Veteran treasures his thanks from Churchill

Wiltshire Times: Ken Foster with a copy of his letter from Winston Churchill Ken Foster with a copy of his letter from Winston Churchill

A Second World War veteran living in North Bradley’s memories of the conflict include receiving a letter from Winston Churchill.

Ken Foster, 87, served for four years – from the age of 17 to 21 – as a wireless operator and got the signed note from the Prime Minister after his vessel, the HMS Viceroy, sank a Ger-man submarine.

After the battle, officers found a canister in the water, which should have contained inflatable rafts but instead had 73 bottles of schnapps in it. Mr Foster, originally from Sheffield, said: “Captain D suggested that we sent a presentation casket to Churchill, with a few bottles, and then, a few months later, he sent two or three letters of thanks and I ended up keeping one.”

The letter is now framed at the home he shares with wife Alma, 84.

In the letter, Mr Churchill says: “Thank you so much for sending me the presentation case of brandy from the U-boat, which I shall keep as an interesting souvenir.

“Will you please convey my thanks to Captain D, Rosyth Escort Force and the commanding officer and the ship’s company of HMS Viceroy for all the trouble they took in producing the very handsome casket and offer them my congratulations on the successful attack.”

The former telegram boy’s service career also included being part of the crew of the ship which returned Prince Olav to Norway in May 1945, as part of the country’s liberation.

He said: “We just happened to be on hand when Prince Olav was ready to return. We picked him up from a naval base in Scotland and took him to Stavanger, Norway.

“We have been back twice and have received a hero’s welcome on both occasions.”

Mr Foster was sent to the Pacific just as the war ended, serving for a year in Hong Kong. He also spent time in Sydney, Australia, on the Commander-in-Chief’s staff.

This Sunday, Mr Foster and his wife plan to attend Trowbridge’s Remembrance Service. The event holds a huge significance for him, as his older brother, Gordon, died serving as part of the King’s Regiment in Italy during the Second World War.

He said: “I hate the term ‘gave their lives’ at these events. Nobody gave their life. My brother didn’t give his life; he loved life and wouldn’t have given it away.

“For me, a more appropriate sentiment would be to say we are paying respects to those who lost their lives in serving the nation.”

Mr Foster, who later worked for the Post Office and as a war pensions officer, still meets old comrades.

He is a member of the Trowbridge and District White Ensign Association, which meets at Lovemead Conservative Club. For details, call 01225 755018.

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