Robert George Foster (1928-1997)


Draftsman Nat Map Melbourne 1949-1991


By Laurie McLean October 2021


Bob Foster at Ellery House Dandenong in May 1987.

XNatmap image.


Robert George Foster was proud of his Irish Protestant heritage.  His father and all of his grandparents had been born in Ireland where his paternal grandparents, John and Frances Foster, remained.  His maternal grandparents, George and Susan Pogue, were respected pioneers in the Goulburn Valley where they became large landowners and progressive farmers as well as being active participants in their local community at Toolamba.


Bob’s father, George Richard Foster, became a State School teacher soon after arrival in Victoria.  George Foster was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for continuous good service and devotion to duty as a Sergeant with the Headquarters of the 2nd Australian Field Artillery Brigade in France and Flanders during World War I.


At Nat Map, RG Foster was known as Bob or RGF.  Bob became the longest serving Melbourne-based staff member; he was with Nat Map as a Draftsman (and Senior Technical Officer) from September 1949 until January 1991.


Bob Foster became a respected draftsman at Nat Map and an acknowledged expert in the slotted template method of radial line triangulation.  However, he was also something of an enigma who some work colleagues found to be overly pedantic and somewhat difficult to deal with at times.  Also, Bob was not beyond playing a few induction tricks on junior staff members to keep them on their toes.  One such trick was intentionally putting their point marking equipment out of adjustment while they were out for lunch.


Bob Foster was a devoted husband to his wife Jenny and loving father to their 2 daughters.  Bob was also a motoring enthusiast who appreciated fine cars and commuted to work at Dandenong on a motor cycle.


The Nat Map years - commencement

On 12 September 1949, at 21 years of age, Bob Foster commenced as a temporary Draftsman (Photogrammetric), Grade 1 (Third Division) in the Photogrammetric Survey Sub-section of the National Mapping Section in the Property and Survey Branch of the Department of the Interior in Melbourne.  Commencement at the Draftsman, Grade 1 level indicated the Bob had drafting experience prior to joining Nat Map.  However, it was not discovered where his prior experience was gained.


Nat Map’s Photogrammetric Office in Melbourne was established in early 1948 by Chief Topographic Surveyor George Robert Lindsay Rimington (1908-1992) who was in charge until 1961.  When Bob Foster joined, the office was located at the All Saints Anglican Church Hall at 2 Chapel Street in St Kilda East.  It was about 5 kilometres south east of the CBD on the south-eastern corner of the intersection with Dandenong Road (Wellington Street). Construction of All Saints Parish Hall commenced in 1908.  It was named the Gregory Memorial Hall after the founder of the next door All Saints Church, the Reverend John Herbert Gregory (1827-1897).


Nat Map at Gregory Hall 1949-1959

The Nat Map Melbourne office was located at Gregory Hall for some 10 years; from 1949 to 1959.  While there, in 1951 the National Mapping Section was (unofficially) renamed the National Mapping Office within the Department of the Interior.  In 1956, Nat Map became the Division of National Mapping within the Department of National Development.  Apart from periods of field survey duty in the early 1950s, Bob Foster worked at Gregory Hall throughout the 10 years Nat Map’s Melbourne office was located there.


Bob Foster with other Nat Map Melbourne staff at Gregory Hall St Kilda East in 1953.

Back Row (L-R): Alan Thomson, Len Bentley, Bert Reaby, Bill Trevena, John Evans, Ted Caspers, Jim Saunders, Phil Lennie, Bob Foster, Dave Hocking.

Centre Row (L-R): Bob Robinson, Keith Waller, Ken Johnson, Ben Konings, Bill Stroud, Bill Dingeldie, Reg Ford, Joe Lines.

Front Row (L-R): Jeanette Phillips, Terry Kennedy, Jennifer Cowle, Norah Phillips, Lindsay Rimington, Claire Mather, Vi Palmer, Linda Mottus.

XNatmap image.


From his early days as a photogrammetric draftsman with Nat Map, Bob Foster was involved in the preparation of various photogrammetric products using aerial photography.  Some of the earliest of these products were uncontrolled photo indices and shingle mosaics.  A program to prepare photomaps at 1: 253 440 scale (4 miles to 1 inch) from semicontrolled mosaics commenced in 1950.  These photomaps were prepared from unrectified aerial photographs controlled by slotted template plotting based generally on astro fixes.  Later, uncontrolled mosaics were used to prepare photomaps at 1: 63 360 (1 mile to 1 inch) scale in selected areas.


This early work allowed Bob to develop his skill in manual photogrammetric horizontal control extension by the slotted template method that was used by Nat Map until the phased introduction of analytical aerotriangulation techniques from the early 1970s.


Morning tea at Gregory Hall 1950s.

From left, rear: Ron Wilson, Bill Trevena, Ed Laos, Norm Harding, unidentified.

Front: Bert Reaby, John Evans, Bob Foster, Len Bentley, Ben Konings, Ted Caspers.

XNatmap image.


The slotted template method of radial line triangulation initially was used by Nat Map to mechanically transfer primary control to each photo.  It was used for the preparation of the 1: 250 000 and 1: 100 000 scale topographic map series.


During this photogrammetric control extension process, a plastic template was cut for each photo in the block.  Common photo-control points on the sides and radials of each photo were selected and marked on the template along with any primary control points.  At each marked point on the template, a slot was cut to later allow each template to move freely in relation to its neighbours.


To assemble the templates in each block, base sheets on which control was plotted were laid out and carefully joined on a specifically designated large flat floor.  At each primary control point a stud was fixed to the base sheet.  Systematically each template was laid on top of a control base sheet with studs through applicable slots in the template and through any fixed control.  With every template interconnected and constrained only at the fixed horizontal control points, the templates were allowed to adopt their own relativity.  The stud positions of photo-control points were pricked through to the base sheets and as the templates were lifted all points were annotated on the base sheet for later identification.


As well as this office-based photogrammetric mapping work, Bob Foster also undertook periods of field survey duty between 1951 and 1965.


Nat Map field work 1950s

1951 Astro fix surveys Alice Springs district

In April 1951, Bruce Lambert, then Deputy Director of National Mapping wrote to the Secretary of the Department of the Interior recommending that approval be given for Bob Foster, temporary Draftsman, to accompany a field mapping party to the Northern Territory from May to November of that year.  As well as assisting the field party’s operation, Bob would gain experience with using aerial photographs on the ground.  Subsequently Bob Foster undertook his first field survey duty with fellow Nat Mapper Edward John (Ted) Caspers (1912-1993), then a Field Assistant (Survey).  Ted was the leader of their 2-man survey sub-party.


Ted Caspers’1951 astro fix survey sub-party worked in the Alice Springs district where Ted made some 30 astronomical observations using a Wild T2 theodolite to obtain precise latitudes and longitudes of positions that were accurately identified on aerial photographs.  Barometric heighting and further field identification on aerial photography was also undertaken.  The main purpose of these astro fixes was to control assemblies of slotted templates which provided photogrammetric control for plotting planimetric detail on map compilation sheets for the then 4 mile to the inch (1: 253 440 scale) map series and the later R502 (1: 250 000 scale) map series.


During the astro fix observations, Bob Foster would have acted as booker, recording Ted’s angular observations and the precise times of the readings to the selected stars using radio time signals as well as Ted’s stop watch readings.  Bob would have also undertaken barometric readings for height determination as well as aerial photography identifications and annotations.


In 1951, 2 astro fix field survey parties operated in the Alice Springs district.  Each of these survey parties were split into 2 sub-parties which were led by Dave Hocking (who was overall coordinator), Phil Lennie and Reg Ford as well as Ted Caspers.  Each field party was equipped with 2 vehicles that had been obtained new in 1950:

·       an International KB5 2-wheel-drive truck powered by a 233 cubic inch (3.8 litre) Green Diamond 6-cylinder petrol engine using a 4‑speed transmission

·       a Land Rover Series 1, 80 inch wheelbase 4-wheel-drive utility powered by a 1.6 litre 4-cylinder petrol engine using a 4-speed main transmission and a 2-speed transfer case; the Land Rover also had a single axle Jeep trailer.


Nat Map 1950-1952 field vehicles loaded on the Ghan at Quorn for freighting to Alice Springs; International at front and Land Rover at rear.

XNatmap image.


During the 1951 field season, Ted Caspers’ survey sub-party worked in the following map sheet areas: Alice Springs, Rodinga, Finke, Abminga, McDills, Hale River, Illogwa Creek, Alcoota, Huckitta and Elkedra.


Initially, it was intended that the 1951 astro fix field parties would operate in the Alice Springs district until November.  However, in September 1951 all astro fix field parties were re-assigned to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.


Eyre Peninsula triangulation 1951

In early October 1951, Nat Map’s first observations for the Geodetic Survey of Australia commenced with a second-order triangulation chain from southern stations on a Royal Australian Survey Corps triangulation chain midway down Eyre Peninsula.  In mid-September 1951, Chief Topographic Surveyor Lindsay Rimington (Rim) carried out a reconnaissance for some 18 new stations in a area bounded by Port Lincoln, Kimba, Arno Bay and Cowell.  Later the observing field party that included Bob Foster and all the other astro fix survey party members was based at the fishing village of Arno Bay.


Marking of the new stations with 20-foot wooden quadrupod beacons took about a fortnight.  During this marking activity Rim remarked: You are armchair surveyors no longer.  He was referring to the fact that there were no hill climbs or long walks during Nat Map’s astronomical observations work.


After the beaconing was complete, Rim gave a short demonstration of the observing routines required with the Wild T2 theodolites.  Rim then returned to Melbourne leaving Senior Draftsman Joe Lines in charge of the field survey that was completed in early December 1951.


1952 Astro fix surveys South Australia and Queensland

Together with Field Assistant John Curracan, Bob Foster was again a member of Ted Caspers’ astro fix field survey sub-party in 1952.  During that year, Ted Caspers observed 22 astro fixes and Bob Foster observed 8 astro fixes; further information on Bob’s observations is provided in Appendix A.


In the early days of Nat Map astro fix survey work, the astro fix points were identified by the prefix NM, for National Mapping, followed by the first letter of the observer’s family name and then by a sequence number for that observer.  For example, Ted Caspers’ first astro fix in 1949 was NMC 1; Ted’s last for that year was NMC 39 and his last astro fix in 1952 was NMC 121.


Reg Ford had commenced astro fix observations in 1950 using the station identifier NMF 1 and continued using that identifier prefix in following years.  Thus, when Bob Foster undertook astro fix observations in 1952 he could not use NMF prefixes.  Instead Bob Foster’s astro fixes were identified by the prefix NMX.


Bass Strait Triangulation 1952 - 1953

In September 1952, the astro fix field parties then working in Queensland and South Australia were recalled to observe the triangulation chain across Bass Strait from Gippsland to north-east Tasmania.  This triangulation chain connected the existing mainland geodetic survey in Victoria to the geodetic survey network in Tasmania.  Bob Foster was again a member of the field survey party that was led by Senior Surveyor John Hunter.


The first phase of the triangulation observations in November 1952 was from Cape Liptrap and Mt Fatigue in South Gippsland to Deal Island.  The second phase went from January to late April 1953 and was from Deal Island to Flinders and other Bass Strait islands and on to several survey stations in north-east Tasmania.



Bob Foster at Gregory Hall in 1953.

Extract from XNatmap group image.


Appointment to Commonwealth Public Service 1955

After nearly 6 years service as a temporary Draftsman, Bob Foster was formally appointed, on probation, to the Commonwealth Public Service as a Draftsman, Grade 1, (Third Division) on 5 July 1955.  This permanent position was in the Photogrammetric Survey Sub‑section, National Mapping Section, Administration Branch, within the Department of the Interior in Canberra but temporarily located in Melbourne.  Bob’s appointment was promulgated on page 2395 of the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette on 4 August 1956.


Division of National Mapping 1956

As mentioned earlier, during 1956 the functions and staff of the National Mapping Section of the Department of the Interior were transferred to the Department of National Development as the newly created Division of National Mapping.  This organisational change was authorised by an Executive Council Minute on 2 August 1956 and promulgated in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette on 16 August 1956.  The new organisational arrangements operated from 1 July 1956.  Thus from July 1956, Bob Foster, and all of his work colleagues at Gregory Hall, were working in the Division of National Mapping.


Promotion to Draftsman, Grade 2 1956

While still at Gregory Hall, Bob Foster was promoted to Draftsman, Grade 2 (Third Division) in the Division of National Mapping’s Photogrammetric Survey Section within the Department of National Development in Melbourne.  This promotion was promulgated on page 2736 of the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette on 6 September 1956.


At the Rialto Building 1959 - 1977

In 1959, Bob Foster moved with the rest of the Division of National Mapping Melbourne staff to the Rialto Building office at 497 Collins Street in Melbourne’s Central Business District.  Nat Map’s Melbourne office remained at the Rialto Building until April 1977 when it relocated to Dandenong.


The now heritage listed Rialto Building extended southwards from its Collins Street facade to Flinders Lane and shared a common laneway with the Winfield Building on the east side.  The Rialto was designed by William Pitt and built by Comely and Gwillam during 1890-91.  It included many innovative features for its day including hydraulic lifts.


Promotion to Senior Draftsman 1961

In July 1961, Bob Foster was one of 4 Nat Map draftsmen promoted to Senior Draftsman, Grade 2, positions in the then Survey Branch at the Rialto Building office.  Each of these positions required the occupant to take charge of a section involved in photogrammetric map compilation.  These sections were then located on the 1st Floor of the Rialto Building and were under the supervision, control and direction of Byrne Goodrick who was the Chief Drafting Officer.


These promotions were promulgated on page 2668 of the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette of 13 July 1961.  The other 3 promotees were Bob Robinson, Dave Hocking and Alan Thomson who each went on to higher offices during their long and distinguished careers with Nat Map.  However, for Bob Foster this was to be his final Nat Map promotion; a situation Bob often commented on in his later years at Nat Map.


After Nat Map moved to Dandenong, along with other clerical and drafting officers, Bob’s position was translated (at level) in to the Technical Officer structure.  Thus Bob became a Senior Technical Officer, Grade 2.  In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Commonwealth Public Service undertook a service-wide broadbanding initiative to bring the administrative, technical and professional streams into common pay levels.  Under this initiative the Senior designations and grades were dispensed with.  Accordingly, Bob Foster finished his Commonwealth Public Service career as a Technical Officer Level 4.


Aerodist field work 1965

National Mapping’s airborne distance measuring (Aerodist) program operated in the field from 1963 to 1974.  The program intensified horizontal survey ground control for the 1:100 000 scale national topographic mapping program.  The Aerodist system was used to measure some 3 020 lines that fixed the positions of some 485 survey control stations.


From 1964 onwards, for each Aerodist line a minimum of seven good line crossing measuring runs would usually be flown.  The integrity of these runs was determined by the quality of the pen traces that recorded the distance measurements on to paper charts.


As an in-the-field quality control check, each Aerodist chart had to be examined (broken) to verify it was useable prior to dispatch to the Melbourne office for full computation and before the field party moved from the measuring area.  In 1965, the Aerodist master system was mounted in a fixed-wing aircraft instead of a helicopter for the first time.  There was a concern that the faster measuring achievable with the Rockwell Aero Commander 680E (VH-EXY) fixed-wing may lead to a backlog in the field breaking of Aerodist charts.


Thus while operating from Emerald during August-October 1965, an additional support group was used for Aerodist chart breaking and other Aerodist related duties.  Members of this group included Bob Foster, Terry Larkin, Kevin Moody, Des Young and Alan Chaiken.  Some of the members of this group also became involved with survey activities at control stations.


The completed Block 6 slotted template assembly in the Rialto in 1971.

From left: Bob Foster, Ian Pasco, Len Bentley and Brian Martinesz.



Ellery House Dandenong 1977-1991

In April 1977, Bob Foster moved with the rest of Nat Map’s Melbourne office staff from the Rialto Building to newly-built premises at Ellery House in 280 Thomas Street Dandenong; about 30 kilometres south-east of Melbourne CBD.  Ellery House was named for Robert Lewis John Ellery (1827-1908) who was an astronomer and director of the Williamstown observatory for 42 years.  Ellery conducted a geodetic survey of Victoria from 1858 to 1874.


At Ellery House from 1977 until 1979, Bob continued to work mainly on the slotted template method of radial line triangulation.  Here he held the position of Senior Technical Officer, Grade 2, in the Mapping Surveys Section of the Topographic Surveys Branch.  Bob was located on the 3rd Floor at Ellery House adjacent to the slotted template assembly area that had a specially constructed layout floor.


Bob Foster (left) with Dave Hocking inspecting Nat Map’s final slotted template assembly at Ellery House Dandenong in 1979.  XNatmap image.


As depicted in the image above, Nat Map’s final slotted template assembly was completed at Dandenong during 1979.  That assembly was over 14 map areas at 1:250 000 scale and was known as Block 28 and Block 38 W.  These adjoining Blocks were over map sheets on the western side of South Australia and across the border into the eastern part of Western Australia.  Note that in the image above the view of the Blocks is from an east to west perspective.


After completing work on slotted templates, Bob Foster spent the rest of 1979 packing up and closing down the work area prior to being re‑assigned to the Technical Services Section.


Technical Services Section 1980-1991

During 1980, Bob Foster became the officer-in-charge of Nat Map’s Technical Services Section that was located on the 2nd Floor at Ellery House.  The Section maintained extensive repositories of map compilation material, photomaps, orthophotomaps, aerial photography film negatives, aerial photography film diapositives, aerial photography paper prints and printed map sheets.


Most of this material was for Nat Map’s internal use in the office or by field survey parties.  However, much of the map compilation and orthophotomap material also moved to and from Nat Map’s Canberra office where it was used for final map preparation prior to map printing.  The aerial photography was also available for public inspection and for the ordering of various related products through the photographic services contractor, then Air Photographs Pty Ltd.  For a few years after moving to Dandenong, the Section also undertook direct sales to the public of printed map products.


The Technical Services Section in Dandenong also maintained copies of National Mapping Council survey control station summaries and related survey control information including 1:250 000 scale transparent horizontal control overlay sheets covering most of mainland Australia, computer printouts of survey control station coordinate values on the Australian Geodetic Datum as well as height values on the Australian Height Datum.  Terrestrial and aerial spot photography films and paper prints of survey control stations and related records were also maintained.


The Section also maintained vertical control records that included 1:250 000 scale transparent vertical control overlay gravity sheets, bench mark summaries, and computer printouts of height values for the bench marks in the numerous sections of the National Levelling Survey on the Australian Height Datum.


The Technical Services Section also maintained and operated a repository of the various types of field books that were used on field survey operations by Nat Map staff to record various field observations in Australia and Antarctica.  The types of these field books included astronomical observations, traversing, levelling, Tellurometer, Geodimeter, survey station establishment, Aerodist master, Aerodist remote, and standard black (for miscellaneous recordings).  Field books were serial numbered accountable documents that had to be signed in and out of custody.


The Section also maintained registers of accountable survey control station numbers, and aerial photography and terrestrial photography film numbers.  Blocks of such numbers were formally issued to field survey party leaders for operational use.  Field party leaders were responsible for advising the Melbourne Technical Services Section of details of the use of such numbers and for the formal return of any unused numbers at the end of a survey operation.


During Bob’s time with Technical Services, a computer based system PISCS (Planning Information System Coordinating Software) was introduced to track the holdings and movements of compilation sheets and related mapping materials between the Dandenong and Canberra offices.  Bob maintained a close personal interest and involvement in the implementation and operation of this system.


Australian Surveying and Land Information Group 1987

The Division of National Mapping ceased as a unique Commonwealth Government organisation in July 1987.  Under Commonwealth Government administrative arrangements gazetted on 24 July 1987, Division of National Mapping functions were undertaken within the Department of Administrative Services by the subsequently formed Surveying and Land Information Group.  (The Group was later renamed the Australian Surveying and Land Information Group and included former Australian Survey Office functions.)  These administrative arrangements followed the double dissolution Federal elections that were held on 11 July 1987 and saw the re-election of the Australian Labor Party federal government under Prime Minister Robert James Lee Hawke (1929-2019).


Bob Foster continued to lead the Technical Services Section at Dandenong under the new organisational arrangements.


Professional affiliation

For many years from the 1950s, Bob Foster was an active member of the Australian Institute of Cartographers.  The Institute was established in Victoria in 1952 with separate divisions in the States and Territories.  The Institute was devoted to advancing the science and art of making maps.  Through the Institute’s activities, Bob established lasting contacts with numerous other cartographers in Commonwealth, State and Territory mapping organisations.


Nat Map retirement

By August 1990, at least, Bob was away from the Ellery House office on extended sick leave.  Bob did not return to the office but formally retired as a Technical Officer Level 4 from the Australian Surveying and Land Information Group (Department of Administrative Services) on 16 January 1991.  Bob was then 63 years of age and had given over 41 years service to the mapping of Australia with the Commonwealth Government’s national mapping organisations.


Bob Foster’s early life

Bob Foster was born at Essendon on 14 January 1928.  He was the second child of Irish-born George Richard Foster (1886-1956) and his Victorian-born wife Amelia Foster née Pogue (1881‑1970).  Bob’s older sibling was his brother Jack who was born at St Kilda private hospital (in Buckley Street Essendon) on 7 September 1922.


Bob’s parents George Foster and Amelia Pogue married at St John’s Anglican Church in Toolamba on 1 August 1920.  Toolamba is a town in the Goulburn Valley about 180 kilometres north of Melbourne.


The former St John’s Anglican Church Toolamba circa 2014.

Image from The Weekly Times web site.


When Bob and his older brother were born, their parents resided at Avonlea, a double fronted brick dwelling on a 470 square metre allotment at 12 Glen Street Essendon.  George and Amelia Foster had moved to Avonlea from Lissadell, Toolamba circa April 1921.


From electoral roll entries, the Foster family remained at 12 Glen Street Essendon until the late 1930s or early 1940s.  George and Amelia were listed at Essendon from 1921 until 1937.  They were next discovered on a 1942 electoral roll that listed them as residing at 27 Kenneally Street Surrey Hills and being occupied as a civil servant and in home duties, respectively; as they had been for all the time they were listed at Essendon.


The former Foster family home at 12 Glen Street Essendon in 2008.

Image from website.


Bob Foster’s parents continued to reside at 27 Kenneally Street Surrey Hills until his father’s death in 1956.  Afterwards, Bob’s mother continued to reside there until her death in 1970.  Electoral roll entries indicated Bob Foster continued residing at 27 Kenneally Street until his marriage circa 1968.


The former Foster family home at 27 Kenneally Street Surrey Hills in 2015.

Image from website.


About Bob Foster’s father

Bob’s father George Richard Foster (1886-1956) was born at Riverstown (Ballyederdaowen) in County Sligo, Ireland on 6 December 1886.  The village of Riverstown is about 16 kilometres inland from the town and seaport of Sligo on the north‑west coast of the Republic of Ireland and about 35 kilometres from the border with Northern Ireland.


Research for this article did not discover information on George Foster’s immigration to Australia.  However, his travel to Australia occurred some time prior to July 1915 as in that month George was a State School teacher at Koyuga East in the lower Goulburn Valley about 50 kilometres north-west of Shepparton.  It appears that George travelled alone to Australia as around 1915, George’s father was a farmer residing at Downsnuff, Riverston, in County Sligo.


George Foster’s parents (Bob’s paternal grandparents) were John Foster who was born in County Sligo about 1856 and his wife Frances Harriet Foster née Kerrigan who was born in Riverston in 1867.  John and Frances Foster had at least 5 children: George Richard (1886), Emily Jane (1892), John Alfred (1894-1902), James William (1898), Robert Edmund (1899), and John Francis (1905).


George Foster’s World War I service

Bob’s father, George Richard Foster served with the Australian Imperial Force between 1915 and 1919; Regimental Number 11942.  George Foster enlisted at Melbourne on 2 August 1915 at 28 years of age.  Between 19 August and 17 November 1915 he was a Private with the 19th Depot Battalion at Geelong.


On 17 November 1915, Private Foster was posted to the 14th Field Artillery Regiment at Broadmeadows as a Gunner.  On 28 January 1916, Gunner Foster departed Melbourne with the 14th Reinforcements onboard HMAT A32 Themistocles.  He disembarked in Egypt on 29 February 1916.


During his early days in Egypt, Gunner Foster served with the Divisional Ammunition Column, the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, and the 21st Field Artillery Brigade.  Between 12 March 1916 and 15 May 1916 he was mustered as Driver and then reverted to Gunner.  On 24 January 1917, Gunner Foster was transferred to the 2nd Australian Field Artillery Brigade in France.


The 2nd Field Artillery Brigade was formed in Melbourne during August 1914.  It comprised: 4th Field Artillery Battery, 5th Field Artillery Battery, 6th Field Artillery Battery, 102nd Field Artillery (Howitzer) Battery, and 2nd Brigade Ammunition Column.  Along with other Artillery Brigades, the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade was assigned to the Australian Ist Division that included the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Infantry Brigades


On the Western Front between 1916 and 1918, the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade took part in campaigns at: Poziéres, Advance to the Hindenburg Line, Bullecourt, Menin Road, Broodseinde, Passchendaele, Ancre, Villers-Bretonneux, Le Hamel, Amiens, Albert, and the Hindenburg Line.


During the German Spring Offensive in France on 29 April 1918, the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade Headquarters, the 102nd Field Artillery (Howitzer) Battery and the Wagon Line were heavily shelled by the enemy.  Casualties included: 1 officer died of wounds and 11 other ranks killed in action; 2 officers and 7 men wounded in action.  Gunner Foster was one of the wounded.  He suffered a gun shot wound to the forehead and after treatment was discharged back to duty on 4 May 1918.


On 15 May 1918, Gunner Foster was promoted Sergeant with Headquarters, 2nd Field Artillery Brigade.  Between 5 and 22 September 1918, Sergeant Foster was granted leave in the United Kingdom.


On 26 December 1918, Sergeant Foster was recommended for the Meritorious Service Medal for continuous good service and devotion to duty with Headquarters, 2nd Australian Field Artillery Brigade.  This award in recognition of valuable services rendered with the Armies in France and Flanders was promulgated in the 5th Supplement (No 31370) to the London Gazette on 3 June 1919 and in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette of 6 October 1919.


Sergeant George Foster (front left) at Morialme, Belgium on 30 December 1918 with the Adjutant and other Orderly Room Staff from Headquarters, 2nd Australian Field Artillery Brigade.

Back row from left: 5962 Gunner GT Colvin MM and 4858 Gunner LP Yeatman.

Front row from left: 11942 Sergeant GR Foster, Lieutenant LC Wade, and 29118 Sergeant DT McRobert.  Australian War Memorial image Accession Number E03982.


On 31 January 1919, Sergeant Foster was commissioned as a temporary 2nd Lieutenant with the Education Service and posted to the 2nd Field Artillery Brigade.  On 30 April 1919, he was made a Lieutenant.


On 18 July 1919, Lieutenant Foster embarked in England for return to Australia onboard His Majesty’s Transport Takada.  He disembarked at Melbourne on 7 September 1919 after some 3 years and 8 months overseas service.


Lieutenant Foster’s appointment as a serving Army Officer was terminated on 30 October 1919.  However, it appears he remained in the Reserve of Officers until 24 July 1935 when he resigned his commission; he was then 48 years of age.


Death of George Foster

Bob’s father George Foster died on 10 May 1956 at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne; he was 69 years of age.  As mentioned earlier, prior to his death George Foster resided at 27 Kenneally Street Surrey Hills.  George was survived by his wife Amelia and by their 2 sons Jack and Bob.  George Foster’s funeral service was held in the R McKenzie memorial chapel at 109 Clarendon Street South Melbourne on 11 May 1956, it commenced at 1 pm.  Afterwards George’s remains were interred at the Box Hill Cemetery.  The funeral arrangements were conducted by R McKenzie.


About Bob Foster’s mother

Bob’s mother Amelia Pogue (1881-1970) was born on 2 September 1881 at Toolamba.  Amelia was the 8th of the 9 children born to George Pogue (1829-1883) and his wife Susan Pogue née Morrison (1844‑1925).  George Pogue and Susan Morrison married in Victoria on 16 August 1866.  Amelia Pogue’s siblings were: Robert (1867‑1941), John (1869-1889), Rebecca (1871-1955), George (1873‑1915), Eliza Jane (1876-1955), Margaret Brock (1878‑1948), Susan (1879-1954), and Georgina (1883-1948).


Amelia Foster died at Box Hill Hospital on 25 June 1970 at 88 years of age.  She was survived by her and George’s 2 sons Jack and Bob and daughters-in-law Beryl and Jenny and by grandsons John and David (Jack and Beryl’s children).  Amelia’s funeral service was held at St Paul’s Anglican Church Canterbury on 30 June 1970; it commenced at 2:30 pm.  Afterwards her remains were cremated at the Springvale crematorium.  R McKenzie undertook the funeral arrangements.


About Bob Foster’s maternal grandparents

Amelia Pogue’s father (Bob Foster’s maternal grandfather) George Pogue was born at Belturbet in County Cavan, Ireland in 1829 and died at Toolamba on 4 March 1883; he was 54 years of age.  Amelia’s mother Susan Morrison was born on 7 February 1844 at Ballymote in County Sligo, Ireland.  Susan Pogue died at her residence, Lisadell, 78 Brewster Street Essendon on 13 July 1925; she was 81 years of age.  George and Susan Pogue were both buried at the Toolamba Cemetery.


George and Susan Pogue were respected pioneers in the Toolamba district in the Goulburn Valley where they became large landowners and progressive farmers as well as being active in their local community.  Some of their descendants are still in the Toolamba area.  More information on George and Susan Pogue and their property Lissadell about 2 kilometres north of Toolamba is provided in Appendix B.


Bob Foster’s school days

Unfortunately, information on Bob’s formal education was not discovered during research for this article.  However, Bob was appointed to the Third Division of the Commonwealth Public Service.  This indicates that he had achieved, at least, the Victorian Leaving Certificate level.


Marriage to Jenny circa 1968

Full information on Bob’s marriage including his wife’s maiden name was not discovered during research for this article.  However, his wife Jenny was known to many Nat Mappers through her attendance at Ellery House social functions.


From electoral roll entries, it appears that Bob and Jenny married around 1968.  On a 1967 electoral roll entry, Bob was listed as residing with his mother at 27 Kenneally Street Surrey Hills.  On a 1968 electoral roll entry, Robert George Foster and Jennifer Dawn Foster were listed as residing at Unit 10 Number 31 Millswyn Street Domain (South Yarra) and occupied as a draftsman and in home duties, respectively.  Unit 10 was a 1 bedroom apartment in a leafy street that runs between Fawkner Park and the Royal Botanical Gardens; about 3 kilometres south-east of the Melbourne central business district.


Jenny and Bob Foster were to have 2 daughters; both were born in the 1970s.


Bob and Jenny Foster established their family home at 31 Larch Street Blackburn North in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.  Their home was a double-fronted brick and tile residence on a 698 square metre allotment.  An electoral roll entry indicates that Bob and Jenny resided at 31 Larch Street from, at least, 1972.  It was to remain Bob’s home until his death in 1997.


Bob and Jenny Foster’s home at 31 Larch Street Blackburn in 2021.

A Google streetview image.


Bob Foster’s motor vehicles

A few years after joining Nat Map, Bob purchased a current model Austin Healey 4-cylinder sports car; these vehicles were produced between 1953 and 1956.  The green coloured BN1 or BN2 model Healey that Bob purchased was powered by a 2.66 litre engine coupled to either a 3 or 4 speed manual gearbox; both transmissions were fitted with overdrive.  Bob kept his Austin Healey at least into the 1980s if not longer.  The image below shows a vehicle similar to the Austin Healey that Bob Foster owned.


An early 1950s Austin Healey sports car.

Edited image from Shannons Insurance web site.


For many years after they were married, Bob and Jenny Foster’s family car was an Alfa Romeo Berlina 1750.  Bob purchased the maroon coloured saloon circa 1972 from Clemens Sporting Cars, an Alfa Romeo dealer in Hughesdale.  Powered by a 1.8 litre twin overhead cam 4-cylinder engine, the saloon body of the Berlina was designed by the Italian Bertone automotive company.  The Alfa Romeo company manufactured Berlina 1750s from 1968 to 1971.


During the 1970s and early 1980s, Bob Foster’s Berlina was serviced by Lawrie O’Connor who was then a proprietor of English and European Car Services in Malvern.  Lawrie had worked at Nat Map as a Technical Assistant with the Aerodist program between 1967 and 1972.  An image of an Alfa Romeo Berlina 1750 similar to Bob Foster’s is provided below.


An early 1970s Alfa Romeo Berlina 1750 saloon.


Electronic ignition systems

As a hobby sideline in the 1970s and early 1980s at least, Bob Foster manufactured electronic ignition systems for motor cars.  Bob produced these replacement systems in his home workshop and sold them by word of mouth to people who wished to improve their vehicles’ performance.



Sadly, Bob Foster died on 31 August 1997 at the age of 69 years.  He was survived by Jenny, his wife of some 30 years, and by their 2 daughters.  On 8 September 1997, Bob’s remains were cremated at Springvale Botanical Cemetery.  Afterwards Bob’s cremated remains were collected by his family.  His funeral arrangements were undertaken by Allison Monkhouse Funeral Directors of Springvale.


Unfortunately, it is not known if any former Nat Mappers attended Bob Foster’s funeral service.  Although enigmatic to some, Bob Foster is fondly remembered by his Nat Map friends and work colleagues.



Appendix A


Astro fixes observed by Bob Foster in 1952


Station Identifier

Map Sheet




SH 54-14 Curnamona (at Muyungarie homestead)

31º 30’

140º 45’


SH 54-10 Frome

30º 30’

141º 00’


SH 54-06 Callabonna

29º 35’

141º 00’


SH 54-03 Tickalara

29º 00’

141º 50’


SH 54-03 Tickalara

29º 05’

141º 30’


Not located in 2021




SG 55-02 Tambo

24º 30’

145º 35’


SF 55-13 Longreach

23º 40’

145º 15’

# Coordinates were determined by Paul Wise in October 2021 and are accurate to 5 minutes of arc.  The datum used was the 1933 Transverse Mercator Grid based on the Clarke 1858 Spheroid that used the Sydney Observatory origin.


Locations of astro fixes observed by Bob Foster in 1952


Map extract annotated by Paul Wise in October 2021.


Appendix B


More about Bob Foster’s maternal grandparents


Edited extract from Greater Shepparton Heritage Study Stage II

Lissadell (Toolamba)

All buildings were constructed by the Pogue family, who held this property for one hundred and fourteen years.  The brick house was constructed in a number of different stages, the earliest being some time after 1879, as at 21 March 1879 the only buildings appearing on the Lands Department documents of selector George Pogue were two of log construction, thus also dating the extant log building to before that date.  It is unclear when the men's huts or the farm buildings were constructed.


George Pogue (born County Cavan, Ireland, 1829, died Toolamba 1883) was one of a party of nine men from Drummond near Kyneton (an area from which many Goulburn Valley selectors emanated) who in 1869 travelled along the west bank of the Goulburn River from Murchison to McCoys Bridge in search of suitable land to select.  An area of lush grass led them to choose Toolamba.  Descendants of the party erected a stone monument to the group at Pogue Road near the intersection with Rutherford Road, Toolamba; the inscription includes the words:


This marked the beginning of the Pogue generations at Toolamba.


The presumed site of the group's camp at Toolamba is listed on the Victorian Heritage Inventory (H7925-0011) as Toolamba Bark Hut Camp, see image below


Toolamba Pioneers monument.

Edited image by Susan Brown from Monument Australia web site.


Pogue selected 160 acres [64.5 ha] close to the river, Allotment 38 in the Parish of Toolamba, County of Rodney.  Applying for the licence under Section 42 of the Amending Land Act 1865 on 25 November 1869, he recorded that he was married, he had not already received any land under Section 42 licence, and he categorised himself as a farmer, possibly therefore being a farm labourer.


On 21 March 1879, Pogue, now residing on an adjoining allotment, applied to purchase the property, having obviously followed the normal conditions, that is, having paid it off in rents over the ten year period.  He had 132 acres [53.5 ha] cultivated: 112 [45.5] to wheat, oats and barley, the rest to sown grass.  Twenty‑eight acres were not yet cleared, although they were rung (ringbarked to kill them).


Some time during the ten years, probably in the initial three year licence period (when a certain level of improvements had to be achieved), Pogue constructed two log buildings, a barn measuring 30 ft [9.1m] by 16 ft [5.8m], although the careful measurement of the constable checking improvements on 30 April 1879 had it at 28 ft by 16 ft, and a shed of 40 ft [12.2m] by 20 ft [6.1m].  Both had roofs of straw; the relatively recent roof timbers and corrugated iron of the extant log building, the barn, accords with this.


The log barn on Lissadell thought to date from the 1870s.

Image from Country News October 2012.


Pogue received freehold title on 5 May 1880, somewhat delayed due to the excision of a north-south sliver of land for the Seymour to Shepparton railway line.


It is unclear when the first section of the brick house (the southern section, now much modified) was built, or when George Pogue and his family came to live on Lissadell from the neighbouring selection.  The farm buildings also cannot be reliably dated.  The men's hut is known for having been, from around 1930, the rent-free home for many decades of a local personality, fencer, labourer and ex World War 1 Digger Charlie Saunders, whom the Pogue family supported.


The house at Lissadell.

Image from Country News October 2012.


The Pogue family, from George the selector on, were staunch Anglicans, and played a prominent role in every facet of life in the Anglican Church at Toolamba for many decades.  George donated land for St John's, Toolamba's first Anglican church; before this, church services were held at Lissadell.  (The current red brick church building at 30 Rutherford Road was constructed in 1913 and was no longer used when offered for sale in 2014).  In 1945, six brothers, grandchildren of George Pogue the selector, were elected Guardians of the church (trustees or elders); five Pogue women held the post of organist at different times.


After George Pogue's death in 1883, Lissadell was run by his wife Susan and eldest son Robert, then after Robert's marriage in 1894, when the young couple moved across the road to Bessbrook, by the second son, George.  Following Susan's death in 1925 [see obituary below], Robert and his sons managed all their properties, amounting to around 2,036 acres [824 ha] freehold and including Lissadell, as a company, R Pogue and Sons.


R Pogue and Sons received prizes at the Royal Melbourne Show and at local shows for the quality of the wheat, lucerne, maize and oaten hay from their farms, including a championship at the Melbourne Show in 1927 for an array of three varieties of wheat, Minister, Major and Hard Federation grown at Lisadell and seen as one of the finest arrays shown for many years.  He also received prizes for Southdown fleeces.


Robert Pogue was heavily involved in community and wider affairs, being a Councillor of the Shire of Rodney for a monumental 31 years, including three years as President.  An active member of the Country Party, he was also a JP, a member of the Board of Management of the Mooroopna Hospital, committee member and trustee of the Tatura Agricultural Society, and trustee of the first Toolamba Hall.  At his death, all six sons received property.


His son, Robert Edwin Pogue, lived at Lissadell from his marriage in 1929, and had farmed the property in his own right from at least 1927, selling sheep under his own name from Lissadell that year, and in 1930 winning Shepparton Agricultural Society's crop and fallow competition for the property.  It is likely that the appearance of the house dates partly from renovations by RE Pogue in the 1930s or 1940s.


A progressive farmer, RE Pogue also planted what became a renowned avenue of poplars up to the house.  His son Baden Lyle Pogue retained Lissadell from the 1960s, when he and his wife made further alterations to the house.  BL Pogue cropped and ran cattle and four thousand sheep until 1983.


That year, Baden Wheelhouse purchased the property, ending the 114 years of Pogue family custodianship.  During Wheelhouse's ownership the house was damaged by fire and repaired.  Wheelhouse retained it until approximately 2012.


The Pogues were large landowners and progressive farmers, a respected pioneering family of the district; descendants have remained in the area through the generations.  The family has valued the log building as a relic of their early settlement in the locality, as have subsequent owners.  The property now includes a 27.8 hectare orchard planted to table grapes and a variety of stone and pome fruit (apples, peaches, plums).


An edited extract from Greater Shepparton Heritage Study Stage II

195 Pogue Road Toolamba (Lissadell) Hermes No 199698 Place Citation Report 12 April 2019 08:40 AM; p1694 ff, Draft Heritage Citation Report.



Obituary Mrs G Pogue (20 July 1925)

Another old pioneer of the district has passed away to her long rest.  We refer to Mrs Susan Pogue, who passed away at her residence, Essendon, on Monday last, at the age of 81 years.  The deceased was associated with the district since 1871, when her late husband, Mr Geo Pogue selected the property known as Lissadell, Toolamba.  She was born at Ballymote, County Sligo, Ireland, and came to Victoria by the sailing ship, Star of England, in 1865.


On arrival she was met by her late uncle, Mr James Morrison, of Drummond North, near Malmsbury, and with whom she resided until she married in 1866.  Five years later with their two children, Robert and John, they moved to their selection at Toolamba.


In 1921 the deceased went to reside with her daughters at Essendon, and for the past two years has been confined to her room.


No person was better known in the district than the deceased.  She won the respect and esteem of all who came in contact with her, and this was shown on the occasion of her departure for Melbourne, when she was tendered a public farewell.  The deceased was prominently associated with the Church of England, and was also associated with Bishop Langley in the laying of the foundation stone of the new church.


Cr Robert Pogue, of Toolamba, is the only surviving son.  The daughters are Mrs R J Pethybridge, Elsternwick; Mrs R J Morrison, St Kilda; Mrs G Foster, Essendon; Mrs A Craven, Essendon; and the Misses Susan and V Pogue, Essendon.


Her remains were brought to Toolamba on Wednesday, and interred in the Toolamba cemetery.  Prior to the funeral a short service was conducted at the Church of England by the Rev C W Wood, who also officiated at the graveside.


An edited version from Shepparton Advertiser, Monday 20 July 1925, page 2, Obituary.


Pogue family grave at Toolamba Cemetery.

Image from Ancestry web site.