Edwin Foster fought in and survived two world wars

Australian soldiers in the battle of Fromelles.
Australian soldiers in the battle of Fromelles. Australian War Memorial

IN 2014 it will be 100 years since the start of the First World War and in 2015 it will be 100 years since the Gallipoli landing and the beginning of the Anzac legend.

Many young men from our region went to the First World War. It is fitting that they should be remembered. The Historical Society is hoping to compile a list, both of those who died and of those who returned.

Edwin Peter Foster served in both world wars and lived his life between the Richmond and Tweed valleys.
Edwin Peter Foster served in both world wars and lived his life between the Richmond and Tweed valleys.

One soldier was Edwin Peter Foster, son of Frederick and Florence Foster, who enlisted in July 1915, aged 18.

Edwin Foster had lived all his life at Rous Mill, attended the local primary school and later worked on his father's farm.

He had hoped to become a teacher but when war began he decided to see the world first by joining the army.

On enlistment he joined the 31st Infantry Battalion which had recently been formed in Brisbane. On November 9, 1915, after initial training at Enoggera, he embarked from Melbourne aboard the troopship Wandilla.

Like so many other Australians he was first sent to Egypt and then to France.

Although young, his ability was quickly recognised and he rose quickly through the ranks to corporal and then sergeant.

He fought in several battles including Fromelles and The Somme. Though wounded during one of these battles, his conduct earned him the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

The award citation states that he "displayed powers of leadership and bravery of a very high order and set a magnificent example to his men".

After being wounded he was evacuated to England but later returned to France and fought in the famous battles to evict the Germans from Villers-Bretonneux.

Many of our local soldiers fought in and near this town and the ones who died are remembered in the special Australian memorial built there by grateful villagers.

It was Edwin's battalion which captured the large German railway gun. Shortly afterwards Edwin was transferred to an officer training camp in Oxford where he was commissioned just prior to the Armistice.

While waiting to be sent back to Australia he met and married Winifred Florence White. He arrived back in Australia with his bride shortly before Christmas 1919.

Discharged in March 1920 he was placed on the Army Reserve as a lieutenant.

He returned to the Richmond and the young couple began growing bananas at Rocky Creek. Shortly afterwards the banana industry went through a troubled period mainly due to diseases such as bunchy-top.

In 1933 Edwin left the farm and took up a position with the Department of Agriculture, being posted to Murwillumbah.

A unit of the 41st Reserve Battalion was formed in Murwillumbah in 1936 and Edwin was chosen as the unit's commander.

With the outbreak of the Second World War he was promoted to captain and served with the 41st Battalion until 1943, the last 12 months as the battalion's commanding officer.

He was then transferred as commanding officer to the 19th Battalion and went with it to New Guinea, eventually reaching the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

After the war he returned to his government position, undertaking work which earned him the M.B.E.

In retirement he was active in public affairs, including serving as an alderman at Murwillumbah. His wife died in 1979 and Edwin died, aged 85, in 1982. Their only son, who had served in the Second World War, died in 1970.

Topics:  history world war 1 world war 2

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