Cecil Thomas Foister
Cecil Thomas Foister was born in March 1894 in the village of Goadby Marwood to Thomas Soloman Foister of Goadby and his wife, Fanny Eyles, from Leicester. Cecil had an older brother, Sidney Ernest born in 1884, and two sisters, Christian Florence born in 1886 and Elsie Maud born in 1895.
At the time of Cecil’s birth, the family was living in the centre of the village in the house we know today as Paddock House. Also living with the family were Cecil’s paternal grandparents, Thomas and Maria Foister. His father, Thomas, was employed as a miner at the local ironstone quarries and was later appointed a foreman at the Holwell Iron Company's quarry at Eaton. Cecil also worked at the quarries as a labourer as did his older brother, Sydney. The Foisters had a long association with the local ironstone industry with Cecil's younger half-brother, Percy, eventually succeeding his father as manager at Eaton.
Sadly, Cecil’s mother, Fanny, died in June 1895 following the birth of her daughter, Maud. Thomas Foister remarried in 1897, his second wife was widow, Hannah Foster nee Hudson, from Treswell in Nottinghamshire. Cecil was just one year old when his mother died, so his step-mother, Hannah, was the only mother he would have remembered. Thomas and Hannah had three sons of their own, Frederick William born 1897, Percy Horace born 1899 and Albert Edward born 1902. All three served in the army during the First World War.
The census return of 1911 recorded the family still living at Paddock House although Cecil’s two older siblings had both left home. Eldest son, Sydney, had married and was living with his wife and three young children in Nuneaton. Eldest daughter, Christian, was working as a parlour maid in Kensington, London. Shortly after the census was taken Christian emigrated to Canada where she married and had a family. Sadly, she died in October 1918 at the age of just 31.
Three years after the census was taken Britain was at war with Germany and Cecil Foister was amongst the first to volunteer to serve his country. Cecil enlisted in the Army at Melton Mowbray on 2nd September, 1914. His medical examination record described him as 5 feet 6 ½ inches tall with a fresh complexion, grey eyes and brown hair.
Cecil was posted to the 8th (Service) Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment. The Battalion was formed at Leicester in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s New Army and was initially attached to 23rd Division before being transferred to 110th Brigade, 37th Division in April 1915. In July 1915, following a period of service on home soil, the 8th Battalion embarked for France for service on the Western Front. Cecil served with the 8th Battalion from 1915 through to 1917 and was promoted to Lance Corporal in January 1917 and to acting full Corporal three months later.
The 8th Battalion saw action in a number of Allied operations including the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. In 1917 they were in action during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line and the Arras offensive. It was during this offensive that Cecil was killed.
By May 1917, General Haig had decided to close down the Arras operations and an attack near the village of Bullecourt was planned, the second such offensive to be undertaken near the village. The aim was to pin down German reserves in the hope that the enemy would abandon the Hindenburg Line at that location. It turned into two weeks of fierce fighting in which six British and Australian divisions participated. The action became known as the Second Battle of Bullecourt. Cecil was killed on May 3rd when members of the 8th Leicestershires were among troops cut off near the village of Fontaine Les Croisilles.
Cecil’s father, Thomas, received the following letter from the Company Sergeant Major:
France May 8th 1917,
Dear Mr Foister,
It is with deep regret I have to write to tell you of your son’s misfortune. He is reported missing, and we have every reason to believe he is a prisoner of war. We had just taken part in the biggest battle of history, and although we had a big task in front of us we went forward in the best of spirits. Through a little mishap on our flanks we lost connection, and about 200 got cut off. The Germans, making a counter attack, completely overpowered them. They fought with splendid pluck to get back but it was impossible, and we hardly know who are prisoners, or killed, so we have to report him missing. But I do sincerely hope you hear from him as a prisoner. I am deeply sorry to lose him. He was an excellent N.C.O. and was liked by everybody. He could always be trusted, and did most of our patrol work with great coolness and several times brought back valuable information. I regret to say it is the first time this battalion has failed to do what has been put before them but I am convinced it is the strongest point along this line. I am glad to say your son was recommended for some distinction for his coolness and valuable information he went and got under a terrific bombardment about a week or two ago, and I hope it comes through all right. Well I sincerely hope you hear something soon, and if we should hear any more I will let you know.
Company Sergeant Major
The letter was published in the local Melton and Grantham newspapers, which one month later published an up date confirming that Cecil had been killed in action.
Cecil was awarded the British War and Victory Medals and the 1914/15 Star. The medals were awarded posthumously and were sent to Cecil’s father, Thomas. Cecil has no known grave; he is commemorated at the Arras Memorial located in the Faubourg d'Amiens British Cemetery in France.
CWGC Memorial - Cecil Thomas Foister
Newspaper Cutting - Cecil Thomas Foister
Cecil Thomas Foister
Paddock House in Goadby Marwood, where Cecil lived with his parents, grandparents and siblings.
To learn more about the individual soldiers of Goadby Marwood who gave their lives for their country follow the links below:
Herbert Scarborough KIA 22 Aug 1915
Harry Bottrill KIA 11 Mar 1916
Cecil Thomas Foister KIA 03 May 1917
William Henry Pizer KIA 17 Aug 1917
Albert Edward Essery KIA 01 Oct 1917
Gerald Edgar Ellis KIA 01 Oct 1917
Harry Armstrong KIA 15 Jul 1916
John Thomas Pears DIED 02 Sep 1918