1918-2008: Ninety Years of Remembrance

Soldier Record

Thomas Foster

Contributed by: Patricia Pauley, on 2009-03-02

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First Name Thomas
Surname Foster
Year of Birth 1900
Year of Death 1978
Regiment Royal Ulster Rifles
Place of Wartime Residence Belfast, Antrim

Thomas's Story

My memories of him when he talked about the war were of someone who regretted that he later on train

My grandfather Thomas Magill Foster was called Tommy by all his family and friends. He was born in 1900 and foolishly joined the war before his sixteenth birthday. He was sent to serve on the Salonika Front. He served with the 5th Brigade Royal Irish Rifles (Royal South Downs) from 28th October 1915 to demobilisation in February 1919. When he was sent to Salonika he served with the Salonika Expeditionary Force. Troops in this area became very ill from Malaria. Unfortunately my grandfather was unlucky enough to contract Malaria and was sent to St. Patrick's hospital on Malta. For the rest of my grandfather's life he was to suffer from attacks of Malaria. However, because he was so ill it was discovered that he had joined the army when he was only 15! He was sent back to Ireland and became a physical instructor for the rest of the war apart from a brief week in Dublin. When he left the army he had attained the acting rank of sergeant and My memories of him when he talked about the war were of someone who regretted that he later on trained men in bayonet practice to kill other men. Other regrets that he had were the tattoos that he had imprinted on his arms and perhaps the amount of smoking he did in these years. In every photograph of him as a soldier he is seen smoking. Though, he did tell us, that it was a useful pastime in the trenches, especially as the matches used for lighting cigarettes could afterwards be run up the seams of your uniform in an effort to kill the body lice that lurked there. However, he felt quite proud that he achieved the rank of corporal and often commented that he had had the same rank as Hitler. Luckily in his lifetime he did not do as much damage! My grandfather left the army and married my grandmother, Mary Bailey, in 1919. His time in the army was an important episode in his life and he carefully preserved his medals and training certificates. He also talked about how very afraid he felt at times in the heat of battle. He was employed as a Physical Training Instructor to the Battalion.

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