Captain Lionel Archibald FORSTER – “D” Company
Personal: Lionel was born at Bamford Speke, Devon, on 16th March 1879, the youngest son of the late Right Hon. William Forster, M.P., of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and his second wife, Maud Julia (née Edwards) Forster.
Lionel had an older sister, Enid Maud, two older brothers, John Gregory and Herbert Cyril (see Footnotes below ), and a younger sister, Dorothea. In addition he had 9 half brothers and sisters from his father first marriage to Elizabeth Jane (née Wall). Lionel’s father, William, died in 1883 and his mother, Maud, on 11th January 1893.
From 1888 – 91 he was a pupil at Eagle House School and the 1891 Census shows him as a 13 year pupil at the Royal Military College Sandhurst. (1891 Census, RG 12/1008). He later went on to Eton and left there in 1895.
Lionel married Edith Ione Stanes on 4th October 1905 at All Saints’ Church, Coonoor, Madras, India, whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion. They returned to Britain in time for the birth of daughter Daireen Iona on 9th October 1909, at Westward Ho, Bideford, Devon. [N.B. Daireen qualified as a Doctor and married another Doctor, William Gwynfryn Rees on 26th February 1938. He served as a Surgeon Lieutenant in the R.N.V.R. during World War 2. and took the 3rd Canadians in to Juno Beach, Normandy, on D-Day.]
The 1911 Census (RG 14/21845) shows Lionel as a serving Officer, living at The Old Hall, Guilden Sutton, Chester (left), with his wife and daughter.
A second daughter, Diana Sybil, was born on 31st December 1912, at Chester. In 1937 she married John R. Atkins.
After Lionel’s death, Edith re-married John William Salter Toms (in December 1921) and went to live at 1 Holmesgrove Road, Westbury-on-Trym, Bristol. Ione died in Bexley, Kent, on 4th October 1973.
Military Service: Lionel‘s ‘Roll of Honour‘ entry shows that he was gazetted 2nd Lieutenant, Cheshire Regiment, on 3rd August 1898 and promoted to Lieutenant on 23rd October 1899 and Captain on 15th October 1905.
In January 1914 a report in the Cheshire Observer read: “Captain Lionel A Forster has retired from the Cheshire Regiment on retired pay.
Captain Forster joined the Regiment in August 1896, and served in the South African War 1998-1902 including the operation in Orange Free State, the action at Karee Siding, Vet River and Zand River. He also served in the operations in the Transvaal, the action near Pretoria, and the operation east and west of that city.”
He was awarded the QSA (Queen’s South Africa Medal) with 3 clasps and the KSA (King’s South Africa Medal) with 2 clasps which he is wearing in the photo above right.
Lionel was not part of the original contingent of the 1st Battalion that left for France in August 1914, having retired from the Active List and joined the Reserve of Officers.
His Medal Index Card and the War Diary show that he joined the Battalion on the 24th September at Le Mesnil from the Reserve of Officers. The War Diary for 24th September reads: “The following Officers arrived today: Captain L A Forster, Res of Off.; Captain S Butterworth, 3rd Ches; 2 Lt H S Stalker, Res of Off.; 2 Lt L B J Pogson, 1/Ches Regt and 21 men.” From later records it seemed he was posted to one of the commanding Officers in ‘D’ Company, previously commanded by Captain Ernest Rae-Jones, killed in action on 24th August during the Battle of Audregnies.
[N.B. This was, of course Grandad Conway’s Battalion and Captain Forster was one of his Officers. He was wounded on the same day as Grandad, who was invalided home.]
Captain Forster was listed as a ‘wounded‘ in the War Diary on 22nd October following the action at Violaines so it seems he subsequently became a prisoner of war and died of wounds two weeks later at the Lycée Hospital, Douai. (Crookenden, p.29, states he was wounded and “died … in German hands“.)
Lionel was buried in the local (‘Communal‘) Cemetery, Douai. His family later added the words “In Loving Memory” to his CWGC headstone.
After the action at Violaines, 22nd October 1914, the War Diary reports:
“5.10 a.m. Enemy made heavy attack, and took the trenches at the point of the bayonet. Battalion retired to RUE DU MARAIS under very heavy fire. Manchesters came up in support.
8.0 p.m. Battalion withdrawn and went in bivouac at last E of RUE DE BETHUNE.
Casualties: Captains Shore, Rich, Hartford, 2/Lieuts Atkinson, Leicester, Greenhalgh missing, Captain Forster, 18 N.C.O.s & men wounded, 200 N.C.O.s & men missing including Sergeant Major.”
From the Cheshire Observer, 19th December 1914: “How Captain Forster of the 1st Battalion Cheshire Regiment was wounded while leading his men near la Bassée, and how when hurt, his first thoughts were for the Lance Corporal who made a gallant attempt to carry his officer to safety, were incidents as a thrilling narrative, related yesterday to a former Observer reporter by Lance Corporal Williams at present at his home in Nottingham, he having been wounded at Ypres.”
Lance Corporal Williams tells the story in his own words as follows. “It was towards the end of October and near a village outside La Bassée. About 1.30 a.m. Captain Forster said to ‘D’ company they had to retire into some trenches further back. Well, we retired and while we were digging a. new trench the Captain asked for a Lance Corporal and three men and I was the Lance Corporal that accompanied him.
l went straight away and I was just looking up to see if there were any snipers about when I saw them coming in thousands. ‘Make For yourself!’ I said, ‘Good God, here they are in their thousands‘, but Capt. Forster only replied, ‘You are delirious. my lad.‘ No sooner had he spoken then they charged us. The Captain drew his revolver and fired, but he himself was shot in the act of firing.
I got hold of him, put his arm around my shoulder and started to carry him. The Germans, who outnumbered us by ten to one, were charging with fixed bayonets, and ﬁring and I could hear the bullets whistling over my head. A little way clown the village he was shot again through his right shoulder and I could see he was badly hurt. He said, ‘Let me down and make for yourself; it is no use two of us going for one.’ I let him down and I ran as fast as I could, For the Germans were then only 20 yards away. He was a fine Officer and never acknowledged defeat.
When I left him he was bleeding from the back and chest, having been shot in the lungs. l did my best to get him out of it, but l saw it was no good.”
He is buried in Grave III. E. 12. in the Sunken Road Cemetery, Boisleux-St. Marc.
John Gregory was the first child of William and his 2nd wife Maud. He was born in 1876 and went to Winchester from Mr. Malan’s school at Sandhurst.
After he left school, he served in the Boer War with the Cheshire Yeomanry. The start of the First World War found him in Canada where he was Superintendent of Stables for the Hudson Bay Company, and living in Winnipeg.
He at once enlisted in Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and, applying later for a commission, was gazetted to the 1/5th (City of London) Battalion (London Rifle Brigade), London Regiment. He was twice wounded and in January 1917 received the M.C.
He then joined 7th (City of London) Battalion, London Regiment – which was formed from 1/7th and 2/7th battalions in February 1918 – with which he served for the remainder of the war. A Bar to his M.C. was awarded him in June 1918, for conspicuous gallantry and skill in assuming command of the battalion in action and holding his ground.
He died on October 2nd 1918, at Boisleux-St. Marc, of wounds received during the closing stages of the Allied advance, probably in the fighting around Epehy in mid-September
He left a widow, Alice Edrika (née Crofton) who he married in February 1904.
Eagle House Roll of Honour 1914 – 1918
“HERBERT CYRIL FORSTER was born in 1878 and was at Eagle House between 1888 and 1891, after which he went to Eton until 1895. He was a Lieutenant in the 1st Royal Fusiliers in 1900, being promoted to Captain in 1905.
In 1907 he was the Adjutant in the 6th Cyclist Territorial Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment and was twice Mentioned in Despatches. As a Captain in the Royal Fusiliers he was killed in action on 25th May 1915.”