Skip to main content

Bullet strike on bugle saves three generations of musicians

New Zealand Army Band musician Corporal Chris Foster will be the first to say that if it wasn’t for his great-grandfather’s bugle, he wouldn’t be playing in the band. In fact, he wouldn’t even be here.

Originally from Wigan, in the United Kingdom, Corporal Foster and his family moved to New Zealand 11 years ago and he joined the New Zealand Army band, based at Burnham Army Camp near Christchurch, as a tenor horn player. He is carrying on a family musical legacy that stretches back more than 100 years.

Corporal Chris Foster, who plays the tenor horn in the New Zealand Army Band, can thank his great-grandfather’s bugle for his existence.

In 1915 his great-grandfather, Private Thomas Foster, was the regimental bugler for the Lancashire Fusiliers in Gallipoli. In the days before radio communications, the bugler was responsible for sounding the advance or, when things were desperate, sounding the retreat.

Before one attack, Thomas’s commanding officer had called for the signal to advance to be given. Thomas had just raised the bugle to his lips when a Turkish bullet hit it. Knocked to the ground, he initially thought he had been hit but soon realised the bugle had stopped the bullet hitting him in the head.

“If it wasn’t for that my great-grandfather would not have survived and I would not be around to tell the story,” Corporal Foster said.

Soon after, Private Thomas was injured and was evacuated from Gallipoli. After convalescing in England he was shipped back to France, where he fought at the Battle of the Somme, and then to Belgium, where he fought at Passchendaele. However, he was seriously wounded at Ypres, ending his war.

“Considering what he had gone through, Thomas got to enjoy a long and happy life after the war and it’s through him and my father that I too have a love of music,” Corporal Foster said.

“I’m proud to be a member of the New Zealand Army Band and I’m especially proud to be part of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) contingent at the centenary commemorations for Passchendaele.

“Through the music we’ll be honoring all those who left their own country to serve on the Western Front and paying tribute to the tens of thousands who never got to come home.” 

Corporal Foster’s story can be viewed on the NZDF Facebook page.

The New Zealand National Commemorative Service for the Battle of Passchendaele centenary is at Tyne Cot Cemetery at 11am on 12 October. On the same day, the Sunset Ceremony will be held at Buttes New British Cemetery at 7.15 pm.


Updated on 3rd October 2017