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1851936 Regimental Sergeant Major
CHARLES WILLIAM FOSTER
Royal Engineers

by
Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis
2003. All Rights Reserved.

1. INTRODUCTION

Unless otherwise noted, the details supplied in this narrative were extracted from original documents and photographs obtained at the same time that the author obtained various items of military clothing, equipment and memorabilia belonging to RSM Foster. The Foster collection, presently in the possession of the author, consists of the following items:

Complete descriptions of the documents in the collection are listed under References at the end of this narrative. Where sources other than the documents in the collection have been used, these are annotated in the Endnotes.

2. EARLY LIFE AND FAMILY INFORMATION

Charles William Foster was born on the 3rd of December 1890. A check was made of the 1901 Census in an attempt to locate information about his family. Unfortunately there are many young boys by the name of Charles Foster born between 1889 and 1891. Without a place of birth it was impossible to determine which name in the census corresponded to the subject of this research.

Charles was a student up until the age of 14 years and 10 months, when he enlisted in the Army as a Boy Soldier. The fact that he enlisted as a Boy Soldier could indicate that his father was a soldier, probably a non-commissioned officer in the Royal Engineers.

3. PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION

The only description of Charles William Foster that the author was able to uncover was his Description on Discharge from the Regular Army in 1934:

Height:

5 feet 10 inches.

Complexion:

Fresh.

Eyes:

Blue.

Hair:

Light brown.

Marks or scars:

None.

4. ENLISTMENT AND TRAINING

Charles William Foster enlisted in the Royal Engineers as a Boy Soldier at Chatham, Kent on the 11th of October 1905.[2] While serving as a Boy Soldier, Foster took advantage of the Army's educational system. He earned a Third Class Certificate of Education on the 20th of October 1905 and a Second Class Certificate of Education on the 22nd of November 1905.[3] The fact that he was able to earn both of these certificates in just a little over a month following his enlistment is a testament to his intelligence and to his education prior to entering the service.

5. ASSIGNMENTS AND CAMPAIGN SERVICE

Home Service (1909-1910)

On the 27th of February 1909, at the age of 18 years and 2 months, Foster entered the ranks of the Royal Engineers as a Sapper.[4] He was mustered into the ranks as a Skilled Draughtsman (Mechanical), again indicating some preparation on his part and application to his studies in order to arrive at this skill level in mechanical drawing. When he was mustered into the ranks he was given a Royal Engineers regimental number. Unfortunately, this number does not appear in his service documents; however, it is most probable that his number was in the 18000 series of regimental numbers being issued by the Royal Engineers at that time. In all likelihood he remained at Chatham for about a year after entering the ranks in order to undergo recruit training as an engineer soldier.[5]

Malta (1910-1916)

On the 4th of January 1910 Sapper Foster embarked for service on the island Malta. At the time of his posting to Malta the 24th (Fortress) Company, R.E. and the 28th (Fortress) Company, R.E. both were serving on the island. When the Great War of 1914-1918 began on the 5th of August 1914, Foster was still serving on Malta. On this date he became eligible for Campaign Service with the Expeditionary Force Malta. Since the 24th (Fortress) Company had deployed to France in March of 1915,[6] it is most probable that Foster served in the 28th Company. The 28th Company was one of eleven fortress companies serving abroad at the time of the start of the Great War that was not withdrawn from coast defence duties. It remained on Malta to perform electric light and works duties for the coastal defences of the island. Foster served with the company on Malta until the 9th of August 1916 when he returned home to England after a period of 4 years and 86 days abroad. He served at home for 296 days before being assigned to the British Expeditionary Force in France.

Lance Corporal Charles William Foster, R.E.

This is a studio photograph taken in Malta by J. Cassar and made into a cabinet card. Note the two Good Conduct badges on Foster's left sleeve and the pipe he is holding in his left hand.

 

France and Flanders (1916-1918)

Foster embarked for France on the 1st of June 1917. Unfortunately, his service records give no indication of the unit(s) in which he served while in France. It is known that he is credited with Campaign Service with the Expeditionary Force in France until the 15th of December 1918. During his 1 year and 198 days in France he served as an Acting Company Quartermaster Sergeant and for his service he was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Gibraltar (1919-1924)

Foster arrived in England on the 16th of December 1918 and spent almost six months on Home Service before being post abroad once again. It must be assumed that part of the six months was spent on post-war leave.

On the 6th of June 1919 he embarked for service at Gibraltar where he was posted to the 45th (Fortress) Company, Royal Engineers. He served as the Acting Company Quartermaster Sergeant under the command of Captain G.C. Campbell, R.E. On the 15th of December 1922 Captain Campbell made an assessment of Foster's performance of duty. In that assessment Campbell indicated that Foster was:

"Employed on Pay Duties 45th Coy: R.E. from 1919 to date. A first rate C.Q.M.S. and Clerk and at the present time invaluable, a large amount of extra work being entailed by the temporary absence of the 15th Coy: R.E. from Gibraltar."

Campbell also indicated that Foster's trade classification was "Draughtsman, Group A."

On the 1st of January 1924 Foster received another Commander's Assessment of Performance, this time by the new Commanding Officer of the 45th (Fortress) Company, Captain N.A. Coxwell-Rogers, R.E. Foster was still serving as the Acting Company Quartermaster Sergeant at this time and again he was described as:

"Employed on Pay Duties 45th Coy: R.E. till promoted C.S.M. prior to his leaving this Coy:. A first rate C.Q.M.S. and Clerk and invaluable as such during his service in this Coy:"

At sometime during the first half of 1924 CQMS Foster was transferred to the 15th (Fortress) Company, R.E. at Gibraltar where he assumed the duties of Company Sergeant Major. His outstanding performance as a senior non-commissioned officer continued and on the 3rd of October 1924 Lieutenant A.C. Mac Donald, R.E., the acting Officer Commanding the 15th (Fortress) Company, assessed Foster's performance by indicating that he:

"Has done very well as C.S.M. A very good disciplinarian, very smart on parade, who at the same time has first rate knowledge of the interior economy and office routine of a unit. Absolutely invaluable."

Lieutenant Mac Donald was soon replaced as O.C. by Captain B.K. Young, R.E. On the 4th of December 1924, as Foster was preparing to leave the 15th (Fortress) Company for home, Captain Young indicated that Foster was:

"A very capable and efficient C.S.M. who should go a good deal further. An excellent rifle shot [7] and a keen sportsman. I am very sorry to lose him."

Chatham (1924-1928)

In about the middle of December 1924 CSM Foster received orders posting him to the Royal Engineers Training Battalion at Chatham, Kent. He departed Gibraltar and arrived home on the 21st of December 1924 after serving for 5 years and 192 days on "The Rock." Upon reporting for duty at Chatham he was posted as the Company Sergeant Major of "G" Company of the R.E. Training Battalion under Major H.F. Moore, R.E. On the 1st of October 1925 Major Moore rated Foster as:

"An excellent C.S.M. Good disciplinarian and has good knowledge of office routine and Regimental work."

CSM Foster continued his service for a year with "G" Company, R.E.T.B. and on the 1st of October 1926 he received an additional assessment of his performance by the then acting Officer Commanding, Lieutenant F.W. Mann, R.E.[8] Lieutenant Mann indicated that Foster was:

"An excellent C.S.M. Very good disciplinarian - smart - capable - sound knowledge of office work."

On the 11th of June 1928 CSM Foster received his final Commander's Assessment of Performance as the Company Sergeant Major of "G" Company, R.E.T.B. Major H.F. Moore was back in command at this time. He indicated that Foster was:

"Excellent in every way, thoroughly capable and trustworthy and has very good knowledge of all routine work."

Surrey Group, Anti-Aircraft Searchlight Companies (1929-1934)

In mid-1929 Foster was transferred to Headquarters, Surrey Group, Anti-Aircraft Searchlight (A.A.S/L) Companies, R.E. (Territorial Army) as Acting Regimental Sergeant Major. His place of duty in this assignment was at Kingston-on-Thames where the Group Headquarters and the 316th (Surrey) A.A.S/L Company were located. The Group consisted of two additional companies: the 315th (Surrey) A.A.S/L Company located at Croydon and the 318th (Surrey) A.A/S/L Company located at Guildford.[9]

While serving in this capacity, Foster applied to continue his service beyond 21 years.[10] On the 21st of June 1929 his request was approved and he was authorized to continue in service until the 2nd of December 1930.

On the 29th of August 1929 Captain R.R. Gillespie, R.E., the Adjutant of the Surrey Group, Anti-Aircraft Searchlight Companies, R.E. (T.A.) wrote the following Commander's Assessment of Foster's Performance:

"Military Conduct: - Exemplary. Employed as Permanent Staff Instructor Territorial Army. Very reliable, sober, and hardworking. Excellent Clerk, runs an office efficiently. Firm and tactful controller of men, good accountant, suitable for any position of responsibility and trust. Initiative above average. Education good (1st Class Certificate), pleasant manners.

Although RSM Foster was looking forward to continuing his service at least until the end of 1930, this was not to be the case without some argument on his part. On the 30th of April 1930 his authorization to continue service for 12 months beyond 21 years was rescinded unless he renounced all claim to promotion to Warrant Officer Class I. This bad news came in the form of a confidential letter to the Commander Royal Engineers, Surrey Group Anti-Aircraft Searchlight Companies from the Royal Engineers Records Office at Chatham. This letter is presented below in its entirety.

CONFIDENTIAL C. 3564/151/R.1.

C.R.E. Surrey Group A.A. S/L Cos., R.E. (T)

No. 1851936 C.S.M. (A/R.S.M.) FOSTER., R.E.

With reference to previous correspondence on your No. 4P/8/7, dated 3/6/29, and A.F.B.221 on which the continuance in the service of the Warrant Officer named above was approved by this office until 2/12/30.

1. It has recently come to notice that the approval to the continuance in the service of this Warrant Officer was at variance with instructions contained in this office circular memo. No. 22/27/R1 dated 2/12/27, inasmuch that, being still under the age of 40 years, a possibility exists that his continuance might interfere with the prospects of promotion of a junior to Warrant Officer Class I.

2. No vacancy for promotion to Warrant Officer Class I is due to occur before this Warrant Officer will have attained the age of 40 years, but unforeseen contingencies must be envisaged and provided for, as well as those that are known, and in order to ensure that no such complication will arrive it would appear that this Warrant Officer should now be given notice of discharge from the Service, a relief being available. This course may, however, be waived providing C.S.M. Foster will sign a certificate renouncing all claim to further promotion, and for this purpose a pro-forma is attached. If the certificate be signed by him there would be no objection to his being continued in the Service for another year from 3/12/30 if desired and recommended.

Chatham (Sd) A.J. Savage, Colonel

30/4/30 i/c R.E. RECORDS

PRO-FORMA

In order that I may be allowed to continue serving to complete the period of 12 months beyond 21 years man service which was approved by the Officer-in-Charge R.E. Records, on 21st June, 1929, I renounce all claim to promotion to Warrant Officer Class I.

(Signature)_____________________________________________________________

Rank ________________________________No.______________________________

Witness to signature______________________________________________________

Rank________________________________ Date______________________________

On the surface of it, the rationale for having Foster indicate that he would decline promotion as a condition for his extension of service beyond 21 years would seem reasonable if the man applying for the extension was just an average non- commissioned officer with little potential for promotion. Obviously the Corps of Royal Engineers was interested in giving "young blood" a chance for advancement. However, Foster was only 40 years old and had an exemplary record of service. It is difficult to understand why the Corps did not consider that his further service and promotion would benefit the Army and the Royal Engineers.

Foster declined to renounce his claim to promotion to the permanent rank of Warrant Officer Class I thus essentially acknowledging the impending end of his military career. He continued in his duties as Acting Regimental Sergeant Major for the Surrey Group A.A.S/L Companies and on the 30th of September 1930 he was given another Commander's Assessment of Performance by Captain Gillespie that essentially echoed his previous assessment.

For reasons not explained in his military records, Foster was allowed to serve beyond the 2 December 1930 date. On the 31st of May 1931 he began to make preparations for his discharge. He requested letters of recommendation from the officers under whom he had served and two were provided without hesitation. From the Surrey Group Commander he received the following letter:

145 London Road
Kingston-on-Thames
20
th May, 1931

To Whom It May Concern,

I have known Mr. C.W. Foster for the past three years, during which time he has served under me as Regimental Sergeant Major (Permanent Staff Instructor) of the Surrey Group Anti-Aircraft Searchlight Companies, Royal Engineers (T.A.).

He is a keen organiser and good disciplinarian, can run an office most efficiently, and has plenty of initiative and push in getting things done.

He bears an exemplary character, is trustworthy, sober and very hardworking, and has at all times proved himself worthy of the confidence placed in him.

I am very sorry to lose his services, and have every confidence in recommending him to any prospective employer, for any position of trust.

(Sg) W.H. Rogers, Colonel T.A.

Commander Surrey Group A.A. S/L Cos., R.E. (T.A.)
(Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Surrey)

Major Henry Hughes, R.E. (T), the Second-in-Command of the Group provided Foster with the following letter:

"Hillcrest"
Abbots Wood
Guildford
21
st May, 1931

It gives me great pleasure to testify on behalf of Mr. C.W. Foster, whom I have known personally for the past three years. He is a man of excellent moral character, sober, honest, hardworking, and very reliable.

He has initiative and a pleasant manner, combined with the ability to carry a job through thoroughly.

He can be confidently recommended for any position of responsibility or trust.

(Sg) Henry Hughes
Major R.E. (T).

No additional correspondence was found in Foster's personal papers regarding his extension of service. Despite the R.E. Record Office position on his extension and his apparent preparations for discharge, Foster actually continued to serve with the Surrey Group and Kingston-on-Thames until 1934. Until can only be assumed that he subsequently did renounce any opportunity of promotion to Warrant Officer Class I or that he was granted an exception to the conditions outlined in the R.E. Record Office letter of 30 April 1930.

Foster continued his duties as Acting Regimental Sergeant Major of the Surrey Group until the end of 1934. On the 29th of November 1934 Lieutenant Colonel Henry Hughes, then Commander Royal Engineers of the Surrey Group A.A.S/L Companies, completed Foster's Final Assessments of Conduct and Character on Leaving the Colours. Lieutenant Colonel Hughes indicated that RSM Foster's military conduct had been "Exemplary." In the testimonial Hughes wrote the following:

"Throughout his twenty nine years Army service he has proved exceptionally hard working and efficient. I have found him to be thoroughly trustworthy and to have excellent initiative. His clerical work has been very neatly and intelligently carried out and his knowledge of office work is thorough. He is fitted for any position of trust in connection with stores or financial accounting.

His bearing and speech are very superior. He is sober and practically a non-smoker.[11] He is a very good rifle shot[12] and keen on games.

I recommend him for the Meritorious Service Medal."

Acting Regimental Sergeant Major Charles William Foster was discharged from the Regular Army on the 2nd of December 1934. There is no record of him ever having received the Meritorious Service Medal recommended by Lieutenant Colonel Hughes.[13]

6. PROMOTIONS AND CONDUCT

a. Promotions: Charles William Foster received the following promotions during his time in service:

Date of Promotion or Appointment

Rank or Position

11 October 1905

Enlisted as a Boy Soldier

27 February 1909

Entered the ranks as a Sapper

Unknown

Lance Corporal

Unknown

Corporal

Unknown

Lance Sergeant

Unknown

Sergeant

Unknown

Staff Sergeant

19 July 1923

Warrant Officer Class II (Company Sergeant Major

1929

Appointed Acting Regimental Sergeant Major

b. Conduct: There is no record of the Good Conduct Badges awarded to Foster during his time in service except for a photograph of him as a Corporal showing him wearing two Good Conduct Badges. Company Sergeant Major Foster was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in about May of 1924.[14] He enlisted as a Boy Soldier in October of 1905 and did not enter the ranks as a Sapper until February of 1909. The Long Service and Good Conduct medal normally was awarded after 18 years of service. It would appear that Foster's time as a Boy Soldier was counted towards the award of this medal. Had it not been, he would not have received the medal until sometime in 1927, or 18 years after entering the ranks as a Sapper.

The only other mentions of Foster's conduct are found in his Employment Sheet and in his Certificate of Service where his commanding officers indicated that his military conduct had been "Exemplary."

7. EDUCATION AND QUALIFICATIONS

a. Education: Charles William Foster earned the following Certificates of Education during his time in service:

Date

Certificate of Education

20 October 1905

Awarded a Third Class Certificate of Education

22 November 1905

Awarded a Second Class Certificate of Education

13 February 1912

Awarded a First Class Certificate of Education, Group I

14 December 1920

Awarded a First Class Certificate of Education

b. Qualifications: Charles William Foster earned the following qualifications during his time in service.

Date

Qualification

27 February 1909

Mustered as a Draughtsman (Mechanical) - "Skilled"

15 December 1922

Draughtsman Group 'A'

1929

Permanent Staff Instructor, Territorial Army [15]

8. MEDICAL INFORMATION

No medical records were included in RSM Foster's service record or personal papers. The only mention of a health-related matter is a note on a Final Medical Certificate prepared by a Doctor S. Barnes of 69, Bow Road, London E.8. The note is dated 8 May 1953 and states that Foster was diagnosed with an "anxiety neurosis" thereby confirming that he was unable to work up to the time of the examination. It appears that this examination was given to provide justification for a claim made by Foster for some type of disability compensation.

9. MARRIAGE AND PERSONAL INFORMATION

The date of Foster's marriage is not indicated in his personal papers. It is known, however, that he already was married in 1919 when he embarked for his posting at Gibraltar. His wife was Gladys Irene Foster (nee Gillender).[16] Gladys was born on the 5th of December 1893 in Epsom, Surrey.[17] There is a strong possibility that Gladys worked as a domestic servant for a Lord and Lady Whitehead[18] before she married Charles. This assumption is based on a 1929 Christmas greeting and cabinet card photograph of Lady Whitehead found among Foster's papers. Since it is unlikely that the Fosters and the Whiteheads traveled in the same social circles in 1929, the most obvious conclusion is that Gladys worked for the Whiteheads prior to her marriage and Lady Whitehead was kind enough to keep in touch with her former employee.

From the description of Gladys in her passport she was 5 feet 7 inches tall and had grey eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion. The passport description goes on to indicate that she had a "round face, a small mouth, a straight nose and a pointed chin." Her forehead was noted to be "usual" and she had no special peculiarities or distinctive marks. One wonders how an "unusual" forehead would have been described.

The Fosters had a daughter, Valerie Irene May, who was born in September of 1919. A photograph of Mrs. Foster and her infant daughter is included in Mrs. Foster's passport, which was issued on the 17th of October 1919. Foster was already at Gibraltar when the passport was issued. Mrs. Foster's reason for obtaining the passport was to travel to Gibraltar via France to join her husband.

Before they left for Gibraltar, or perhaps while they were at Gibraltar, the Fosters became very friendly with a couple named Blackadar. Among Foster's personal papers is a wedding announcement showing that on the 6th of April 1921 Alice Rosina Mary Hoare[19] was married to Carl Henry Blackadar at St. Barnabas Church in Epsom, Surrey. Carl Henry Blackadar may have been a man with whom Foster served before or during the Great War. On the other hand, the bride could have been a close friend of Gladys, as the wedding took place in Epsom, Gladys's hometown. Nothing more is known of their relationship other than they appear to have been close friends. A postcard among Foster's papers shows the grave of Mrs. Blackadar indicating that she died on the 31st of March 1926.

It appears that the Fosters also had a son by the name of Victor. From photographs in the Foster collection it is obvious that Victor is younger than his sister Valerie. Foster's papers include a receipt from a tutor by the name of J.E. Pierrepont for service rendered regarding Victor Foster's schooling during the period from the 21st of August to the 27th of November 1933. There is no other additional information in Foster's private papers regarding his son except for a Traffic Ticket issued to Victor on the 6th of December 1966 for failure to produce a driver's license or certificate of insurance. A copy of this ticket was included in RSM Foster's personal papers.

Foster's wife Gladys joined him in Gibraltar in 1919 and was with him during his service at Chatham and while he was serving with the Surrey Group, Anti-Aircraft Searchlight Companies. An envelope and letters found among Foster's papers are addressed to Mrs. G. Foster at "Locksley", 14, Chestnut Road, Kingston-on-Thames. The letters pertain to Mrs. Foster's sister, Edith Pallant, who had been employed by The Criterion Restaurants Limited in Piccadilly Circus, London, W.1.[20] It appears that Edith Pallant suffered an illness that required her to leave her job at a restaurant known as the Brasserie. The letters express their concern to Gladys Foster for the health of her sister and further indicate that Edith can return to her job when she is fully recovered. It is not known whether Edith was married at this time. It would seem unlikely that she was married, otherwise the letters regarding her health would have been sent to her husband rather than her sister. If this assumption is correct, then Gladys Foster's maiden name also should have been Pallant. This assumption, however, does not tally with information on Gladys's 1919 passport, which shows her maiden name as Gillender. It is possible that Edith Pallant was the stepsister of Gladys Gillender.

Further documentation regarding Mrs. Foster found in RSM Foster's personal papers include receipts made out on a weekly basis to Mrs. G.I. Foster between the 18th of September 1953 and the 3rd of February 1954. The earliest of these receipts read as follows:

Received of Mrs. G.I. Foster the sum of two Pounds no shillings and no pence. Damage for retention of Office Keepers Quarters at Thames Magistrate Court

(Sg) H.J. Cannan
Chief Clerk
Thames Police Court

Postage Revenue stamps in the amount of 2 pence were placed on each receipt. The last three receipts for the period of the 20th of January to the 3rd of February 1954 are made out to Miss Pallant for Mrs. Foster. These receipts give clear indication that Edith was not married.

The dozens of snapshots that are included in the Foster papers show many people whose identities are not given on the backs of the photographs. There are two children, a boy and a girl, who show up repeatedly in the photographs. They are identified in some of the photos as Valerie (Val) and Victor (Vic). A woman identified as Ede (Edith) can be found in many of the photographs accompanying the Foster children. It appears that Edith remained very close to the Foster family over the years as she is shown at many different periods of her life and in photographs showing Victor and Valerie at different ages.

Oddly, there are very few photographs of Gladys (Glad). There is an excellent cabinet card photograph of Gladys Foster in the collection with the inscription:

Yours devotedly
Glad
1917

This photograph was probably sent to Sergeant Foster while he was in France and indicates that Gladys and Charles knew each other before the Great War. There are a number of snapshots of RSM Foster during different periods of his life. There is a cabinet card photograph of him as a young Lance Corporal and some of him as late as 1950 showing him at age 60 relaxing in an easy chair at home. The collection includes photographs taken in China, probably sent to the Foster by a friend. It also includes many 19th century cartes de visite of unknown individuals, probably ancestors of both Charles and Gladys.

In addition to the many photographs there is an ample collection of postcards and greeting cards from many places including Gibraltar, Morocco, Malta and various resort areas in England.

10. DISCHARGE

Charles William Foster was discharged from the Regular Army at Chatham, Kent on the 2nd of December 1934 after more than 29 years of military service.[21] His rank at the time of his discharge was Company Sergeant Major (Temporary Regimental Sergeant Major). Foster's total service was reckoned as shown in the tables below.

Location

Period of Service

Home Service

11 October 1905 - 4 January 1910

Malta

5 January 1910 - 8 August 1916

Home Service

9 August 1916 - 31 May 1917

France and Flanders

1 June 1917 - 15 December 1918

Home Service

16 December 1918 -5 June 1919

Gibraltar

6 June 1919 - 20 December 1924

Home Service

21 December 1924 - 2 December 1934

Location

Period of Service

Home Service

15 years and 177 days

Service Abroad

13 years and 241 days

Total Service

29 years and 53 days

11. POST SERVICE LIFE

After leaving the Army, the Fosters moved into a house at 42, St. Johns Road in South Norwood, London S.E. 25. On the 13th of March 1935 Foster began negotiations to purchase the house at this address and applied for a loan from The Borough Treasurer, Croydon Corporation. He moved to this house from his former residence known as "Lockley" at 14, Chestnut Road in Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey. It appears that he resided at "Lockley" during most of the time that he spent as the Permanent Staff Instructor with the Surrey Group A.A.S/L Companies.

Correspondence relating to the purchase of the London house indicates that in early 1935 Foster was employed by the Territorial Association of the County of Surrey. In August of 1938 he renewed his ties with the Army when he was employed as the accountant for the 315th Anti-Aircraft Company, R.E. in Croydon. This unit was part of the 30th Anti-Aircraft Battalion of the Royal Engineers. It appears that Foster's position with the unit was as a Civil Servant under the Home Office.

His performance of duty while serving as accountant for the 315th A.A. Company was of the same high caliber as his performance while he was serving in the Regular Army. A letter, dated 27 August 1938, from the Secretary of the Surrey Territorial Army & Air Force Association to the Officer Commanding, 315th A.A. Company, R.E. had this to say about Foster:

"The Books necessary to keep records in order were well kept, and the Accountant (Mr. Foster) is in my opinion a very capable servant for the Quartermaster's Branch of the Unit. Everything in perfect order and easy for checking."

The above words were extracted from a Report of Inspection of Clothing & Accoutrements, prepared in 1938.

In September of 1939 when war broke out with Germany, Foster attempted to get back into uniform. He first applied for a commission in the Royal Engineers. His application was endorsed by the Officer Commanding 330th Anti-Aircraft Company, R.E. who wrote the following on the 22nd of September 1939: [22]

CONFIDENTIAL

Application for Commission as Lieutenant Quartermaster

C.Q.M.S. Foster [23]

Application is forwarded herewith for consideration. I have known C.Q.M.S. Foster for approximately ten years and have a high regard for his capabilities and integrity.

He is a man of considerable experience and well fitted for Lieutenant Quartermaster, particularly in an R.E. or A.A. unit. Both conscientious and hardworking - his application has my full support.

Although there is no correspondence in his papers to verify this, it appears that Foster's application for a commission in the Royal Engineers was not favorably considered. His next step appeared to be an application for a commission as a Lieutenant in the Royal Army Service Corps (R.A.S.C.). The following is a copy of his letter of application:

Headquarters, 330th Company, R.E
Saxmundham, SUFFOLK
16
th November, 1939

The Officer Commanding
330
th A.A. Company, R.E.

Sir,

I have the honour to request that you will favourably consider and forward this, my application for appointment as Lieutenant Quartermaster in the Royal Army Service Corps.

In support of this application I mention the following:-

I have had nine years continuous experience as C.Q.M.S. and R.Q.M.S., (including two years of Active Service as C.Q.M.S. during the 1914-18 war) with the Regular Army, and I have since had five years experience as a C.Q.M.S. of an Anti-Aircraft Company, wherein I have been solely responsible for the correctness of all stores and accounting.

I held the rank of R.S.M. of the 30th A.A. Battalion for approximately seven years, and have held Warrant rank in the Regular Army for thirteen years.

Generally, I have thirty years experience in Army Offices and Stores, during which period I have served in the capacities of Clerk, Pay Accountant, Messing Sergt., C.Q.M.S., C.S.M., R.Q,M.S., and R.S.M., and as result have acquired a first hand knowledge of Army Regulations, Store Accounting, Rationing, and General Office Routing. I am in possession of the Army First Class Certificate of Education, my age is 48 years and 11 months, (date of birth 3.12.1890) and I am normally employed as a Civil Servant under the Home Office.

I have the honour to be,
Sir,
Your Obedient Servant
(Sg) Charles William Foster C.Q.M.S.
No. 1851936, R.E.

Despite his long and impressive career, his many qualifications and his desire to serve, there is no indication in his records that this application was favorably considered. Furthermore, a search of Army Lists for the period did not reveal that an officer by the name of C.W. Foster was serving in the Royal Army Service Corps.

On the 28th of August 1940 Foster was reclassified as a Battery Quartermaster Sergeant, Royal Artillery, in keeping with the switching of responsibilities for Anti-Aircraft Searchlight units from the Royal Engineers to the Royal Artillery. This reclassification came about because by 1940 the searchlight commitment within the Corps of Royal Engineers had become considerable and began to conflict operationally with the role of the Royal Artillery and Royal Air Force. Additionally, the A.A.S/L work distracted the Corps from its true role of military engineering. Just as the Royal Flying Corps, the Tanks, the Royal Corps of Signals and others had in due course gone their own way, so did the anti-aircraft searchlight mission. Pressures from the Royal Artillery to take over the entire anti-aircraft searchlight role in 1940 were not resisted by the Royal Engineers, except by units that did not relish being converted once again to another corps. However, the conversion of 27 Anti-Aircraft Battalions of the Royal Engineers into Searchlight Regiments of the Royal Artillery was completed by early 1941, at which point the enormously important and successful story of the A.A. Searchlights in the Royal Engineers came to an end.[24]

From 1940 to 1944 it appears that Foster continued in his position as a Home Office Civil Servant. On the 1st of March 1944 he joined the Government Minor & Manipulative Grades Association, Roll No. 49936, Branch No. 141. At that time it appears that he left his South Norwood, London address and began receiving his mail at the Thames Police Court, Stepney, London, E.1.

Foster took a position as a member of the Civil Staff of the Metropolitan London Police in 1944 and worked in that position until early in 1953 when he suffered from an anxiety neurosis that forced him to quit work. In 1951 he applied for an increase in his Army pension, but that was denied as his income from his Civil Servant job was too high. By September of 1952 he was employed as Chief Clerk, Thames Magistrate Court, Aylward Street in Stepney, London, E.1. No record of his life beyond this point was found in his personal papers except for the evaluation of his anxiety neurosis that was made in May of 1953. It is likely that this disorder caused him to retire from his employment as it rendered him incapable of working. The date of Charles William Foster's death is not known.[25]

REFERENCES

1. The Personal Papers of Charles William Foster.

a. Letters and Notes

(1) Letter from The Criterion Restaurants Limited, Piccdilly Circus, London W1 to Mrs. Gladys Foster, dated 30 January 1934; re: Illness of her sister Edith Pallant.

(2) Letter from The Criterion Restaurants Limited, Piccdilly Circus, London W1 to Mrs. Gladys Foster, dated 23 March 1934; re: Illness of her sister Edith Pallant.

(3) Letter from The Criterion Restaurants Limited, Piccdilly Circus, London W1 to Mrs. Gladys Foster, dated 12 April 1934; re: Illness of her sister Edith Pallant.

(4) Letter of Recommendation from Colonel W.H. Rogers, T.A., Commander Surrey Group A.A. Searchlight Companies, R.E. (T.A.) and Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Surrey, dated 145 London Road, Kingston-on-Thames, 20 May 1931.

(5) Letter of Recommendation from Major Henry Hughes, R.E. (T), dated "Hillcrest," Abbotts Wood, Guildford, 21 May 1931.

(6) Letter of Application for appointment as a Lieutenant (Quartermaster) in the Royal Army Service Corps, dated 16 November 1939.

(7) Letter from Royal Engineers Records to Commander Royal Engineers Surrey Group Anti-Aircraft Searchlight Companies, R.E. (T), dated Chatham, 30 April 1930.

(8) Letter from Secretary, Surrey Territorial Army & Air Force Association to Officer Commanding, 315th A.A. Company, R.E., Croydon, dated Burwood House, 16 Caxton Street, London, S.W.1, 27 August 1938.

(9) Letter from The Royal Hospital, Chelsea to C.W. Foster, dated 11 January 1951.

(10) Letter from C.W. Foster to The Borough Treasurer, Croydon Corporation, Katharine Street, Croydon, Surrey, dated South Norwood, London, 14 March 1935.

(11) Note from Headquarters 330th A.A. Company, R.E. forwarding application for appointment as a Lieutenant in the R.A.S.C., dated Saxmundham, Suffolk, 22 September 1939.

(12) Note from E.N. Bates to C.W. Foster, dated 13 March 1935.

(13) Envelope from Inland Revenue to Mr. C.W. Foster, Thames Police Court, Aylward Street, Stepney, London, E.1., postmarked 31 January 1953.

b. Military Documents

(1) Employment Sheet, Army Form B 2066.

(2) Appointment to the Rank of Warrant Officer Class 2, dated 19 July 1923.

(3) Regular Army Certificate of Service (Army Form B.108).

(4) Final Assessments of Conduct and Character on Leaving the Colours.

(5) Service with the Colours Showing Transfers.

(6) Educational Attainments, Trade Qualifications, Medals, &c.

(7) Certificate of Discharge.

c. Miscellaneous Documents

(1) Passport of Gladys Irene Foster, Passport No. 415047, issued 17 October 1919 and renewed on 2 February 1922.

(2) Traffic Ticket (Memorandum – Road Traffic Act, 1930), HO/RT/1.

(3) Final Medical Certificate dated 8 May 1953.

(4) Notification of Interest from the Co-Operative Permanent Building Society, dated 31 December 1952.

(5) Civil Service Union Contribution Book, Government Minor & Manipulative Grades Association.

(6) Receipt from the Widows’ and Children’s Pension Scheme, Superannuation Act, 1949, dated 1 May 1950.

(7) Wedding Announcement of Alice Rosina Mary Hoare to Carl Henry Blackadar.

(8) Receipt from Tutor for Victor Foster, dated 21 August 1933.

(9) Inland Revenue Tax Payment Receipts.

(10) Notice of Change of Address, Class W, Royal Army Reserve and Class W(T) Territorial Army Reserve, dated 28 August 1940.

2. Periodicals

  1. The Sapper, July 1924.
  2. The Sapper, October 1932.
  3. The Sapper, January 1935.
  4. The Sapper, May 1934.
  5. The Royal Engineers Journal, December 1938.
  6. The Royal Engineers Journal, March 1985.
  7. The Monthly Army List, October 1935.

3. Books

ADDISON, G.H. The Works of the Royal Engineers in the European War, 1914-1918. MISCELLANEOUS. The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 1926.

 ENDNOTES

[1] It is interesting to note that although Foster was to eventually serve as an Acting Regimental Sergeant Major for many years, the tunic only bears the rank insignia of a Staff Sergeant.

[2] See Recruitment of Boy Soldiers.

[3] See Certificates of Education.

[4] See Age and Physical Requirements for Soldiers in the British Army and Corps of Royal Engineers.

[5] See Engineer Recruit Training.

[6] The 24th (Fortress) Company was converted into a Base Park Company in France.

[7] Two photographs in the collection of Foster's memorabilia show him as a member of rifle teams that have won trophies in competitions. Unfortunately there are no captions on the photographs to indicate the dates or the nature of the competitions. From the tropical dress of the men in one of the photographs, it appears that one of the competitions took place in Gibraltar.

[8] It appears that Major Moore was temporarily absent from the unit at the time that Foster's Commander's Assessment of Performance was due. Major Moore subsequently returned to the unit.

[9] The Monthly Army List, October 1935, p. 353-4c.

[10] His 21 years of service in the ranks would have been up on the 26th of February 1930. See Continuance With The Regular Army After 21 Years’ Service.

[11] A studio photograph of Foster taken when he was a Lance Corporal shows him with a pipe in his hand. The bowl of the pipe contains burnt tobacco; hence, it appears that he was smoking it rather than just posing with it.

[12] Foster appears to have continued competition shooting while with the Royal Engineers Training Battalion or with the Surrey Group A.A.S/L Companies. One of the group photographs previously referenced appears to have been taken in the U.K., either while Foster was at Chatham or in Surrey.

[13] A search was made in the London Gazette for a Meritorious Service Medal issued to Charles William Foster, with negative results.

[14] The Sapper, July 1924. It should be noted that events published in The Sapper generally followed about two months after the occurrence of the event.

[15] Permanent Staff Instructors were officers and senior non-commissioned officers of the Regular Army who were assigned to Volunteer, Territorial Force and later Territorial Army units for the purpose of training the non-Regular Army officers and NCOs.

[16] Her name might have been Gillander or Gillanders. Her maiden name as written in her passport is not quite clear enough to be sure of the exact spelling.

[17] A search made of the 1901 British Census did not uncover any family information regarding Gladys Irene Gillender or any of the possible variations of the spelling of her surname.

[18] Believed to be Sir Rowland Edward Whitehead and his wife Lady Ethel M. Whitehead (nee Rathbone).

[19] The parents of the bride were Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Hoare of 36 Hook Road, Epsom.

[20] A search for Edith Pallant was made in the 1901 British Census. Unfortunately there were too many women by that name born about the same time that Edith would have been born judging from her age in the many photographs in Foster's possessions. Not knowing where Edith was born did not help to narrow the search field.

[21] His Certificate of Discharge was issued to him on the 6th of December 1934.

[22] It appears that at some time in late 1938 or early 1939 Foster was transferred from the 315th A.A. Company at Croydon to the 330th A.A. Company at Saxmundham in Suffolk.

[23] Another inexplicable change occurred here. Foster is now being referred to by the military rank of Company Quartermaster Sergeant although there are no documents to indicate that he re-enlisted in the Army. This perhaps was an honorary rank bestowed upon him by the unit based on his prior service and the type of work that he was doing.

[24] Many of the 27 Anti-Aircraft Battalions originally were Territorial Infantry Battalions that had been converted to Royal Engineers. Interestingly, these infantry battalions continued to wear the cap badges of their old infantry regiments and the collar badges of the Royal Engineers. More detailed information about the formation of the Anti-Aircraft searchlight units and the transformation of the infantry battalions can be found in the Royal Engineers Journals of December 1938 and March 1985.

[25] A search of the Public Record Office on-line catalogue (PROCAT) for records of Charles William Foster produced negative results.