in Wilson Street. Joseph was himself the victim of assault on at least two occasions. In 1909 he was charged on information with having attempted to leave the district without making provision for the maintenance of his unborn illegitimate child. In September following he was charged with disobeying an order and, although he denied paternity, he would go to gaol if the money was not forthcoming. It appears that Joseph may have fallen out with his family and left the district, perhaps the country. Ellen Jane (Nellie), the eldest of the Foster girls, married in 1899 at St Mary’s Church, Timaru; Sarah married in 1907; and Hannah Sophia, the youngest, married in 1913 at Timaru.

In mid-1900, Mr Foster was appointed to supply coal to Timaru Main School. Was this perhaps William, his deceased father having been a coal carter and William following in this occupation? At the Magistrate’s Court in July 1908, W. Foster was charged with cycling on footpaths. While pleading guilty, he stated that “he rode on the path because the roads were so bad, to which His Worship replied that he knew the state the roads were in, but this did not justify anyone in taking to the paths with their cycles.” He imposed a fine of 5s and costs.

In April 1917, William Foster, carter, Wilson Street, Timaru, was one of 368 names drawn in the ballot for the South Canterbury Military District to fill vacancies in the 30th Reinforcements. When he enlisted at Timaru on 2 May 1917, he was employed as a yardman for the Westport Coal Company, Timaru. He was single, of Church of England affiliation, coming up 43 years, and residing at Wilson Street, Timaru. He was 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighed 121 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 32-35½ inches. His complexion was fair, his eyes and hair grey. Sight in his right eye measured only 6/12, and in his left eye 6/9. His hearing, colour vision, heart and lungs were all normal; his limbs and chest well formed. He had been ill with dysentery 5 years ago and, although he was free from diseases and fits, he was not in good bodily and mental health and free from any physical defect likely to interfere with the efficient performance of his duties. There were slight defects, but not sufficient to cause rejection. Suffering from arterio sclerosis and defective eyesight, he was assessed Class C2.

William Foster, who may have lived his entire relatively short life at one address, died on 21 May 1926 at the Timaru Hospital. The “beloved and eldest son of the late Mr and Mrs Joseph Foster, of Wilson Street, Timaru” was 50 years old and deeply mourned. He was buried with his parents at the Timaru Cemetery. Members of the Loyal Timaru Lodge met at the Timaru Hospital to attend the funeral of their late Brother, William Foster. William’s youngest sister, Hannah, and her husband inserted a notice regarding late W. Foster in the Timaru Herald on 25 June 1922 – “Mr and Mrs C Glanville, Christchurch, desire to sincerely thank all those kind persons for their expressions of sympathy in their recent sad bereavement; also the Doctors and Nurses of the Timaru Hospital for the great kindness and careful attention shown the deceased whilst a patient thereat.” Letters of administration of the estate effects and credits of William Foster deceased were granted to Sarah Lithgow on 16 October 1926. Sarah Lithgow who was William’s second sister, was one of the next-of-kin and administratrix of his estate. His estate consisted of cash in the house; furniture, chattels, etc; life policy; freehold property (Wilson Street, Timaru). Two brothers survived William – David Foster (Levin, builder) and Robert James Foster (Wellington, clerk) – and three sisters – Nellie Fisher (Christchurch), Sarah Lithgow (Timaru) and Hannah Glanville (Christchurch). It appears that his brother Joseph Foster predeceased him. On Friday, 3 December 1926, “a dwelling and 1 acre of land, situated Wilson Street, next to Sandietown Anglican Church” was submitted to auction in the estate of the late William Foster.

William’s youngest brother, Robert James Foster, also enlisted for service in World War One and served in New Zealand. Four cousins in his mother’s McClelland line are known to have served with the New Zealand Forces – Samuel James Gould, David McClelland (killed in action in 1918, France), Henry Riches and Joseph James McClelland (killed in action in 1918, France). His nephews, Robert Bruce Lithgow, Douglas David Foster and Donald Campbell Noeline Fisher, served in World War Two. Both Jim (James Albert) and Joe (Joseph Leonard) Edwards, sons of Robert’s wife by her first marriage, served in World War Two, as did his son-in-law, Leslie William Claridge, who was buried at Timaru.


NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5537 0041640) [27 May 2016]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [22 May 2016]; Timaru Herald, 1 May 1878, 24 December 1887, 24 September 1888, 10 August 1891, 18 & 26 February 1895, 22 July 1899, 5 June 1900, 25 July 1908, 18 April 1917, 16 January 1918, 22 May 1926, 25 June 1926, 20 November 1926, South Canterbury Times, 27 June 1887, Sun, 17 April 1917 (Papers Past) [23 & 28 May 2016; 05 October 2021; 26 April 2023]; School Admission records (South Canterbury Branch NZSG) [27 May 2016]; Probate records (Archives NZ/FamilySearch) [27 & 28 May 2016]; NZ Electoral rolls ( [27 May 2016]; St Mary’s Baptism record (South Canterbury Branch NZSG & South Canterbury Museum) [27 May 2016]; Timaru Cemetery headstone image (Timaru District Council) [27 May 2016]

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Related Documents

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Researched and Written by

Teresa Scott, South Canterbury Genealogy Society

Currently Assigned to


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