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Objects of special interest – Medals awarded to Henry Forster, 28th (North Gloucestershire) Regiment of Foot.

Henry Forster Medals

These two medals are the oldest in the Museum’s large collection.

Although not instituted as a campaign medal until 1847, the medal on the left is the Military General Service Medal awarded to Henry Forster of the British 28th Regiment of Foot for his service from 1808 in the Peninsular War 1807 – 1814 against the French Empire.

The medal on the right is the Waterloo Medal awarded to Henry Forster for his service in battles in present-day Belgium in June 1815, also against the French. Awarded to all ranks who served, the Waterloo Medal was the first British campaign medal impressed with the name of the recipient.

Henry Forster was a quartermaster sergeant by the end of his army career, taking his discharge in New South Wales in 1839. In the same year, he was appointed as Gaoler at Berrima in the New South Wales Southern Highlands.

C1784. The son of Robert Forster, Henry was born at Ballybay, County Monaghan in today’s Border region of Ireland.

1805 - 1807. A weaver by occupation and with three years’ service in the Monaghan Militia in which his father also served, Henry Forster enlisted as a private soldier in the 28th Regiment of Foot (the North Gloucester Regiment) on 14 May 1805.1 At the time, the regiment was stationed at Birr, King’s County (now County Offaly) in the Midlands region of Ireland.2

Henry’s enlistment marked the beginning of a military career of almost 35 years during which he served in present-day Germany, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Gibraltar, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Greece and Australia as well as in the United Kingdom which then included Ireland.

As part of a 15,000-strong British expeditionary force, Henry Forster was with 1st Battalion of the 28th Regiment (1/28th) at Bremen in the north of Germany by early 18063 and on 25 February 1806 was promoted to the rank of corporal. Although intended to fight against French forces, the 1/28th re-embarked for England in the spring of 1806 after six weeks without engagement with the enemy. By mid-year, the regiment was quartered in several locations in Essex, the county immediately north-east of London. Less than a year after having been promoted to corporal Henry Forster regressed to the rank of private soldier on 9 January 1807.

On 24 July 1807 the 1/28th, including Henry Forster, marched from Colchester, Essex to Harwich on the east coast of England. A few days later, the 1/28th embarked for an eight week operation in what became known as the Second Battle of Copenhagen.

The battle was conducted as a bombardment of the Danish capital from 16 August to 5 September 1807 and resulted in the capture of a Dano-Norwegian naval fleet. After landing near Copenhagen the 1/28th was primarily engaged in preparing mortar battery positions.

The 1/28th re-embarked in mid-October 1807 and arrived at Portsmouth on the south coast of England on 21 November 1807. From there, the regiment returned to quarters in Essex.

1808 - 1809. On 10 May 1808 Henry Forster embarked again with the 1/28th as part of an expeditionary force to Sweden. The aim of the expedition was to provide support to Sweden in what would become known as the Finnish War 1808 – 1809.4

Arriving on 26 May 1808 at the Swedish west coast city of Gothenburg, the force did not disembark because of various disagreements with the Swedish king. In these circumstances, the British force left for England a month later.

Peninsular War – first campaign. On 20 July 1808, the 1/28th, including Henry Forster, sailed from St Helens, Isle of Wight as part of an expedition to join other British troops fighting French troops on the Iberian Peninsula in south-western Europe. The conflict would become known as the Peninsular War 1807 – 1814 in which France was opposed by Britain, Bourbon Spain and Portugal.

The 1/28th disembarked at Peniche on the Portuguese west coast on 24th August 1808 as part of the 1st Brigade in the British 1st Division. The landing followed a French defeat nearby at the hands of Anglo-Portuguese forces three days before. The result was an armistice that enabled all French troops to withdraw with weapons intact to Spain.

The Iberian Peninsula

By early September 1808 the 1/28th had moved southwards in easy stages to the area of Lisbon, capital of Portugal.

In mid-October 1808 the 1st Division moved towards Spain with the objective of driving French troops out of that country also. However, the division, as part of a larger force, came up against a numerically superior French force after advancing early in December 1808 from the western Spanish city of Salamanca towards the capital, Madrid in central Spain.

After a number of clashes during a long retreat of over 500 km, the British force was evacuated to England in mid-January 1809 through the Spanish north-west coastal city of Corunna. The Battle of Corunna is recognised on the bottom clasp attached to the ribbon of Henry Forster’s Military Service Medal.

Expedition to the Netherlands. On 16 July 1809 the 1/28th, including Henry Forster, embarked at Deal, near Dover on the south-east coast of England as part of a 39,000 - strong force to open up another front against the French Empire.

On 30 July 1809 the British force landed at Walcheren on the west coast of the Netherlands. The first action for the 1/28th was the same day when four companies participated in the destruction of a telegraph station.

There was little further fighting and at the end of August 1809 the 1/28th returned to England, occupying previously used quarters at Colchester in Essex.

1810 - 1814. Peninsular War – later campaigns. In January 1810, Henry Forster again embarked with his regiment, this time with the 2nd Battalion (2/28th) for duty in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula in south-western Europe.

In March 1810, Henry Forster was promoted to corporal for the second time. Six months later, in September 1810, he was promoted to sergeant, the rank he would hold for the next 23 years.

Operations by the 2/28th against French forces resumed briefly in April 1810 when an enemy attack failed at Tarifa in Spain, about 30 km west of Gibraltar. Also, there were frequent actions for the 2/28th 5 later in 1810 and early in 1811 in repelling marauding French troops from the unit’s lines.

The following major operations in which Sergeant Forster was involved from 1811 to 1814 are recognised on clasps attached to his Military General Service Medal:

BARROSA – a successful defensive action in March 1811 near the city of Cádiz in southern Spain;

VITORIA – a successful offensive action in June 1813 near the city of Vitoria in northern Spain;

PYRENEES – a successful siege in July 1813 in the Pyrenees Mountains, the crest of which separates Spain from France;

NIVELLE – a successful offensive operation in November 1813 along the line of the River

Nivelle in north-eastern Spain;

NIVE – a series of battles in December 1813 resulting in a French defeat near the city of Bayonne in south-western France;

ORTHEZ – an offensive action in February 1814 resulting in a French defeat near the town of Orthez in south-western France; and

TOULOUSE – an offensive action in April 1814 against the city of Toulouse in southern France. Although British and Spanish forces disengaged after unacceptable losses, the French withdrew from the city.

On 12th June 1814 embarked at Paulliac in south-western France and sailed to Cork in southwestern Ireland.

northern France

1815. On 24 April 1815 the regiment’s 1st Battalion (1/28th), including Henry Forster marched to Dublin from barracks at Dundalk in County Louth near today’s border with Northern Ireland. Three days later, the 1/28th sailed from Dublin to Deal, near Dover then continued across the English Channel to Ostend in today’s West-Flanders province of Belgium. The move was made to join other British troops and those of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Kingdom of Hanover, the Duchy of Nassau and the Duchy of Brunswick.

Under the command of British Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, this Allied force together with a Prussian force commanded by Field Marshal Gebhard von Blücher would defeat a French force under the direct command of the French emperor Napoleon I at the Battle of Waterloo a month later.

After disembarking at Ostend on 18 May 1815 the 1/28th moved by canal boats inland to Ghent and from there marched to Brussels, today’s capital of Belgium. On 5 June 1815 the 1/28th was inspected in Brussels by the Duke of Wellington who warmly congratulated his old friends of the 28th and expressed pleasure at their appearance. At the time, the 1/28th was part of the 8th Brigade in the British 5th Division.

The Battle of Quatre Bras. The 5th Division marched from Brussels early on the morning of 16th June 1815. By late afternoon, the division had reinforced troops under the command of Prince William of Orange of the Netherlands defending vital cross-roads at Quatre Bras about 40 km to the south of Brussels.

Battle of Quatre Bras

Combined with offensive action and further reinforcements, the Allied operation halted the French advance by 21:00 the same night. However, a French defeat of Prussian troops at Ligny 10 km to the south-east forced a withdrawal of Wellington’s force. The withdrawal was to a new line forward of the hamlet of Mont-Saint-Jean near the town of Waterloo, about 20 km north of Quatre Bras.

The Battle of Waterloo

On 18 June 1815 French attacks on the right flank of the Duke of Wellington’s force at MontSaint-Jean commenced from mid to late morning. At about 13:30 the French also attacked the left flank including the 1/28th which held its ground and took part in a successful counterattack.

The battle raged throughout the afternoon and with Blücher’s Prussians also in the battle area from around 17:30, the French were defeated by 22:00.

Advance on Paris and then to England.

The next day, the 1/28th was included in the follow-up of French troops retreating towards Paris and on the following day, 20 June 1815, the 1/28th bivouacked on the field of the Battle of Malplaquet in which the 28th Regiment had taken part more than a century earlier.6

By 10 July 1815 the 1/28th was in Paris, two days after the reinstated French King, Louis XVIII had made his public entry into the city.

On 24 July 1815 the whole of the British force in Paris paraded along the famous Champs- Élysées.

The 1/28th remained in the Paris area until 29 October 1815 when it moved via Vigny to Calais on the French north coast and from there embarked for England on 17 November 1815. th1816 - 1817. On 11th April 1816 all members of the 28th Regiment who had served in the campaign the previous year received the Waterloo Medal. At the time, the regiment was stationed at Haslar on the south coast of England.

Marking the first anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, the 28th Regiment was presented with new King's and Regimental Colours at Forton Barracks, Gosport, near Haslar on 18 June 1816.

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Cadell describes the event in his Narrative published in 1835 …………. "At noon, the regiment was paraded as strong as possible, and formed into a hollow square, rank entire, with 'ordered arms', and fixed bayonets. The Colours were brought out and after an excellent speech from the colonel, at his word of command, the men drew and kissed their bayonets, and then swearing to stand to their Colours, saluted them. The officers did the same with their swords, and the band played God Save the King".7

The 28th Regiment remained at Forton Barracks until the beginning of December 1817 when it embarked for the island of Malta, by then part of the British Empire and an important waystation for shipping.

1818 - 1829. Robert Henry Mariner Forster, son of Henry Forster and his wife Margaret,8 was born in January 1818 aboard the ship Mariner en route to Corfu, one of a number of islands in the then United States of the Ionian Islands off the west coast of mainland Greece.9

In March 1818 the regiment left Malta for Corfu as the Ionian Islands were under British protection. The regiment was stationed in the islands for over ten years, departing for Cork at the end of 1828.

1829 – 1835. In August 1833, while in still in Ireland, Henry Forster was promoted to quartermaster sergeant, a rank with responsibility for the control of unit supplies such as food and water, clothing, weapons and equipment generally. The 28th Regiment remained in Ireland until the end of 1833 when it crossed over to England.

ship

On 7 July 1835 Henry Forster arrived in New South Wales on the ship Marquis of Huntley with a detachment of the 28th Regiment. Having regard to his subsequent civilian career and to an historical society mention of him in 2014, Henry Forster most likely served with his regiment in the Southern Highlands and/or the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales.10

1839 - 1847. Henry Forster took his discharge from the British Army on 28 February 1839 while in New South Wales. He was 53 years of age and had been in the colony for three years and seven months.

In June 1839 Henry Forster was appointed by the Colony of New South Wales as Gaoler in the Southern Highlands village of Berrima, about 130 km south-west of Sydney. The gaol was new and stood on the site of today’s gaol. Henry’s wife Margaret later became Gaol Matron.

1847 – 1861. Berrima Gaol closed in 184711 and in October that year Henry Forster became Gaol Governor in the Southern Tablelands town, now city, of Goulburn, about 200 km south- west of Sydney. As at Berrima, Margaret Forster became Gaol Matron at Goulburn.

With a remarkable career of more than half a century of service to the Crown, Henry Forster passed away on 11 May 1861, aged 77 years. 12

To quote an obituary published at the time:

"Shortly after three o’clock the cortege started from the deceased’s late residence at the Gaol, and proceeded by way of Auburn-street13 to the Catholic burying-ground. A long line of carriages preceded the hearse immediately in front of which marched a party of five old soldiers, with arms reversed, to pay the last military tribute to the deceased veteran, whose medals, enclosed in a glass case, and borne by one of his friends formed a striking feature in the procession. ..., and a volley from the firing-party concluded the funeral rites of one who had served this country well, both as a soldier and as a civilian. 14

Margaret Forster survived Henry by eight years, passing away on 21st May 1869 at the age of 76 years.15 She was survived by two sons, William Alexander Forster (d.1910) and Robert Henry Mariner Forster (1818 – 1880).16


1. British Army service record for Henry Forster which is also the source for mention in the main notes of each change in rank, each campaign in which he was involved, movement to New South Wales and the date of his discharge.

The Monaghan Militia was a county Regiment raised in 1793 for home defence. (Watson, William, Some records of the Monaghan Regiment of Militia, Monaghan, 1871).

Henry Forster and his father Robert Forster would likely have served in the Monaghan Militia together as Robert was commissioned into the regiment in 1800 and was a lieutenant, aged 54 at the time of the regiment’s disembodiment in 1816. (Watson, op. cit. p. 19 in PDF file).

2. Cadell, Charles, Narrative of the Campaigns of the Twenty-Eighth Regiment since their return from Egypt in 1802, London, p. 30 of 307 in PDF file).

A major in the 28th Regiment of Foot when he left it after nearly 30 years of service, Lieutenant Colonel Cadell’s Narrative is the main reference for movements and activities of the Regiment from the time of Henry Forster’s enlistment in May 1805 until the end of 1833.

3. Cadell, op. cit., p. 31 of 307 in PDF file).

See also National Library of Australia - TROVE. (Henry Forster obituary, The Goulburn Herald, 15th May 1861, p. 3).

4. The Finnish War resulted in the loss of part of Sweden in September 1809 to the Russian Empire.

5. All men of the 2nd Battalion of the 28th Regiment were transferred to the 1st Battalion of the regiment on 24 August 1811 at Villaviciosa on the Spanish north coast, with officers and non-commissioned officers of the 2nd Battalion departing shortly after for Lisbon to return to England. (Cadell, op. cit. pp. 135 - 137 of 307 in PDF file).

Although Henry Forster was a non-commissioned officer, it is evident from his army service record and clasps attached to the ribbon of the Military General Service Medal awarded to him that he remained in Spain. Accordingly, he also would have transferred to the 1st Battalion of his regiment along with the men of the 2nd Battalion.

6. The Battle of Malplaquet, near today’s village of Taisnières-sur-Hon in northern France, was a major battle fought by British and Bavarian forces against French forces on 11 September 1709.

7. Cadell, op. cit., p. 269 of 307 in PDF file.

8. NSW Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages website- Deaths registration number 4798/1880.

9. Robert Henry Mariner Forster arrived in New South Wales c.1836. He became a lawyer and a politician. National Library of Australia – TROVE (Australian Town and Country Journal,7th February 1880, p. 257).

For more about Robert Henry Mariner Forster, see also the New South Wales Parliament website.

10. Berrima District Historical & Family History Society Newsletter No.463, July 2014, p.6.

11. Website Harper’s Mansion, Berrima NSW – The 36 Households – follow the link to Household 31. Henry Forster.

12. National Library of Australia - TROVE. (The Goulburn Herald, NSW, 15 May 1861, p. 3). The date of Henry Forster’s passing was recorded in the newspaper as 14 May 1861 although the date on the grave memorial is 11 May 1861.

13. The gaol at which Henry Forster was Governor included a portion of the site of today’s Court House which faces Montague Street in the central business district of Goulburn. (Monument Australia website).

14. National Library of Australia - TROVE. (The Freeman’s Journal, Sydney, NSW, 22nd May 1861, p. 6).

15. National Library of Australia - http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/115432210. (The Freeman’s Journal, Sydney, NSW, 29th May 1869, p. 8).

16. NSW Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages website- Deaths registration number 15152/1910 for William Alexander Forster.


Prepared by: K.J. McKay, July 2016

 

 
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