b. 05/12/1904 Ishapore, India. d. 11/11/1993 Pulborough, Sussex.
Henry Bowreman Foote (1904-1993) was born on 5th December 1904 in Ishapore, India, the son of Henry Bruce Foote, a Major in the Royal Artillery, and his wife Jennie Elizabeth. He was the grandson of the geologist Robert Bruce Foote. Sadly, his mother died when he was just two, and his father brought him back to England. He was sent to boarding school at St Cyprian’s School, Eastbourne, Sussex from the age of four. At the age of 14, he went to Bedford School, where he attended until 1923.
He joined Royal Tank Corps in 1925. He was a Staff Officer from 1939 to 1942 and a member of the British Army Staff Mission, Washington, DC USA in 1941. In 1942 he became Officer Commanding, 7th Royal Tank Regiment and it was in this post that he was awarded the Victoria Cross at the Battle of Gazala. During the period 27th May to 15th June 1942 in Libya, Lieutenant Colonel Foote commanded his battalion with outstanding courage and leadership, always being at the crucial point at the right time. On 6th June, although wounded, he continued to lead his battalion from an exposed position on the outside of a tank, and succeeded in defeating the enemy's attempt to encircle two Allied divisions. On 13th June, when a number of Allied tanks had been destroyed, he went on foot, "from one tank to another, to encourage the crews under intense artillery and anti-tank fire". By "his magnificent example the corridor was kept open and the Brigade was able to march through".
Shortly after this, Foote was captured and became a prisoner of war. However, he subsequently escaped and entered Switzerland in April 1944, it was only then that he learned he had been awarded the Victoria Cross. After a period as a General Staff Officer at Allied Forces Headquarters in 1944, he became second-in-command of the 9th Armoured Brigade in 1945. After the end of the war, Foote was flying to Berlin to take part in a victory parade when he had to bail-out, as the aircraft was about to crash. Consequently, he became a member of the Caterpillar Club, an informal group of those who have been saved from death or serious injury by means of a parachute.
Foote was Brigadier of the Royal Armoured Corps, Middle East Land Forces from 1945 to 1947 and then Officer Commanding 2nd Royal Tank Regiment from 1947 to 1948. He was at the Fighting Vehicles Proving Establishment, at the Ministry of Supply from 1948 to 1949 and commanded the 7th Armoured Brigade from 1949 to 1950 and the 11th Armoured Division from 1950 to 1953. He was Director General of Fighting Vehicles at the Ministry of Supply from 1953 to 1955 and Director, Royal Armoured Corps, at the War Office from 1955 until his retirement in 1958 as Major General.
After his retirement, Foote was a trustee of The Tank Museum, Bovington until his death. He was featured as a guest on the biographical television programme This Is Your Life on 22nd October 1986. He lived in the small village of West Chiltington, Sussex in later life and died on 11th November 1993 in Pulborough. He was buried in St Mary’s Churchyard, West Chiltington, Sussex. His medals are held by the Royal Tank Museum, Bovington, Dorset.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL TANK REGIMENT MUSEUM, BOVINGTON, DORSET.
BURIAL PLACE: ST MARYS CHURCHYARD, WEST CHILTINGTON, SUSSEX.
Henry Foote's medals including his VC on display at the Royal Tank Regiment Museum, Bovington, Dorset
(Picture courtesy of Terry Cooling).
The reverse of Foote's VC courtesy of the Tank Museum.
Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
Union Jack Club
"This is Your Life"