John Weir Foote was born on the 5th of May 1904 at Madoc, Ontario. He received his education at the University of Western Ontario in London, at Queens University in Kingston, and at McGill University in Montreal. He then became a Priest for the Presbyterian Ministry and served the congregations at Fort-Coulonge, Quebec, and Port Hope, Ontario.
In December 1939 he enlisted in the Canadian Forces Chaplain Services and was posted to the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry. They all joined with other troops on a supposedly quick in and out raid to test German defences and support Russian Allies. Approximately 5,000 soldiers on 237 ships attempted to sneak across the English Channel to Dieppe to surprise the Germans guarding the beaches. On the way they encountered a small German convoy who alerted the German forces on the shore. At Dieppe on the 19th of August, 1942, Lt. Col. Foote was the Regimental Chaplain with the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry.
From the London Gazette (UK), Thursday, February 14th, 1946:
DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENCE, OTTAWA.
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 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 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.
Lt. Col. Foote had many opportunities to leave the War Zone and return with the wounded, but he refused to leave. When the last craft was to leave, he again refused and instead chose stay with his men to be captured by the Germans. They suffered their fate in a Prisoner of War Camp for over three years. They were not released until 5th of May, 1945.
He chose to remain in the Canadian Chaplain Services until 1948 when he accepted demobilization. He then went on to represent Durham County in the Provincial Legislature of Ontario.
Lt. Col. Foote is the only member of the Canadian Chaplain Services ever to be awarded the Victoria Cross. Before his death he donated his Victoria Cross, and other medals to the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry.
He resided with his wife in Cobourg, Ontario, until his death on May 2nd 1988. He is buried in the Union Cemetery in Cobourg, Ontario.
- The London Gazette
- The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry
- National Defence and the Canadian Forces