b. 09/03/1885 Kobe, Japan. d. 09/04/1953 London.
Charles Foss (1885-1953) was born at “The Firs”, Kobe, Japan on 9th March 1885. His father was the Right Reverend Hugh James Foss DD, a SPG Missionary to Japan from 1876-1899 and Bishop of Osaka 1899-1923. His mother was Janet nee McEwen, who started Shoin High School, an Anglican girls’ school in Kobe. Sadly, his mother died when he was nine, and his father remarried to Lina Janet nee Ovans at Hiogo, Japan. Charles had a brother and four sisters.
Charles was educated at Marlborough College from 1899-1902, and trained at the Royal Military College Sandhurst and was commissioned on 2nd March 1904. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1906, appointed Adjutant 1912-1915 and promoted to Captain on 20th November 1912. The Battalion was in South Africa when war broke out. Having returned to Britain it landed at Zeebrugge on 4th October 1914.
On 18th October 1914 the Battalion went into action for the first time between Becelaere and Gheluvelt. His Commanding Officer was killed on 31st October and Charles was the senior officer remaining. When the Battalion came out of the line on 5th November, he was the only combatant officer left and only 350 men out of the 900 survived. For his actions during this period, he was awarded the DSO.
On 12th March 1915 at Neuve Chapelle, France, after the enemy had captured a part of one of the British trenches and a counter-attack made with one officer and 20 men had failed (all but two of the party having been killed or wounded in the attempt) Captain Foss on his own initiative dashed forward with only eight men under heavy fire and attacked the enemy with bombs and captured the position and the 52 Germans occupying it.
Foss was gazetted for the VC on 23rd August 1915, and was presented with the medal by King George V on 28th October 1915 at a parade on open ground near Hesdigneul, France. Charles married Vere Katherine nee Ovans on 6th June 1915 at St Thomas, Devon. Vere was the sister of Charles’ father’s second wife. She was the widow of Captain John Marshall Molesworth Collard, who had been killed in 1904 serving with the Northamptonshire Regiment in Burma. Charles and Vere did not have any children.
Charles was appointed Brigade Major of 20th Brigade between August 1915 and October 1916. He was mentioned in despatches five times during this period. He was later appointed Temporary Major between October 1916 and November 1918, when three GSO2 appointments followed with the Canadians. He was further mentioned in despatches four times, and was awarded the Order of Danilo 4th Class (Montenegro) on 9th March 1917.
He was promoted to Brevet Lieutenant Colonel on 1st January 1919, and attended Staff College from April 1919, along with fellow VCs Gort, Hansen, Freyberg and Pearkes. After graduating, he was appointed Brigade Major at the Small Arms School in Hythe between 1920 and 1925. He was a member of the VC Guard at the interment of the Unknown Warrior on 11th November 1920. Following promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, he became CO 2nd Battalion, The King’s Regiment from 1930-1933. He was appointed Aide de Camp to the King between 1935 and 1937. He was then created a Companion of Bath on 1st February 1937. He retired later that year.
He was not long out of uniform before being appointed Area Organiser Bedfordshire, Local Defence Volunteers 1940. Appointed Lieutenant Colonel to command 3rd Bedfordshire Battalion, Home Guard on 1st February 1941. He was also Commandant of Bedfordshire County Cadet Force between 1942-1947. He was also a JP and Deputy Lieutenant of Bedfordshire from June 1943. His wife died in 1947 and he married for a second time to Phyllis Ruth Howie (nee Bendyshe Crowther) in 1950.
Charles died at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, London on 9th April 1953 and was buried in West Hill Cemetery, Winchester, Hampshire. In addition to his VC, CB and DSO, he was awarded the 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf, 1939-45 Defence Medal, War Medal 1939-45, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and the Order of Danilo 4th Class (Montenegro). His medals are held by the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment Museum, Wardown Park, Luton.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: BEDFORSHIRE/HERTFORSHIRE REGIMENT MUSEUM, LUTON.
BURIAL PLACE: WEST HILL CEMETERY, WINCHESTER, HAMPSHIRE.
Charles Foss' medals including VC and DSO on display at the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regimental Museum, Wardown Park, Luton (from their website).
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier GRAVE 2162/5-8
National Memorial Arboretum