Foster, Harry Wickwire

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Forster, Harry Wickwire, born in Halifax, the son of  Jane and Major General Gilbert Lafayette Foster IMG_20160527_0001 IMG_20160527_0001-001  who had been the director general of the medical services of the First World War. Foster was educated at King’s College at Windsor, Nova Scotia as a cadet. He attended school at Berkhamsted, England; Bishop’s College School in Lennoxville, Quebec; Royal Military College of Canada, Kingston, Ontario; and McGill University, Montreal.

Having failed his third year, but with a Certificate of Military Qualification (which all cadets earned when they finished two full years at RMC) Foster withdrew from RMC to receive the King’s commission and a posting to the Permanent Force (PF) with Lord Strathcona’s Horse  on July 02-07-1924.] As a young officer, he spent considerable time in debt: the army paid only for saddle, harness, and stabling. He had to pay for his own horse (which cost nearly a month’s salary) and for mess, uniforms, and tailoring.

By 1934 he held the rank of captain. He attended the Staff College, Camberley, from 1937–1939 and was promoted to major and posted as brigade major of 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade at the outbreak of the Second World War.

In 1941, promoted to lieutenant-colonel, Foster assumed command of 4th Reconnaissance Battalion (4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards) , the recently activated scout formation assigned to 1st Canadian Infantry Division in England. In 1942, he was appointed commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, The Highland Light Infantry of Canada  He led Canadian troops in the Kiska campaign in 1943 (Operation Cottage), for which he was awarded the American Legion of Merit. Unknown to the Allies, the Japanese had withdrawn three weeks before the attack. Foster commented in his diary “I feel bloody silly coming all this way for nothing.”

In 1943, he was promoted to brigadier and became the commanding officer of the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade . which landed on Juno beach on D-Day.

In 1944 he was promoted to Major General and took over 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division  in Normandy relieving George Kitching . Kitching died old age 89 in 1999.  On 12-09-1944, he entered the historic city of Bruges (Belgium) with his troops. The liberation of this medieval town was done successfully, without fight or damage. In recognition for this achievement, Foster was named an honorary citizen of Bruges, an award bestowed upon only two people since 1900: Foster and Hendrik Brugmans, first rector of the College of Europe.

Later, swapping commands with Chris Vokes  (because Vokes had a poor relationship with new I Canadian Corps  commander Charles Foulkes), he led the 1st Canadian Infantry Division  in Italy, then returned with this division to North-West Europe as part of Operation Goldflake. Christopher Vokes died old age 81 on 27-03-1985 in Oakville, Ontario.

Foster was said to have had a “hands off” style and loathed paperwork. After the war, Harry Foster, who had fought Kurt Meyer in the battle of Caen, (with four brigadiers) presided over the court martial of Canada’s top prisoner of war, SS General Kurt Meyer.

IMG_20160527_0010-002  . The trial was a showcase for Canada, the first time that the country had conducted an international prosecution of this sort. Meyer was found guilty of three of five charges and sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment. When asked by his son (author Tony Foster) why the death sentence had been imposed he replied, “Because I had no choice according to those rules of warfare dreamt up by a bunch of bloody barrack-room lawyers who had never heard a shot fired in anger.”

Foster organized and commanded Eastern Army Command from 1946. Upon retirement in 1952 he took the civilian appointment of chief administrator of the Central European District, Imperial War Graves Commission. In 1959, he married his third wife Mona Louise Leonhart (born Parsons)   IMG_20160527_0006Mona Louise Parsons (February 17, 1901 – November 28, 1976) was a Canadian actress, nurse, and member of an informal resistance network in the Netherlands from 1940 to 1941 during the Nazi occupation. She became the only Canadian female civilian to be imprisoned by the Nazis, and one of the first—and few—women to be tried by a Nazi military tribunal in the Netherlands., and was appointed honorary aide-de-camp to Governor General Georges Phileas Vanier . Georges Vanier died age 78 on 05-03-1967 in Ottawa and Mona Leonhart died age 75 on 28-11-1976 in Wolfville.

Death and burial ground of Foster, Harry Wickwire.

IMG_20160527_0002  IMG_20160527_0002-001  Living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Harry Foster died age 62, of throat cancer  on 06-08-1964 and is high decorated

buried IMG_20160527_0008 on Oak Grove Cemetery, Kentville, Kings County, Nova Scotia, Canada.

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