Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1918, Private Tom Foster, 1st/7th (Deeside Highland) Battalion, the Gordon Highlanders, was killed in action during the Battles of the Lys in France.
The youngest of four sons of a widow, he was working as a warehouseman for the firm of Messrs. G.H. Walton’s, Townhead Mills, at the outbreak of the Great War. He enlisted with the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders at Leeds in November of 1915, and travelled a couple of days later to join his regiment at Inverness.
At the end of November, 1916, Private Foster’s mother received this letter sent from the Leeds Infirmary: "You will be surprised to hear I am in the above infirmary. I was wounded on November 13th at Beaumont [Hamel], and have been sent here. My wounds are not serious and I am going on all right. We are very comfortable here, and are looked after very well. My injuries are in the hands, so a bed-mate has written for me.”
On the 31st of July 1917, by which time he was serving with the Gordon Highlanders, he was wounded again. This time it was the army chaplain who wrote to his mother, the letter reaching her ten days later: "Your son wished me to let you know that he has been wounded and is being sent down to hospital. He will write to you himself when he can forward you his address, meanwhile he sends his best love and asks you not to be anxious.” Private Foster was sent to hospital in Hampstead, London, after being wounded in the right forearm, head, and left knee, with his arm and leg in splints.
It is not clear if Private Foster had recovered sufficiently to have seen action with his battalion at the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge and the Cambrai Operations later in 1917. He would, however, have been with them when they left the Cambrai area on the 21st of March, 1918, and were engaged in a fighting withdrawal back to Baupame. The following month they moved north to engage in the Battles of the Lys. It was during this action, on the 12th of April, that Private Foster was reported missing.
His regiment was part of the 51st Highland Division, which suffered the loss of 2,500 men during two phases of the Battles of the Lys. His body was not recovered and his exact date of death is not known, but was recorded as the 14th of April, which was when his battalion came out of the line towards the end of the Battle of Hazebrouck. Private Foster is memorialised on the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing at Ploegsteert, Hainualt, in Belgium, and on his home town’s war memorial.
Tom, from Addingham in Yorkshire, was 20 years old.