Frederick Foster


This post was written by Victoria Doran.

Frederick Foster was a railway clerk born and brought up in West Kirby who died near Arras defending the front line, whilst the second day of the Battle of the Somme was being fought.

Frederick Foster - BR entry.jpeg

Book of Remembrance entry

Frederick Foster was born in West Kirby in the autumn of 1895, the middle child of the 7 children of William Foster (1861-1938) and Hannah (also known as Anna) Sharp (1862-1947). Sometime between 1905 and 1911 the family moved to Birkenhead, but Frederick’s family must still have considered they belonged to West Kirby as his name was included on the Grange Hill War Memorial rather than the Birkenhead Memorial in Hamilton Square.

William Foster was born at Rhos Robin, Gwersyllt near Wrexham, Denbighshire, Wales but this is misleading. His parents, Thomas Foster (1816-1885) and Mary Minshull (1820-1888) both came from Chester, where they were married in 1842. Thomas Foster was a wheelwright, and William, the youngest of 5, was the only child not to be born in Chester. They moved back to Chester by the time he was 10. The Foster and Minshull families had both lived in Chester for at least an earlier generation, and both seem to be Cheshire families of long standing. Thomas Foster became paralysed and unable to work whilst William was growing up, so they must have lived in difficult circumstances. His mother worked as a charwoman to support the family.

William Foster became a railway wagon maker in Chester, but moved to Liverpool by 16 December 1885 when he married Hannah Sharp at St Nicholas.

William Foster and Hannah Sharp marriage.jpeg

Marriage of William Foster and Hannah Sharp at St Nicholas, Liverpool

By the birth of their first child, Jessie Foster (1888-1971), William and Hannah had moved to Birkenhead, and he had become a railway guard. They soon moved to West Kirby as their second child, Harry Philip Foster (1891-1965) was registered in Birkenhead in the first quarter of 1891, and they were resident in West Kirby by the census on 5 April that year, though Harry was omitted from the census. William worked for the Wirral Railway Company.

Hannah Sharp was the only girl among the 5 children of James Sharp (1827-1884) and Elizabeth Jones (1829-1909), but she had 2 half siblings born before her mother married. James Sharp was born in Kenilworth, Warwickshire the son of James Sharp (1805-1842), a comb maker, and Mary Wesson (1803-1879). After his father’s untimely death, Mary moved to Bangor, Caernarvonshire, Wales where she remarried in 1845. Her second husband, George Reed (1811-1894) came from Downham Market, Norfolk and was a labourer. He must have moved around in search of work, and by 1851 most of the Sharp family and its wider connections had moved to Birkenhead, mainly to work on the docks. Nothing is known of Elizabeth Jones other than that she was born in Hawarden, Flintshire, Wales, but she also presumably moved to Birkenhead in search of work. Her illegitimate son and daughter were both born in Hawarden.

Frederick had left school by the age of 15 and started work as a clerk for the Wirral Railway Company.

His military record has not survived, so it is not known when he enlisted in the West Lancashire Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery as gunner 2466.

RFA cap badge.jpg

Royal Field Artillery cap badge

He was not posted abroad until 1916 as he was only awarded the Victory &  British War Medals. At the time of his death he was a member of ‘C’ Battery, 278 Brigade, RFA. This was a unit only formed on 5 May 1916, when it was ‘D’ Battery of 277 Brigade, being transferred and redesignated on 23 May. It seems probable that Frederick arrived in France about April 1916.

4.5 in Howitzer from wiki.jpeg

4.5 inch Howitzers as used by 278 Brigade, RFA – from Wikipedia

Frederick died of wounds near Arras on 2 July 1916 aged just 20 years old, and is buried in Avesnes-le-Comte Communal Cemetery extension. His parents asked that

Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through Christ

be inscribed on his grave marker. He left his soldier’s effects of £5/10/- to his mother.

Avesnes le Comte Communal Cemetery Extension b.jpeg

Avesnes-le-Comte Communal Cemetery Extension

His brother Harry worked as a shipwright and does not seem to have served in the forces.

Birth: Jan 1895 at West Kirby
Death: 2 Jul 1916 near Arras, France; died of wounds
Addresses: Grange Road, West Kirby (01); 24 Milner Street, Birkenhead (11)
Occupation: railway clerk
Unit: ‘C’ Battery, 278 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery
Number and Rank: 2466; Gunner
Medals: Victory & British War
Buried & Commemorated: Avesnes-le-Comte Communal Cemetery Extension, Arras, France; Grange Hill War Memorial, West Kirby
Sources: CWGC, MC, RSE, Census: 01, 11, BR, PR


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