b. 05/05/1904 Madoc, Ontario, Canada. d. 02/05/1988 Cobourg, Ontario, Canada.
John Weir Foote (1904-1988) was born on May 5th, 1904, in Madoc, Ontario, Canada, the son of Gordon and Helena Foote. The family were of Irish, and quite possibly of Ulster extraction. As a young man, John Weir Foote played the organ in the local Presbyterian Church, with which his family were closely connected. He married Edith Sheridan, of Brockville, on August 31st, 1929, and for a while worked in his father-in-law’s hardware business in Cornwall, Ontario. He later left this employment, and went back to full-time education to study for the ministry. He attended the University of Western Ontario, Queen’s University, Kingston, and McGill University in Montral, before gradutating from the Presbyterian Theological College of Montreal in 1934. It was also in 1934 that it tis recorded that Rev. John Weir Foote joined the Orange Institution, being initiated into Fraserville L.O.L. No. 46, Ontario, and going on to serve the Church in Fort Coulonge, Quebec, and Port Hope in Ontario.
The outbreak of World War II in saw many young men enlist in the Armed Forces of Canada. Reverend Foote felt the call too and enlisted in the Canadian Chaplain Corps in December 1939. He was appointed to the rank of Honorary Captain and assigned to the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Wentworth Regiment) in Hamilton, Ontario, as its Regimental Chaplain. When the 1st Battalion, Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (RHLI) was posted to England in July 1940, Captain Foote went with them.
He took part, against his superior’s orders, in the ill-fated Dieppe Raid on 19th August 1942, being of the firm opinion that where his men went, he went. Prior to landing on the beaches at Dieppe, in occupied France, it was reported that he gathered the company on the ship, The Glengyle, together for the prayer – “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” Upon landing on the beach, the burly chaplain attached himself to the Regimental Aid Post, assisting the medical officer and wounded soldiers both spiritually and physically. Descriptions of his bravery that day are utterly incredible and inspiring. During the eight hours that the RHLI was on the beach, Foote carried more than 30 wounded soldiers to the aid post while enemy fire rained all around him.
As the fighting neared an end, and with re-embarkation ordered, Foote climbed from the landing craft that would have taken him to safety, waded ashore, and voluntarily stayed with the 1900 Canadian troops who were stranded, and soon to be taken prisoner. As a non-combatant, Foote was not allowed to carry a rifle into battle. However, during the evacuation, Foote grabbed a Bren gun and provided covering fire for his comrades as they evacuated the beach, a rather unusual thing for a padre to do. Foote was taken prisoner along with 173 other members if the RHLI, including the CO, LCol Labatt. He remained a prisoner of war until released on 5th May 1945.
Upon returning to Canada, Foote chose to remain with the Canadian Chaplain Corps and was posted to Camp Borden in September 1945 as the Senior Protestant Chaplain with the rank of Major. He took up residence in Barrie, living at 135 Mulcaster Street.
On 28th March 1946, Foote traveled to Buckingham Palace where he was formally presented his VC by King George VI, becoming the only member of the Canadian Chaplains Corps ever to ever receive such an honour.
Foote remained in Barrie and with the Chaplain corps until finally releasing from the Army in 1948. That same year, Foote left pastoral ministry for a career in politics, winning a seat in Ontario Legislature as the Conservative member for Durham County. He held the riding until retiring from politics in 1959. In 1964, Reverend Foote returned to the RHLI as its Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel. He relinquished the appointment in 1973. Among the other honours that Reverend Foote would see in his lifetime was having the Royal Canadian Legion branch in Cobourg named after him in 1982.
Reverend Foote lived with his wife Edith in Cobourg, Ontario until his death on 2nd May 1988. He was laid to rest in Cobourg’s Union Cemetery. The James Street Armoury in Hamilton, home of the RHLI was re-named The Lieutenant-Colonel John Weir Foote, VC, CD Armoury in his honour in September 1990. Foote’s medals are on permanent display at the RHLI Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: RHLI MUSEUM, HAMILTON, ONTARIO, CANADA.
BURIAL PLACE: UNION CEMETERY, COBOURG, ONTARIO, CANADA.
Hamilton Light Infantry Museum, Hamilton, Ontario – The VC Medal Group of John Weir Foote VC CD