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Woodborough’s Heritage

Woodborough, a Sherwood Forest Village, recorded in Domesday

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Fred Severn Foster 1898-1918 Revised October 2018 for the centenary of his death



Fred was born at 152 Main Street, Woodborough on 29th September 1898. He was the eldest child of James and Eliza Foster. Eliza was the daughter of Thomas Severn and Fred bears his mother’s maiden name. At the time of the 1901 census, James, Eliza and Fred were staying with Eliza’s family in Hucknall Torkard and James’ occupation is a gardener.


By the time of the 1911 census, James was now a Market Gardener living at Clarence Villa, Woodborough. Fred is now 12 and at school and he has a younger brother, John Thomas, born 10th Feb 1910. He would later be joined by a sister, Cassandra, in 1915, and another brother, Wilfred James, born 27th April 1917. All the brothers worked in the family business.


Because of his young age and the fact that it was the final year of the war, Fred would have been conscripted into the army. He enlisted at Nottingham and was posted to the 3rd Battalion Durham Light Infantry at South Shields on 1st June 1918. He was 19yrs 8mths old. He embarked for France arriving on 11th October and was sent to join the 13th Battalion Durham Light Infantry at Etaples. The battalion had previously won honours on the Somme 1916, Messines and Ypres 1917.


Shortly after arriving in France, Fred wrote to his parents on 14th October and told them of his journey over the Channel and his present well-being. This was Fred's first sea journey and his letter shows a mood of expectation and adventure. There is no sign of the fear of war in his words.


Above right: Fred Foster circa 1916

Above left: Part of Fred's last letter to his parents dated 14th October 1918 


Dear Father and Mother,

Just a few lines hoping you are quite well as I am in the pink. Well I had a very nice ride over the water, I enjoyed it very much. To say it was the first time, I never felt any signs of sea-sickness as I thought I should. Well I am quite alright plenty to eat and drink, that is something, and plenty of fags at about half price as you get them.


The money here takes a lot of reckoning up. It is mostly in francs and there are only few words they say which you can understand.


Well how is Cass getting on, does she suck her thumb yet. I expect she has come back from Granddad's by now. I expect Tommy is as rough as ever and Wilfred he will be able to walk about well by now. I would like to see him running up and down the yard. Well I will now close hoping it will find you in the best of health as it pleases me at present. With best love,

Your loving son
Fred
xxxxxxxxxxx


If you write to Grandad, remember me to them.
Uncle Ernest, Aunt Bettie and Tom, Wilf and Cass.
Somewhere in France
We are not settled down yet so I cannot give you any address but I will do so as soon as possible.
I enclose a card hoping you receive it alright.


Fred is buried at Landrecies British Cemetery which is situated in the north-west part of the town. The cemetery contains 151 casualties. He rests in grave A26, The Commonwealth War Graves Commission index simply lists the minimum of facts:

Foster, Pte. F.S. 100946 13th Bn Durham Light Inf 28th October 1918.



Below: A typical form of notification about payments to relatives sent or taken to the next of kin, this one happens to be Fred Spencer's.

Dear Mr & Mrs. Foster

I have got the sad work of writing a few lines to you to let you know that your son Fred has been killed whilst fighting for the old flag. It was his wish if anything happened to him to write and let you know and the reverse if anything happened to me, but I have got the sad work. He was killed by a sniper whilst out on patrol, the bullet went straight through his back. He never uttered a word after being hit. I have lost a very good chum and it knocked all the life out of me that day. My home is at Pinxton and if I have the luck to get through this lot I might get the chance of seeing you personally. My name is Pte. B. Moore 100937, Y Coy 13th Bn DLI , 25 Div, BEF. If there is anything in his pockets I expect the burial party will forward them on. Well I think this is about all this time.

I remain Yours faithfully                   


Pte. B Moore



Acknowledgements:


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The letter was written by Fred whilst the battalion was in Premont and was the only letter Fred sent to his parents whilst on the Western Front. Exactly two weeks later Fred was killed by a sniper's bullet and two weeks after his death, the war ended. He was killed during the very final stages of the Allied assault on the retreating Germans.


The Allies had just re-captured the town of Le Cateau and were rapidly pursuing the enemy. They had reached the outskirts of Landrecies, normally a pretty area surrounded by orchards. However, at this stage the Germans were putting up a strong fight and their machine gunners commanded the roads, paths and gaps in hedges. They also had excellent vantage points from houses from where they could observe the movement of Allied troops. The Durham’s battalion diary states that despite this, patrols were sent out day and night. On 28th October, the battalion received orders to establish posts on a designated track. However, patrols reported that the track was held by the enemy. Fred was on one of these patrols when his life was tragically cut short.


As was the case with many soldiers, he had made an agreement with a friend, a Private Moore who came from Pinxton, Derbyshire, and they had agreed between them that if anything happened to either of them, the remaining man would contact his parents. True to his word, Private Moore wrote to Fred's parents. He explained to them that Fred had been on patrol when he was shot by a sniper in the back. He died almost instantly. Private Moore's letter dated 30th October said:


Above: Part of the letter from Private B Moore to Fred's parents on 30th October 1918. Transcript right.

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Cap badge for DLI or

Durham Light Infantry


Photo kindly provided by

George Whitehead