Sydney Fisher Foster

Foster, Sydney Fisher, Private, d. 4th November 1918

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Sydney was born in Brighton, Sussex, in 1897. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records Sydney’s next of kin as his Uncle, Ernest Foster, of Haysley, 28 Leaphill Road, Pokesdown, Hampshire. By 1911 13 year old Sidney was living at St Helens, 115 High Street or 116 High Street (to be confirmed), with his uncle the police pensioner Charles Waite and his second wife Amy Beatrice Furhing Waite, and his 3 year old cousin Charles FReginald Waite. Charles senior died at 116 High Street in 1937, at the age of 95.

Sydney enlisted in Wootton Bassett and joined the 2nd/1st Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, (1777). The 2nd/1st Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry was raised in September 1914 as a second line, for training, and as a reserve force for the 1st/1st. At some point, possibly via a transfer from the 2nd/1st South Western Mounted Brigade or the 15th Mounted Brigade to the 7th Mounted Brigade, Sydney joined the 20th Cavalry Squadron of the Machine Gun Corps (100034). The squadron would have consisted of 8 officers and 203 other ranks, equipped with 299 horses, 18 limbers (wheeled bases for transporting artillery), a wagon, and a water cart. These were formed up into six two-gun sections. There is a book about the exploits of the squadron on Project Gutenberg: “Through Palestine with the 20th Machine Gun Squadron”. An S Foster is listed in it and the address, Wharncliffe Nurseries, Christchurch Road, Boscombe, is very close to that of Uncle Ernest at that time. The book records:

From the commencement, the Squadron “carried on” under very difficult conditions, as, out of its total strength of 121, only 30 men were qualified gunners, and 63 had never previously been attached to a Machine Gun Section. Then there were fresh animals to draw from “Remounts” besides new saddlery and equipment from “Ordnance”. The health of the Squadron, also, was at first none too good; a large number of men had contracted malaria whilst with the Brigade in Salonika, and many others were liable to septic sores, after two years’ sojourn in Egypt, Suvla and Salonika. From time to time, seven days’ leave was granted to small parties to the Rest Camp, Port Said, and lucky were those men whose turn it was to go!

Sydney died at the 19th General Hospital, Alexandria, Egypt, on 4th November 1918, age 21. “Through Palestine with the 20th Machine Gun Squadron” contains a paragraph which may explain Sydney’s death:

On the 4th November the Armistice with Turkey was signed, and shortly after several cavalry units were sent still further north to Killis, Jerablus (on the Euphrates), and Aintab, and the outpost line near Aleppo was thus no longer required. Now followed a period even more difficult to put up with than actual war itself. A trek of over 400 miles in a space of two months, following that nightmare of a sojourn in the Jordan Valley, had reduced the vitality of both man and horse to a very low ebb, and consequently the sick roll in both cases was large. Malignant malaria contracted in the valley took toll of many brave lives, and an outbreak of anthrax, coupled with debility, caused havoc among the horses.

Sydney was awarded the Victory Medal, and the British War Medal. He is commemorated in the Alexandria Hadra War Memorial Cemetery, grave reference A 175. He is remembered on the Wootton Bassett Memorial Plaque.

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