Book tells extraordinary story of friends' wartime adventures
The son of a former mayor of Grantham has written a book about his father’s wartime exploits, and his remarkable escape from a prisoner of war (POW) camp.
The Soldier Who Came Back, by Steve Foster, is to be published on May 24 and has been described by TV historian Dan Snow as “the extraordinary story of one of the most audacious escape attempts of the Second World War”.
The book tells the story of Steve’s father Fred Foster, who was later to became Mayor of Grantham in 1957, and how he escaped from POW Camp XXA in Poland with his friend Antony Coulthard.
Steve said: “The writing process has taken about a year and I have been helped by a very gifted ghost writer, Alan Clark, who has turned my 6,000 word talk into an 80,000 word manuscript.
“I feel very, very humble to see the story in print and, even though I know the story well, I still shed a tear when I read the manuscript - two ordinary men who were not professional soldiers, who bravely decided to show the dreadfulness of the Third Reich that they could outsmart them and get back into the war effort.
“It so nearly worked and I am pretty sure dad would have suffered from survivors’ guilt for the whole of his life about the death of Antony Coulthard and didn’t feel able to tell me or my sister about it.
“I feel as if I truly know my father now and am very proud of him.”
The story of Frederick Foster is a poignant one which only came to light when son Steve, a former naval commander, was looking through letters and documents belonging to his late father while researching the family tree.
Steve learned that his father had made one of the most incredible escapes of the war.
Fred and Antony Coulthard broke out from POW Camp XXA in 1942. Antony, a former Oxford student, had tried teaching Fred German but, having grown up in Newark, Fred could not get rid of his Nottinghamshire accent.
They boarded a train with fake documents, pretending to be advertising executives, and travelled across Germany. They even had the courage to walk around Berlin gathering military intelligence.
Eventually they reached the Swiss border but, whilst Antony managed to get past the border guards, Fred was stopped. Antony gave up his bid for freedom and went back to help his friend. Ultimately, Fred would survive the war, but Antony died on a ‘death march’ in 1945.
Steve added: “The decision to write the book was always in my mind but I really didn’t know how to go about it.
“The story went in the national newspapers and Dan Snow was tipped off about it at one of his talks by a friend of mine and he contacted me by email.
“He then came to interview me at home last March and he put the interview on his History Hit podcast.”
As a result of the podcast, Mirror Books offered Steve a contract to write a book.
The book is available to pre-order on Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Soldier-Who-Came-Back/dp/1907324232