Herbert Foster (1883-1916)
Labourer, Central Parks
Herbert was born in 1883 at Duddington, Northamptonshire to George, an agricultural labourer, and Eliza Foster. In 1901, then aged 17, Herbert had taken up employment as a farm worker and was still living at Duddington with his widowed mother and three younger siblings. On 23 October 1907 Herbert, then of 8 Berwick Street, Victoria, married Jessie Warn of 69 Headstone Road, Harrow at St John the Baptist church in Harrow. In 1911 Herbert and Jessie were living at 2 Pimlico Road, London with their daughter Doris, aged 2. At that time, he was employed as a domestic gardener, but prior to joining the army he was employed by the Office of Works as a labourer in the Central Parks.
Private 2781 Herbert Foster was in the 1/2nd Battalion, London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) when on 1 July 1916 his battalion was involved in the attack against the northern flank of the German lines on the Gommecourt Salient, which was the start of the Somme battles. Most of the objectives set out in the battle plans were made during the first hours of the action. However, German artillery and machine guns placed an intense barrage onto no-man’s land had already walked across, preventing any reinforcements reaching the forward troops. The war diary states that, “three times attempted to advance, but that the artillery and machine gun fire was too hot”. At the same time the Germans launched “vigorous counter attacks” that forced the retreating British troops into the barrage in no-man’s land. Fighting was very hard and the London Regiment lost most of its officers and over 4,000 casualties on that day.
Herbert was one of these casualties; his body was never found and his name is carved on the Thiepval Memorial at the Somme; pier 9D and face 16B.