Foston, James

Hull Pals Memorial Post. PRIVATE JAMES FOSTON 11/1344. Born in 1894, James was the eldest of five children to James and Mary jane Foston, of 17 Freehold Terrace, Courtney Street, Hull (War Pension address). A Rivetter by trade, he enlisted at Hull City Hall on Christmas Eve 1914 which has me wondering if alcohol might perhaps have been involved. Regardless, James trained with the battalion throughout 1915 and sailed for Alexandria, Egypt that December tasked with defending the Suez Canal from potential attack by the Turks. They were re-posted in late February and left Post Said for Marseilles arriving on 8th March 1916 before heading north to the trenches of the Western Front. A veteran of that awful summer/autumn on the Somme, James was killed in action on 3rd May 1917 during the catastrophic attack on Oppy Wood that cost so many young lives; his body was never recovered and his name is commemorated on the Arras Memorial to those who lost their lives on that sector and have no known grave.

The attack on Oppy Wood, part of the Battle of Arras, was a significant battle for the East Yorkshire Regiment and particularly for the city of Hull.  All four Hull Pals battalions were involved on 3 May and all suffered heavy casualties, with 40% of those present killed or injured. 2nd Lieutenant Jack Harrison, a local teacher and rugby player with Hull FC, won a posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery in rushing a machine gun position to protect his platoon. His body was never found.
The village of Oppy in France had been in German hands since October 1914 and was part of a formidable defensive system including trenches, dug-outs and thick barbed wire defences. During the Battle of Arras, which began in April 1917, the British tried to take Oppy. The first attack was a failure. A second attack was partially successful. The third attack on 3 May, known officially as the Third Battle of the Scarpe, was again unsuccessful with significant loss of life. The troops were ordered to attack at 3.45am, rather than at dawn, and the defending Germans could easily see the line of British soldiers clearly lit by the full moon. The British continued to attack Oppy and were finally successful the following year. The City of Hull Memorial at Oppy was unveiled in 1927 and commemorates the men of the Hull Pals who were killed on 3 and 4 May 1917.

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Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France