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№ 63


17 September 2004

Hammer Price:

The unique Napoleonic and early Indian campaign group of five to Lieutenant James Foster, Veterans Department, late Governor-General’s Body Guard and formerly Regimental Sergeant Major of the 11th Light Dragoons

(a) Military General Service 1793-1814, 1 clasp, Salamanca (J. Foster, Serjt. Majr, 11th Lt. Dgns)

Waterloo 1815 (Serjt. James Foster, 11th Regiment Light Dragoons) renamed, fitted with later silver bar suspension

Army of India 1799-1826, 1 clasp, Ava (Sergt. J. Foster, G.G.’s Bodyguard and Commist. Dept.) long hyphen reverse, contemporary engraved naming

Cabul 1842 (Sub Conductor J. Foster, Victg. Deptt. H.M.’s 9th Foot) naming engraved in running script, fitted with replacement silver bar suspension

Sutlej 1845-46, for Aliwal, 1 clasp, Sobraon (Sub Conductor J. Foster Commt. Dept.) mounted for display in the order in which he would have received them, suspension claw tightened on the third, the second good fine, otherwise very fine and better

James Foster, a ‘Labourer’ from Darliston, Staffordshire, was born in 1793 and enlisted into the 11th Light Dragoons on 30 November 1808, aged 15 years. After serving in the Peninsular at Wellington’s famous victory over Marshal Marmont at Salamanca on 22 July 1812, he returned to England with his regiment and was successively stationed at Hounslow; Canterbury, where he was promoted Corporal in 1814; and at Ramsgate. On Napoleon’s escape from exile in March 1815, the 11th Light Dragoons embarked for service in the Netherlands campaign. At Waterloo, Foster served in Captain Bourchier’s Troop, and shortly afterwards was advanced to the rank of Sergeant while at Neufchatel. The 11th returned to Canterbury in early 1819 and, on 25 February, Foster was promoted Regimental Sergeant Major.

The regiment next sailed for India, landing at Fort William, Calcutta, in July 1819. On 14 October 1821, Foster was discharged from the British Army at Meerut on completion of his period of service and was next employed with the Bengal Establishment being placed on the strength of the Cuttack Legion. Described as ‘5 feet 11ins’ in height, with ‘light hair’ and a ‘florid complexion’, he was posted Sergeant in the Rangpore Local Battalion in 1822. In October 1824 he was appointed Sergeant in the Governor-General’s Body Guard and took part with that corps in the First Burma War, qualifying for the meagre sum of 14 Rps. 15 A. 6 p. in Prize Money for services at Ava.

He was removed from the list of the Governor-General’s Body Guard, while holding the rank of Gun Sergeant, and joined the Commissariat Department in February 1827, becoming a Sub-Conductor in July 1841. The following year he took part in the closing stages of the First Afghan War with General Pollock’s force which defeated Akbar Khan in the Tazeane Pass on 13 September and laid the way open for the re-occupation of Cabul. Foster next served with the Commissariat in the Army of the Sutlej and was present at the Battles of Aliwal and Sobraon in January and February 1846. Finally, on 5 June 1854, Foster was promoted Lieutenant on the Veteran’s Establishment and was eventually invalided after a remarkable military career spanning forty-seven years and earning him a unique combination of five medals representing two major campaigns in Europe and three wars in the East.

When, in 1842 or 1843, he received his medal for Cabul, Foster must have by that time lost the medal he had received for Waterloo, some 25 years earlier, and had another made up. Perhaps he even lost it during the campaign in Afghanistan. His claim for the M.G.S. medal appears on the
Colonial List.

Refs: WO 97/49; WO 12/988-991; WO 25/1433; IOL L/MIL/10/143-147, 162-164; IOL L/MIL/5/42; IOL L/MIL/5/247; IOL L/MIL/8/49-51; Bengal Directory 1845-57; Historical Records of the Viceroy’s Bodyguard (Hodson).