Victoria Cross - Second World War, 1939-1945

John Weir Foote

John Weir Foote

John Weir Foote was born in Madoc, Ontario on 5 May 1904. A Presbyterian minister, he joined the Canadian Chaplain Service at the beginning of the Second World War.

On 19 August 1942 Honorary Captain Foote was attached to the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (RHLI), one of the battalions from the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division that participated in the raid on the French port of Dieppe on that day. After landing, Padre Foote assisted the RHLI’s medical officer in caring for the wounded at the regimental aid post. However, he frequently left the relative safety of that location for the open beach where he rendered first aid, and gave injections of morphine to alleviate the suffering of the many wounded who were there. Later, he carried wounded men from the regimental aid post to landing craft waiting to evacuate the survivors of the raiding force. Padre Foote declined the opportunity to embark, preferring to continue to minister to those left behind, and to share their fate as prisoners of war.

At the end of the war, Padre Foote received the Victoria Cross for his conduct at Dieppe, the first ever awarded to a Canadian chaplain. He died in Hamilton, Ontario on 2 May 1988.

Citation

“At Dieppe, on 19th August, 1942, Honorary Captain Foot, 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 me 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.”

(London Gazette, no.37466, 14 February 1946)

 

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