John Weir Foote
|John Weir Foote|
|Photo credit: Canadian Department of National Defence|
|Member of Provincial Parliament for Durham|
|Preceded by||Percy Vivian|
|Succeeded by||Hugh Carruthers|
May 5, 1904|
|Died||May 2, 1988
|Political party||Progressive Conservative|
|Years of service||1939–1948|
|Unit||The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Wentworth Regiment)
Canadian Corps of Chaplains
|Battles/wars||World War II|
John Weir Foote, VC, CD (May 5, 1904 – May 2, 1988) was a Canadian military chaplain and recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Foote is the only member of the Canadian Chaplains' Services ever to be awarded the Victoria Cross.
John Weir Foote was born in Madoc in eastern Ontario on May 5, 1904. He was educated at the University of Western Ontario in London, at Queen's University in Kingston and at Presbyterian College and McGill University in Montreal. He entered the Presbyterian ministry in 1934, serving congregations in Fort-Coulonge, Quebec, and Port Hope, Ontario.
In December 1939, after the outbreak of the Second World War, he enlisted in the Canadian Army. He was posted to The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Wentworth Regiment) (RHLI) as the Regimental Chaplain with the rank of Honorary Captain.
On August 19, 1942 at Dieppe, France, Captain Foote coolly and calmly during the eight hours of the battle walked about collecting the wounded. His gallant actions saved many lives and inspired those around him by his example. At the end of this gruelling time he climbed from the landing craft that was to have taken him to safety and deliberately walked into the German position in order to be taken prisoner so that he could be of help to those men who would be in captivity until May 5, 1945.
His VC award was gazetted after the Second World War on February 14, 1946, the citation read:
DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENCE, OTTAWA.
14th February, 1946.
THE CANADIAN ARMY.
The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the VICTORIA CROSS to: —
Honorary Captain John Weir FOOTE, Canadian Chaplain Services.
At Dieppe, on 19th August, 1942, Honorary Captain Foote, Canadian Chaplain Services, was Regimental Chaplain with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry.
Upon landing on the beach under heavy fire he attached himself to the Regimental Aid Post which had been set up in a slight depression on the beach, but which was only sufficient to give cover to men lying down. During the subsequent period of approximately eight hours, while the action continued, this officer not only assisted the Regimental Medical Officer in ministering to the wounded in the Regimental Aid Post, but time and again left this shelter to inject morphine, give first-aid and carry wounded personnel from the open beach to the Regimental Aid Post. On these occasions, with utter disregard for his personal safety, Honorary Captain Foote exposed himself to an inferno of fire and saved many lives by his gallant efforts. During the action, as the tide went out, the Regimental Aid Post was moved to the shelter of a stranded landing craft. Honorary Captain Foote continued tirelessly and courageously to carry wounded men from the exposed beach to the cover of the landing craft. He also removed wounded from inside the landing craft when ammunition had been set on fire by enemy shells. When landing craft appeared he carried wounded from the Regimental Aid Post to the landing craft through very heavy fire.
On several occasions this officer had the opportunity to embark but returned to the beach as his chief concern was the care and evacuation of the wounded. He refused a final opportunity to leave the shore, choosing to suffer the fate of the men he had ministered to for over three years.
Honorary Captain Foote personally saved many lives by his efforts and his example inspired all around him. Those who observed him state that the calmness of this heroic officer, as he walked about, collecting the wounded on the fire-swept beach will never be forgotten.
Later achieving the rank of Major, he remained with the Canadian Corps of Chaplains at Camp Borden until being demobilized in 1948. He won a seat in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the 1948 provincial election and served as the Progressive Conservative Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Durham. He was first appointed to serve as Deputy Commissioner for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, then into the cabinet after the 1951 election as Ontario Minister of Reform Institutions, but stepped down in 1957, following a number of heart attacks. He retired from the provincial legislature in 1959.
Foote returned to the RHLI in 1964, serving as Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel until 1973.
He made his home with his wife, the former Edith Sheridan (1898–1986), in Cobourg, Ontario, until his death on May 2, 1988. He is buried in Union Cemetery, Cobourg.
The James Street Armoury in Hamilton, Ontario, where the RHLI is now based, along with 11th Field Hamilton-Wentworth Battery, was renamed the John W. Foote VC Armoury in his memory. Prior to his death, John Foote donated his medals to the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry where they are held at the RHLI Heritage Museum at the John W Foote VC Armoury. The Armoury is a classified Federal Heritage building 1986 on the Register of the Government of Canada Heritage Buildings.
- The London Gazette: . February 12, 1946. Retrieved February 19, 2010.
- "Veteran Affairs Canada: John Weir Foote". Retrieved 2007-01-25.
- http://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/beefp-fhbro/FHB_Rech_Search_e.asp Register of the Government of Canada Heritage Buildings.