Rufus’s friend William Wasborough Foster

W.W. Foster and Pres. Harding

I know who that is coming down the steps – that’s President Harding – and probably his wife – when they came to Vancouver.

Right on the money! But who’s the guy wearing military uniform bringing up the rear?

No idea. But I bet he was a friend of Rufus’s or you wouldn’t bother showing us the picture.

Right again – it was William Wasborough Foster, DSO, Colonel of the 52nd Battalion at Passchendaele. He was one of the heroes of the battle for Bellevue Spur – Rufus watched it unfold from his reporting centre in a captured German bunker nicknamed Waterloo. The 9th brigade had been stopped in its tracks but Foster took his men round the spur and took the Germans from the rear. Then Rufus had to go up there and send back a sketch of the brigade’s new position. Both he and Foster came out of it alive and remained good friends afterwards.

I 9 Passchendaele air photo - rd Waterloo - Bellevue

What is that moonscape?

That’s an air photo of Bellevue spur taken before the battle. Foster took his men up the slight valley on the left, and  the drawn line is Rufus’s route.

The whole landscape is riddled with shell-holes – it must have been difficult to move anywhere.

It was – but they managed, somehow. Foster was later Vancouver’s Chief of Police. He was a pretty right wing guy and led the police in the famous battle of Ballantyne Pier in 1935 – to protect strikebreakers, unloading ships, from a small army of strikers.

WWFoster_1935

This was him on his horse at the time

W,W. Foster as Chief of Vancouver Police

and here is a cartoon of him in his office.

Most of Rufus’s friends were right-wing and anti-union, weren’t they? Why was that?

Remember the times. The strikers were often led by Communists and people were frightened of Communists – memories of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia were fresh and Canadian troops had been in Siberia fighting against them.

Foster looks a vigorous guy.

He was – a real action man. He was also a great mountaineer – was on the first expeditions to climb both Mount Robson and Mount Logan.

120-2038_mt-robson

Here’s Robson. It is just under 13,000 feet, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies and Foster climbed it in 1913.

So what did he and Rufus do when they got together?

You won’t believe it – they played bridge! I guess if you’ve been in a war, games like bridge seem pretty attractive. He and Rufus even managed a rubber or two when they were both out of the line after Passchendaele, while they were still in France! And one day when they were both returning from leave they hung about all day together in Folkestone, waiting for the English Channel to be cleared of mines. They seemed comfortable in each other’s company.

 That’s the best sort of friendship, I suppose.

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