b. 12/12/1880 Forton, Hampshire. d. 13/09/1942 Clarendon Park, Salisbury, Wiltshire.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 13/09/1942 Clarendon Park, Wiltshire.
William George Foster (1880-1942) was born on 12th December 1880 at the Royal Marines Barracks, Forton, near Alverstoke, Hampshire, the son of George and Mary Ann Foster (nee Rowland). His parents had married in East London, in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa in 1868 and William was one of their 10 children. George Foster eventually left the Army and became a Police Officer in Epping, Essex. William began his working life as a clerk but soon decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the Army.
William’s first appointment was in the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, Royal Fusiliers as No 8994. He was called up in February 1900 to serve with the Fusiliers in the Second Boer War and signed up on the 24th of that month. Reporting to Hounslow Barracks on 2nd March, he was promoted to Lance Corporal and soon after sailed for South Africa with the 1st Volunteer Service Company. Due to his skills as a horseman, he soon transferred to the Imperial Light Horse in 1901 initially serving as a Trooper and later as a Sergeant with the Regimental No 1946. When he broke his leg in 1902 he was medically discharged and sent home.
When back in England, William met and married Lizzie Georgina Bright, who came from Whaddon. The couple would have four children – Gladys Geraldine Adelaide (born 1910), Evelyn Constance Louvain (born 1914), William Douglas (born and died 1917), and Myrtle Thelma (born 1920). On the outbreak of World War I, he chose to re-enlist with his old Regiment, and became a Company Sergeant Major in the 4th Battalion. The Battalion was formed on the Isle of Wight, and became part of the 9th Brigade, 3rd Division. One of the first Battalions to arrive in France, they landed on 13th August 1914, and fought at the Battle of Mons 10 days later suffering 112 killed or wounded. Foster served during the Retreat from Mons, where he was wounded. He then fought at the Battle of Festubert in May 1915 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on the 18th July, later serving as a Temporary Captain from December 1915 to March 1916. He was awarded the DCM in 1915 and the MC in 1916.
At some point he was an Instructor at the School of Musketry, Hythe, Kent, and later transferred to the Army Service Corps as an instructor in riding and horsemanship. Further promotion occurred when Foster served with a British Military Mission with the rank of Temporary Major between October 1917 and September 1918. After a period as a Company Commander, by January 1920 he had retired from the Army with the rank of Substantive Captain.
He moved to Wiltshire and, during the General Strike of 1926, he worked as a Special Constable. Following the outbreak of WWII, he served as a Lieutenant in the 7th Wiltshire (Salisbury) Battalion of the Home Guard. On 13th September 1942, in Clarendon Park, near Salisbury, Wiltshire, he was instructing a group of recruits how to throw grenades when one of them threw a live grenade, which, instead of going over the top, hit the parapet and rebounded to the throwing position. Without hesitation Lieutenant Foster threw himself on the bomb one second before it exploded. It killed him instantly, but saved the lives of his men.
Foster was posthumously awarded the George Cross on 27th November 1942, and Lizzie Foster travelled to Buckingham Palace on 2nd March 1943 to receive her late husband’s medal from King George VI. Foster had been laid to rest in St Mary’s Churchyard, Alderbury, Wiltshire. His medals including his GC, MC, DCM, Queen’s South Africa Medal with three clasps, King’s South Africa Medal with two clasps, 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf, and Defence Medal 1939-45 are privately held, though a replica GC is displayed in St Mary’s Church, Alderbury close to the impressive memorial in the church which was provided by the Alderbury Company of the Home Guard and friends, unveiled in January 1947 by Lt General Sir John Crocker GCB, KBE, DSO, MC.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ST MARY'S CHURCH, ALDERBURY, WILTSHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: ST MARY'S CHURCHYARD, ALDERBURY, WILTSHIRE. (GRAVE 164).
Picture - Kevin Brazier
Memorial to William Foster at St Mary's Churchyard, Alderbury, Wiltshire.
A replica of Foster's GC displayed at St Mary's Church, Alderbury, Wiltshire.