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  • The scarce Battle of Bothasberg survivor 7th NZMR QSA w/clasps 'Orange Free State', 'Transval', 'South Africa 1901', South Africa 1902' and NZEF BWM to Edmund Foster.


    Edmund Foster was born at Christchurch, New Zealand on 7th December 1879, educated at Sydenham School, and was working as a coach-painter and residing at New Brighton when he was accepted for service with the Seventh Contingent in April 1901. Edmund was promoted to corporal being embarking with 24 (Canterbury) Company on the Gulf of Taranto  on 6th April 1901. In letters Edmund wrote to his father, he referred to key events involving the contingent, including the accidental killing of 4372 W J Byrne at Pongola Bush in October, and of the running fight near Heilbron in early February 1902 which resulted in the capture of three guns (two pom-poms and a 15-pounder) from De Wet’s convoy:

    “We have been after De Wet and his commando for the last two weeks....At daybreak we sighted some waggons about a mile off. The order to mount was given, and in extended order we were after them at a gallop. The Boers, on seeing us, made an effort to get away with their waggons, and left a strong rear-guard to keep us back, and to gain time. I can tell you they made it very hot for us. We succeeded in breaking through, and to our surprise, on reaching tha convoy, we found three big guns getting got into position, a 15-pounder and two pom-poms. A field cornet and three men were shot dead at the guns before we took them. The Colonel of the column came up and congratulated us for bravery, and stated it was one of the best mounted charges he had seen. About 200 of us started in the chase, but only about 70 reached the guns. I was among that number, and feel proud of the fact. I am sorry to say we had two poor chaps killed and one wounded.”

    On the night of 23/24 February 1902 Edmund was in charge of a sangar holding the line against De Wet’s forces at Bothasberg. During the attempted breakthrough by the Boers, all of Edmund’s comrades were killed or wounded in the largest loss of life suffered by the New Zealanders in South Africa. he wrote of the event:

    “I had No. 10 post, four of my poor fellows were hit while the Boers were 100 yards away. R. Westropp was shot through the hip, F. Rodgers through arm and leg, T. Frame through the head, and J. McClellan through the head, thigh, and ankle. W. Stevenson, of Timaru, and I stuck at it until we were surrounded, and then threw up our hands. Poor Wattie was shot with his hands up. I thought it was my turn then, but they were contented with rifling my pockets and taking every thing of any value, including a number of rare Kruger coins.”

    After the war, Edmund married Catherine Riordan and had a son, John. Tragically John died when he was just 2 years old, after falling into a scalding hot bath. During the First World War Edmund embarked as Quartermaster-Sergeant of the Canterbury Mounted Rifle, 8th Reinforcements. On formation of the New Zealand Division in March 1916 he transferred to the 2nd Battalion, Canterbury Infantry Regiment, serving in France during May and June 1916. After a period of hospitalisation in the UK, Edmund transferred to No. 5 Light Railway Operating Section, with whom he served throughout 1917 and early 1918. He was promoted to sergeant in March 1917.

    Edmund Foster died 24th August 1949 in Auckland, and is buried in the Our Lady Star of the Sea Churchyard.


    QSA named 4374 SERGT MAJOR E.J. FOSTER, 7TH N. Z’LAND M.R.

    The number and rank have been re-engraved, the initials, surname and contingent are all correctly impressed. Foster appears to have been promoted to sergeant (honorary sergeant-major) at some stage, but the medal was issued in the rank of corporal off the medal roll. Foster appears to have had this 'corrected' himself.

    BWM correctly impressed 7/1805 SJT. E. J. FOSTER. N.Z.E.F.

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