Percival Forster was born about 1882. He was a twin to Frank Forster. The 1891 census shows the family living at 46, Curzon Street, Chester (St. Mary-without-the-Walls). Their parents were Henry Forster, 51 a Caretaker Pensioner who had been born in Kent. His wife Margaret, 48 had been born in Staffordshire. The listed children were; John, 15 who was a Law Clerk in a “Solicitors” Office who had been born in Lancashire. Edwin was 13 and had been born in Cork, Ireland. George, 11, Frank, 6, and Percy, 6 had all been born in Flintshire.
There are Baptisms for the twins:-
Baptisms at Holy Epiphany Church, Lache-cum-Saltney. 14th June 1882. The father Henry was described as a ‘watchman’ on the baptism record (Page 100 No’s 794/795 1 4th June 1882)
There are two other baptisms recorded for this family, possibly twins again. These children are not recorded in any subsequent census. They were boys Joseph Herbert and William Forster.
By the 1901 census the family had moved to 30, Chester Street, Lache-cum-Saltney, Chester. The head of the household, William Henry Forster was 61 and a Timekeeper at an Oil Works. His wife Margaret was 51. The listed children were John, 25 and a Solicitor’s Clerk, who had been born in Fleetwood, Lancashire. Edwin was named as Edward, 23, an ‘Assistant’ something to do with the railway. ( Difficult to read ). Twins Frank and Percival were 18 years old. Frank was a Railway Engine Cleaner and Percy was a Bootmaker’s Apprentice.
There was sadness in 1905 when, I believe, Margaret, William Henry’s wife died, her death was registered in Hawarden. (HAW/02A/32)
In 1909 Twin Frank married Rebecca Bennion in St. Mark’s Church, Lache cum Saltney, Chester. (CE35/1/191) and on the 1911 census they were recorded living at 9, West View, Saltney, Chester. Frank was head of the household, 28, a Railway Engine Foreman, with the London & North Western Railway Co. His wife Rebecca was 23 and baby Frank Percival was under 5 months old. They had been married under 1 year and 1 child had been born to them.
William Henry, 71, was on his own on the 1911 census, living at the Dee Oil Works, Saltney. Although widowed he had entered that he he had been “Married 38 years, 12 children had been born but 7 had died,” This was crossed out by the Enumuerator. He was a Timekeeper, Oil Manufacturer and an Army Pensioner, (Private) and he was working “At Home.”.
Percy Forster enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force on the 14th February 1916. His Records are accessible on The National Archives of Australia website
His Attestation Papers were signed on the 14th February 1916 in Casula, Sydney where there was a large military enlistment and training camp. He was 25 years old, and his place of birth had been Saltney near Chester. He was a British Citizen. The Attestation papers tell us that he was a ‘Cook’ and that previously he had worked as a ‘Cash Boot and shoe boy’ in Chester. He had served 5 years in the military with the ‘Cheshire Volunteers’. He named his brother Frank who lived at 9, West View Saltney as his next of Kin. His religion was C of E. Intriguingly, his papers include a New Zealand address that had been crossed out. It was 114 Engester street Wellington New Zealand. This was replaced with a GPO Sydney address. It looks as if Percy had been in New Zealand previously.
The records contain a description of Percy on enlistment. He was 25 and 5 feet 4 inches tall. He weighed 112 lbs and had a chest measurement 31 -33 and a half inches. His complexion was fresh, eyes blue and hair fair. He had a number of distinguishing tattoos. On his right forearm was a crucifix and on his left arm was a basket of flowers and a tombstone. He was medically examined at the time of his enlistment and a Certificate of medical examination was issued which included the ironic words ‘His heart and lungs are healthy’ and that he was ‘fit for active service’. His original regimental number was 199770 but this was changed to 4261 of the 30th Infantry battalion of the Australian Imperial Force.
Percy was the subject of a Medical Board that met in Liverpool on the 7th March 1916. They discussed the fact that Percy had a small inguinal hernia and agreed that it could only be remedied by surgery. The Board recommended that he be discharged as unfit. Percy stated on a form he had first noticed the problem in Egypt 9 months before (which was before he joined the army). Percy continued to serve in the army so the discharge never happened and there is no evidence that the operation took place either.
Percy’s records tell us that he embarked from Sydney on the 8th November 1916 on SS Port Nicholson. He disembarked in Devonport on the 10th January 1917. Life began to rapidly spiral downwards for him. He was absent without leave in London from midnight on the 26th January 1917 until 8.00pm on the 27th January. He seems to have not only forfeited pay for this offence but spent 5 days in custody ‘awaiting trial’. Within a few days, however, on the 12th February 1917, he was taken to No 10, Camp Hospital, ill.
Percy was then admitted to the Military Hospital at Fovant, Wiltshire on the 12th February 1917. He was suffering from pneumonia and he died from cardiac failure at 6.30 am on the 17th February 1917. He was buried in consecrated ground, in an oak wood coffin with full military honours at 11.45am on the 20th February 1917 at Baverstock Cemetery Wiltshire. The undertaker was Mr G Hansford of Wagon Works, Anstay, Wiltshire.
The records include correspondence between the Australian Army and Percy’s next of Kin – his brother Frank. This included correspondence about Percy’s personal effects which eventually arrived in Saltney. They included a knife, a wristlet watch with strap, a hankerchief, a ring (damaged), a pipe and letters. There was other correspondence regarding a commemorative plaque and scroll and his medals. There was a letter from the savings Department of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia requesting from the army, confirmation of Percy’s death and the name and address of his next of kin.
There is an index card for Percy in The Flintshire Roll of Honour at The County Record office in Hawarden. (Card Saltney Ferry F 15). The regimental details on the card are as stated at the top of this page. It says he served for 2 years and 7 months. The information on the card sheds more light on Percy’s life before joining the army in Australia. It says he was a ‘Private Sailor on Transports between Australia & Egypt afterwards joining the Australian Army’. It goes on to say that he died of pneumonia at Fovant Military Hospital on Salisbury Plain on the 17th February 1917. The card was signed on the 7th November 1919 by Frank Forster .(Percy’s twin brother and next of kin)
Percy’s Australian Records include 50 pages of information. Much of it is repetitious. If you would like further details beyond the summary above, please contact me via the website and I will be happy to share with you what I have.