WW1 & WW2



Duchy of Cornwall

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1569 Muster Roll

Alfred & James Foott

Roll of Honour

Book Launch









Buckingham Family Page


It seems that there have been members of the Foott family living in and around North Hill since the 1500s and possibly long before that. The 1569 muster roll shows a William Foote who was required to provide a bow and 12 arrows for military needs and the marriage register for St Torney’s Church records the marriage of Edmond Luscombe and Temperance Foote on 24th November 1617. The name is also present in Lewannick and Linkinorne parishes.

Alfred and James were the sons of Oliver and Ellen Foott. In 1861 the census for East Castick shows Oliver Foott living there with his parents and two younger sisters. In the next census of 1871 Oliver was recorded as an apprentice to master carpenter James Aunger, living and working in Middlewood. Ten years later Oliver was working in London as a carpenter and in July 1881 he married in Paddington to Ellen Buckingham, from the well known North Hill family. Their first four children – Rose Buckingham Foott (1882), William Oliver Foott (1884), John Foott (1886) and Henry Foott (1887) – were born in London.

The family returned to North Hill in 1891 and settled in Middlewood where three more children were born – James Aunger Foott (1891), Frances Ellen Foott (1894) and Alfred Edward Foott (1896). The 1901 census shows the whole family living next door to Oliver’s one-time employer James Aunger. This is likely to be the source of James Aunger Foott’s name. Oliver Foott died at the end of 1904.

In 1911, James, described as a carpenter, was living at home with his mother, sister Frances and brother Alfred in Middlewood. It is likely that James and Alfred had learnt their carpentry skills from their father and their neighbour, James Aunger.

In a matter of six weeks in 1917, Ellen Foott lost both her younger sons, Alfred and James, to the war. Her three other sons were all living in North America. William Foott, the eldest son, had emigrated to the United States some time after 1911 but was called up for war service in the US in 1917, and survived. Henry Foott served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force and also survived the war. John had emigrated to San Francisco and was not called up.


James & Alfred Foott both lost their lives whilst serving on the high seas with the Royal Navy during World War One. Their stories have been told in the book “The Fallen of North Hill Parish” and are repeated below. A poster supporting the launch of the book showed Albert and James in the 1901 census and can be seen here.

Their service records, click for larger images:


Alfred Edward Foott (1896 – 9 July 1917)

Alfred joined the Royal Navy just three weeks after his elder brother, James. He enlisted at Chatham in Kent on 11th November 1915. He was nineteen years old, and like his brother, had black hair, grey-blue eyes and the fresh complexion of a countryman. Because of his existing skills as a carpenter, he was an automatic candidate for carpenter’s crew. Less than a month after his enlistment, he joined HMS Blanche in December 1915.

The Blanche was a Blonde-class scout cruiser, assigned to the battleship squadrons of the Grand Fleet. She was at the Battle of Jutland in mid-1916 but was held in reserve, and did not fight. Alfred was probably on board at that time, but by November 1916 he had returned to Chatham.

http://www.gwpda.org/naval/vangrd1l.gifAlfred was assigned to HMS Vanguard on 14th June 1917 (pictured here). The Vanguard was a St Vincent-class battleship, a splendid vessel which had fought at the Battle of Jutland and survived undamaged. When Alfred joined her, she was at anchor in Scapa Flow, the huge British naval base in the Orkney Islands. After Jutland, the majority of the ships of the German Navy had retreated to their own bases, and the Home Fleet had consequently reduced its own presence at sea.

Naval routines continued as usual and there was still much to do. On the afternoon of 9th July 1917, the Vanguard had been out exercising, practising abandoning ship. She returned to anchor at about 6:30 p.m. That same night the Vanguard was destroyed by a huge explosion which killed all but two of those aboard at the time. The total crew numbered 845, of which 802 were lost, one of which was Alfred. In addition to the two survivors of the explosion, a few fortunate officers had been visiting other ships moored at Scapa Flow.

HMS Vanguard war memorial Scapa Flow.JPGIn terms of loss of life, the destruction of the Vanguard is the most catastrophic accidental explosion in the history of the UK, and one of the worst accidental losses of the Royal Navy.

Various theories about the cause of the explosion have been offered, including the incorrect storage of cordite or the heating of ammunition, but it is not known exactly what caused the catastrophe. The force of the explosion was such that one of her turrets landed a mile from the anchorage.

The lost Vanguard crew have a memorial at Scapa Flow (pictured here).

Alfred is remembered on the Chatham Naval Memorial in Kent as well as on North Hill’s War Memorial.


James Aunger Foott (1891 – 21 August 1917)

Upon being given an especially dangerous mission for HMS Vala, the captain,

Commander Leopold Bernays CMG, said,

“I'm not going anywhere without my old crew, they are the best in the world”.

The last known position of Special Services ‘Q-ship’ HMS Vala is given as approximately 120 miles south west of the Scilly Isles on 21st August 1917.

The Vala was originally a collier and, along with many other merchant ships similarly requisitioned, she had been converted into a ‘Q-ship’. She was a disguised, armed ship specifically intended to entice enemy submarines to the surface so that they could be fired upon. During the first eight months of 1917 she had been involved in gunfights and confrontations with several U-boats off Milford Haven, Lizard Head, the Scillies and the Fastnet Rock.

Her last patrol took her back to the Fastnet/Scillies area again. This time, UB54, a class III U-boat out on its first ever patrol and commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Egon von Werner, was waiting for her. The submarine had spotted lookouts on the British vessel through her periscope and had identified her as a likely ‘Q-ship’. According to the U-boat log, one torpedo was fired. It hit the Vala in the forward hold, after which most of her crew were seen taking to two lifeboats, each with twelve to fourteen men. Eight men could be seen still on the Vala. UB54 fired another torpedo which hit the after hold. A further sixteen to twenty men left their now http://www.uboat.net/history/images/wwi_pic7.jpgrapidly sinking ship. It was this U-boat’s first kill.

After ten minutes the U-boat surfaced. It found wreckage from the Vala which confirmed her status as an armed vessel. The surviving crew were questioned from the U-boat and confirmed their ship’s name and complement for the submarine’s log. The Vala’s crew were then left to their fate, which was customary with submarine warfare. The winds were already nearing gale force and rising, so there was no real hope for those who had survived the two torpedoes. All 43 men were lost. Amongst the crew was James Aunger Foott.

James Aunger Foott had joined the Royal Navy on 19th October 1915. He spent a full year at the stone frigate (shore establishment) HMS Vivid in Plymouth and then went straight onto ‘Q-ships’. He joined the Vala in May 1917. Seventeen ‘Q-ships’ were lost in 1917 alone, many disappearing without trace, and those who served on them knew that the chances of survival were not in their favour.


Henry Foott was the 4th of the 7 children of Oliver Foott and Ellen (nee Buckingham); Henry was born in 1887 and emigrated to Canada in 1909 along with his friend Leonard Richard Bartlett (pictured below); he enlisted into the Canadian Expeditionary Force; Henry died in Winnipeg, Canada in 1973; Henry’s brother James Aunger Foott and Alfred Edward Foott both enlisted into the Royal Navy and were killed within six weeks of one another in 1917 and are named on the North Hill War Memorial; he had two other brothers, both of whom emigrated to the USA and one of them, William, was drafted into the United States military in 1917.


Sydney Bartlett & Leonard Bartlett (L-R back) with Sydney Doney & Henry Foot (L-R front)

This photo was taken in Winnipeg, probably in the winter of 1915/1916.

Leonard is wearing the cap badge of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The others are wearing the cap badge of the Canadian Army Field Regiment.


The images at the top of the page shows the headings of the service records of Alfred and James Foott as well as two of the memorials on which they are remembered: Scapa Flow (left) and Plymouth (right).

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