Researched and written by Anne Wright
L/Cpl E J Foster
8th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment
Killed in action, 4.7.1918
Ernest James was the second of four children born to Francis (Frank) and Martha Elizabeth Foster. His father, a native of Surrey, was born in Bookham c.1854 and his mother, a Londoner, born in the city c.1851. Ernest had an older brother, Francis William, a younger sister, Ethel and a younger brother, Nelson John. He was born in Oatlands Park, Weybridge in 1887. Frank Foster was a cabman/groom. In 1891 the family lived in Vale Road in Walton-on-Thames but by 1901 had moved to 4, Yew Tree Cottages in New Road, Weybridge. The parents and Nelson John were at the same address ten years later by which time Nelson was a domestic gardener and his father, a coachman. Ernest did not live in the family home in 1911 because he had married Sarah (Sally) Elizabeth Couling at St. Peter’s Church, Hersham on 12 October 1910. At this time he was a shop assistant living in Albany Road Hersham.
Ernest enlisted at Chichester in Sussex; we do not have a precise date, but as he did not receive the 1914-15 Star campaign medal he did not see active service against Germany between August 1914 and December 1915. He joined the 8th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment of the 55th Brigade in the 18th (Eastern) Division. His battalion arrived on the Western Front in the summer of 1915 and served there throughout the war. Their service included two of the worst battles of the war; the Battle of the Somme, 1916, where the 8th Battalion became famous for kicking footballs as they advanced on 1 July, the first day of the battle and the 3rd Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), 1917. In March 1918 they were caught up in the fierce fighting of the German’s ‘Spring Offensive’ near Betancourt, retiring, making stands and retiring again. At one point they were almost surrounded.
By 27 June 1918 they were in the Divisional Reserve in camps in the valley behind Henencourt Wood. For the next three days Ernest and his comrades had company training and worked on improving the defence of the Henencourt – Lavieville line. On 3 July two companies went into the front line and the rest were near Battalion HQ training to recapture lost ground. The following day training was cancelled and they were ordered to move forward during the night of 4/5 July. There were three fatalities on 4 July; Ernest was one of them. He was buried in Bouzincourt-Ridge Cemetery 3 km north-west of Albert. The inscription on his headstone reads as follows:
UNTIL THE DAY BREAK AND THE SHADOWS FLEE AWAY
His widow remarried to Percy John Brown on New Year’s Day 1921. foster, ernest
Below Ernest’s name on the Weybridge Memorial is that of his older brother, Francis William Foster who was killed on 9 October 1918. All three Foster brothers served in the Great War, the youngest, Nelson John, also of the East Surrey Regiment (L/12381) survived. He returned to the family home in New Road where he lived until at least 1931. His son was born in 1925 – he was named Ernest James.
British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920, www.ancestry.co.uk
England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1916-2007, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1937, www.ancestry.co.uk
Surrey, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1962, www.ancestry.co.uk
The British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920, www.ancestry.co.uk
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, www.ancestry.co.uk