Meritorious Service Medal Groups from the Collection of Ian McInnes

Date of Auction: 20th September 2002

Sold for £1,300

Estimate: £1,100 - £1,300

Six: Sergeant-Major John Foster, Royal Engineers

Crimea 1854-56, 1 clasp, Sebastopol (Serjt., R.E.), contemporary engraved naming; Turkish Crimea 1855, British issue (Sergt., R.E.), contemporary engraved naming; Indian Mutiny 1857-59, no clasp (Sergt., Royal Engrs.); China 1857-60, 2 clasps, Taku Forts 1860, Pekin 1860 (Cr. Sergt., 23rd C., Royal Engrs.); Army L.S. & G.C., V.R., small letter reverse (2493 Serjt.-Maj., R.E.); Army Meritorious Service Medal, V.R. (Sgt. Maj., R.E.), mounted as worn, the first with refixed suspension claw and the third with surname spelling ‘Forster’, contact wear and edge bruising, generally about very fine and better (6) £1100-1300


John Foster was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire and enlisted in the Royal Sappers and Miners at Woolwich in February 1850, aged 21 years. Present in the operations before Sebastopol in the Crimea War as a 2nd Corporal, between February 1855 and May 1856, he gained further advancement to Corporal in April 1855 and to Sergeant in December 1856.

Next actively engaged in the Indian Mutiny during the Oudh and Trans-Gogra Campaigns, having set up ‘a park of stores at Allahabad, consisting of 126 4-bullock wagons, 35 camels and 4 elephants’, Foster served as a Conductor under the immediate command of General Sir R. Harrison, K.C.B., C.M.G. Thus employed, he was subsequently present at the engagement at Bukha Ghat in November 1858, the battles for Forts Oomrheea, Burjuddiah and Medjeediah in the following month, and the affair at Bankee on the River Raptee. Latterly employed on construction work in the vicinity of Lucknow, he left for Calcutta en route for China in October 1859.

Arriving in Canton in November of the same year, Foster was present at the occupation of the city and appointed ‘Conductor of Park Stores’. Afterwards attached to No. 35 Company from No. 23 Company, R.E., he landed with the expeditonary forces at Pehtang in August 1860 and was present at the affair at Sinho in the same month, in addition to the capture of the Taku Forts. Latterly he was present before Pekin and at its surrender under the combined British and French force in October.

Foster returned to the U.K. via Hong Kong, Singapore, Mauritius and Cape Town in May 1861 and was advanced to Colour-Sergeant in January 1862. Employed at Shorncliffe and at Chatham until late 1864, he again served overseas with postings to Malta and Gibraltar and was appointed a Quarter-Master Sergeant (Field Works) in February 1867. Back home once more, Foster was promoted to Sergeant-Major in March 1869 and received his L.S. & G.C. Medal four months later - an award subsequently relinquished on receipt of his M.S.M. but later re-issued with an appropriate style of naming.

Discharged in October 1871, Foster took up an appointment in Jamaica under the Colonial Government at the end of the same year and served there until 1879. Returning home to a new post with the War Department, he finally retired in 1893, received his M.S.M. in the following year and died in March 1912; see Ian McInnes’ The Annuity M.S.M. 1847-1953, First Supplement for further career details and portrait photograph.