Major Hugh Murray Forster – Died of Wounds 28th September 1915

H M Forster

Title: H M Forster
Description: Hugh Murray Forster, 8th K.O.S.B. From the Knights-Whittome Collection Courtesy of Sutton Local Studies Centre by-nc

Hugh Murray Forster was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 8th September 1883. He was the second of four children born to Ralph and Elizabeth Forster.

The family lived at The Grange, Sutton. The grounds stretched between Worcester Road and Grange Road and the house stood where Cadogan Close is now. Ralph was a director of a firm of merchants, Bessler, Waechter & Co, and a very rich man indeed. He was, however, a very generous man too and a great philanthropist. Among many gifts to Sutton were a parish hall at Christ Church, a new pavilion for Sutton Cricket Club and, one year, a tonne of coal and a Christmas pudding to every unemployed married man in Sutton.

Young Hugh attended Banstead Hall preparatory school and then Charterhouse between 1897 and 1902. He studied abroad (possibly in the USA) before returning to England and a job with his father’s firm. He rose to become managing director and travelled extensively in the years leading up to the war.

Hugh was a keen sportsman and played for the First XIs of Banstead and Sutton Cricket Clubs, appeared for the invitational Surrey Club and Ground team, played rugby for Sutton & Epsom and golf at Banstead Downs Golf Club. He was also a Freemason (a member of the Mid-Surrey Lodge) and Honorary District Secretary of Sutton & Cheam District Scouts. He held a commission in the Surrey Yeomanry and then in the 5th (Territorial) East Surrey Regiment but had to give them up due to his work and frequent overseas trips.

Hugh was returning from a business trip to South Africa when war broke out. He was soon in uniform and gave a “straightforward, manly” speech at a recruiting meeting in the Public Hall in Sutton in September 1914. He joined the King’s Own Scottish Borderers as a 2nd lieutenant, serving with the 8th (Service) Battalion. Within months he had been promoted to major and given command of ‘C’ Company.

The Borderers disembarked at Boulogne on 8th July 1915. Their first action was to support the Highland Light Infantry on the first day of the Battle of Loos, 25th September 1915. Leading two platoons of his men after the Highlanders in the direction of Hill 70, Hugh had only just left the shelter of the British trenches when he was wounded, one of nearly 400 casualties of the 8th KOSB. A fellow officer, Captain Horne, stopped to see if he could help. Hugh told him that he knew he was dying and urged him to collect stragglers and push on towards the Hill as quickly as possible. Horne did so and was wounded on the Hill; every one of the Battalion’s officers who went over the top that day was wounded, gassed or killed. Hugh was carried to the 6th (London) Field Ambulance, which had “heaps of wounded coming in.” He was too seriously wounded to be evacuated and died three days later. He was 32 years old.

Hugh is buried in Noueux-les-Mines Cemetery and is commemorated in the Charterhouse School War Memorial Chapel, on the Sutton War Memorial in Manor Park, on the Sutton & Epsom RFC Memorial Stand and the Banstead Cricket Club Roll of Honour board, the memorial panels in Christ Church, Sutton, and on a plaque in the Forster family chapel at Christ Church.

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