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Foott, Cecil Henry (1876–1942)

by Warren Perry

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

Cecil Henry Foott (1876-1942), regular army officer, was born on 16 January 1876 at Bourke, New South Wales, son of Irish-born Thomas Wade Foott, stock inspector and station-owner, and his Scottish-born wife, Mary Hannay Foott, née Black, teacher, poet and journalist. After his father's death in 1884 he was educated at Toowoomba and Brisbane Grammar schools and later qualified as a mechanical engineer.

Foott was commissioned second lieutenant in the Queensland Militia Garrison Artillery in March 1895 but joined the Queensland Permanent Artillery in September 1896 as a lieutenant. In March 1901 the military forces of the Australian States were transferred to Federal control and in July Foott was promoted captain in the Royal Australian Artillery; that year, on 15 October, he married Isobel Agnes McDonald at Moorooka, Queensland.

In 1902 Foott transferred to the Royal Australian Engineers but remained in Queensland as staff officer, engineer services. He went to England for technical training in 1908 and on returning was staff officer and commander, R.A.E., in Victoria in 1909-10. Promoted major in August 1909, his next posting was to Army Headquarters, Melbourne, where in 1910-11 he was director of works and in 1911-12 director of engineers. He attended the staff college at Camberley, England, in 1912-13 and in 1914 was attached to the British Army in England for further training.

In January 1915, in the rank of major, Foott joined Major General (Sir) William Bridges's 1st Division, Australian Imperial Force, as deputy adjutant and quartermaster general. After the Gallipoli landing Bridges was mortally wounded in May and in August Foott, who had been promoted lieutenant-colonel in June, was re-posted within the division as assistant adjutant and quartermaster general, an appointment he held for the next two years. During this time the division withdrew from Gallipoli, reorganized in Egypt and then served on the Western Front, Foott was appointed C.M.G. and awarded the Serbian Order of the White Eagle (4th class) in 1916.

He was transferred to A.I.F. depots in Britain as deputy adjutant and quartermaster general in July 1917, and in March 1918 was posted to Lieutenant-General Sir William Birdwood's Australian Corps in France as chief engineer. Although Foott was an engineer officer this was his first appointment as such during the war and he retained it after Lieutenant-General Sir John Monash took command of the Corps on 1 June. After the Armistice, when the A.I.F.'s Department of Repatriation and Demobilization was established in London, Foott became its deputy director general with Monash as director general. For his war service he was mentioned in dispatches seven times and in 1919 was appointed C.B. His only brother, Private Arthur Patrick Foott, was killed in action at Passchendaele.

Foott returned to Australia in November 1919 after an eight-year absence and his A.I.F. appointment ended in February 1920. The post-war era which he faced as a regular officer in the Australian Military Forces was one of economy in defence, with few prospects of promotion. In October 1920, as a colonel and honorary brigadier general, he joined the newly formed Australian Staff Corps, then in 1922-25 served as a colonel in various posts at Army Headquarters in the quartermaster general's branch. In 1926 he was posted to Queensland where he was given, concurrently and temporarily, for the next four years three command appointments including that of base commandant, 1st Military District. By late 1929 the Depression had forced further cuts in military spending. In August 1930 Foott was transferred from Queensland to Victoria to be temporary commander of the 4th Australian Division as well as temporary commandant and base commandant of the 3rd Military District. In these circumstances, at the age of 55, he was transferred to the reserve of officers in July 1931; his army career ended then although it was not until February 1936 that he was officially placed on the retired list as an honorary brigadier general.

Foott's wife had died in 1926 and on 6 September 1934 he married Agnita Regnier Cogan at St James Anglican Church, Pakenham, Victoria. Survived by his wife and the son and two daughters of his first marriage, he died of a coronary occlusion on 27 June 1942 at Upper Beaconsfield, and was buried in Berwick cemetery with Anglican rites. His estate was valued for probate at £975. Charles Bean described him as 'a man of educated tastes and fine intellect' and 'an officer of great ability' who became 'one of the notable figures in the Australian Imperial Force'. His portrait, by George Coates is in the Australian War Memorial.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac (Syd, 1921, 1924), and The A.I.F. in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • London Gazette, 5 Nov 1915, 3 June, 11 July 1916, 2 Jan, 15 Feb, 1 June, 28 Dec 1917, 31 Dec 1918, 1 Jan, 11 July 1919
  • Reveille (Sydney), July 1931
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 6 Nov 1915, 3 June 1916, 16 Feb 1917, 2 Apr 1920, 23 Dec 1925, 29 Nov 1929, 1 July 1931, 16 Sept 1940, 29 June 1942
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 1 July 1931
  • Argus (Melbourne), 29 June 1942
  • records and letters (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Warren Perry, 'Foott, Cecil Henry (1876–1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/foott-cecil-henry-6204/text10663, published in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 23 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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