National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

Gisborne ‘Aussie’ goes into Battle on the Somme

Alfred Foster

Alfred Foster

Alfred John Foster was born on 3 December 1893 in Cawarral, Queensland Australia, to parents James & Emmeline Foster, with the family moving to New Zealand when Alfred was young lad.

At the outbreak of World War One, Alfred Foster was working as a Joiner in Gisborne. Alfred had previously served with the 1st Battalion, Wellington East Coast Rifles so at the age of 21, Alfred joined up to go overseas.

Alfred enlisted on 18 April 1915 and went into training at Trentham Camp, with a three week stint in the Camp Hospital with measles. He embarked with the Wellington Infantry Battalion on 14 August 1915 aboard the Willochra and headed from Wellington to Suez, Egypt.

From there he joined the battalion on Mudros on 30 September 1915 but did not actually set foot on the beach at Gallipoli, instead returning to Egypt on 29 October 1915.

After the evacuation of the New Zealanders from Gallipoli in December 1915, the men had a period of rest and recuperation and prepared for the next mission which was the Western Front.

Alfred Foster embarked for France on 6 April 1916 and once at Marseilles, moved to Northern France and villages to the west of Armentieres.

For the next three months, Alfred Foster and the majority of the NZ Division were responsible for trench digging and maintenance, patrolling and the occasional night raid.

From July 1916, the night raids intensified and the men conducted eleven raids, additional to the routine patrolling, as well as repelling four raids by the Germans.

In August the NZ Division was withdrawn from the area to prepare for the Somme battles.

On 15 September 1916, the ‘Kiwis’ moved to the Somme and experienced their first real taste of trench warfare around Flers.

On 17 September, the Wellington boys attacked an area known as Grove Alley and came under machine gun and artillery fire. At some stage during the attack, Alfred Foster was killed in action. He was 22.

The Wellington 1st Battalion would capture Grove Alley but Alfred Foster’s body would never be recovered and he is commemorated on the Wellington Regiment panel, New Zealand Memorial, Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, Somme, France.

Alfred John Foster is also commemorated on the Gisborne War Memorial.

10/2607 Private Alfred Foster’s Memorial Plaque is on display at the National Army Museum in Waiouru.