Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Second Lieutanant William Roy Foden - Hawera war memorial

Edward and Grace Foden of Wilson Street, Hawera had four sons who volunteered to serve in World War One.  William Roy above (known as Roy) was the youngest of these sons barely 20 years old when he embarked on 9 October 1915 with the New Zealand Rifle Brigade (NZRB).  His brother Frederick embarked on the same day with the Wellington Infantry Battalion and a third brother Edward Genders (known as Genders) followed shortly on 13 November 1915 with the Canterbury Infantry Battalion. Finally Norman Arthur (known as Arthur) embarked on 27 May 1916 with the NZRB.  

From all accounts the four brothers were well liked and respected within their communities.  Frederick was an Optician in Hawera, Arthur a Schoolmaster in Taihape, Genders worked for the Bank of Australasia in Patea and Roy worked for a firm of solicitors in Stratford.

Roy soon rose through the ranks becoming a 2nd Lieutenant.  He was killed in action on 12 October 1917 at Passchendaele aged 22 years old.  His body was never recovered and he is remembered with so many others who lost their lives that fateful day on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium.
 Killed in Action
Lieut. Roy Foden

Roy's brothers all survived the war and returned to New Zealand.  Genders was invalided out of the army after being wounded by shrapnel and returned to New Zealand in May 1917.  A brief account of his ordeal taken from the Hawera & Normanby Star dated 26 July 1916 is below:


Frederick and Arthur were both wounded on 16 September 1916 at the Somme.  Frederick suffered shell shock but returned to his unit at the end of September 1916 and Arthur was wounded in the left thigh.  Despite his wound he returned to the front and volunteered for YMCA handing out much needed refreshments to the soldiers at the front. An interesting report of his efforts with the YMCA is on Papers Past at the following link   
Both Frederick and Arthur returned to New Zealand in April 1919.

The Foden family war effort does not finish here however on 'Papers Past' I found a moving letter sent to the their mother Grace Foden.  The letter was from an English soldier named Benjamin John Nicholas of the Royal Army Medical Corp., who had received a parcel and letter from Grace in December 1915 whilst at Gallipoli.  The letter recalls how the soldier had thought the letter from Grace lost, however he later found the letter in his kit bag.  He told Grace of how he was wounded at Gallipoli and of his encounters with the New Zealand troops.   I found his final words of the letter especially poignant which I have reproduced below:

"...The battlefield is too terrible to relate and we all need your prayers and help to gain a victory.  I thank you again for your nice letter and the socks, which I shall treasure for many years if I am spared to get through this war..."

The letter in its entirety can be found at the link below: 
Further research revealed Benjamin Nicholas did indeed survive the war and returned to his wife Lydia in Cardiff, Wales.    I hope the socks did too! 

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