Kenora Great War Project

 

Personal Details
Date of BirthJanuary 19, 1885
Place of BirthNiagara on the Lake, Ontario
CountryCanada
Marital StatusSingle
Next of Kin Mrs. Jane (Henry C.) Rogers, mother, Niagara on the Lake, Ontario
Trade / CallingStudent
ReligionPresbyterian
Service Details
Regimental Number86378
Service RecordLink to Service Record
Battalion3rd Artillery Brigade
ForceCanadian Expeditionary Force
BranchCanadian Field Artillery
Enlisted / ConscriptedEnlisted
Place of EnlistmentWinnipeg, Manitoba
Date of EnlistmentNovember 7, 1914
Age at Enlistment29
Theatre of ServiceEurope
Prisoner of WarNo
Survived WarYes
Decorations and MedalsMilitary Cross
Death Details
Date of DeathSeptember 27, 1951
Age at Death66
Buried AtMount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario

Wootton, Francis Edward

Francis Edward Wootton, MC, ED, OBE, served for more than four years during the First World War and was awarded the Military Cross in 1919. He enlisted again during the Second World War and served from 1939 to 1945. He was appointed to the Order of the British Empire.

Francis was born on 19 January 1885 in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario. His father, Edward Wootton, was born in 1826 in Cambridge, England. Edward was a career soldier in the British army, enlisting in 1844 with the 16th Regiment of Foot and serving for the next 25 years in Great Britain, the Mediterranean, the West Indies and Canada. He spent the first 11 years with the 16th Regiment and the remaining time with the Royal Canadian Regiment of Rifles. He was discharged in Kingston, Ontario in 1870, at age 43, and he settled in Niagara.

Francis’ mother, Jane Bevin, was born in Niagara around 1857. Jane and Edward were married in 1882 and they had four sons: William Robert (1883), Francis Edward (1885), Alfred Collin (1887) and Charles Clare (May 1890). Edward was a labourer when they were married but an army pensioner by 1885. He passed away in November 1890, at age 64. When the 1891 census was taken Jane was living in Niagara with the four boys and operating a general store. Sadly the youngest son, Charles Clare, died in 1893 at age two.

Jane married Henry Rogers, a farmer, in October 1898 but Henry passed away just two years later, in January 1901. When the census was taken that spring Jane was still living in Niagara and her occupation was grocer. The household included her three sons and her widowed sister, Emma Briscoe. Sometime after that Francis moved west and attended the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon and Wesley College in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He also worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway, starting around 1904 in Brandon.

Francis enlisted in Winnipeg on 7 November 1914, three months after Britain entered the war. He said he was a member of the 90th Regiment, a militia unit, and he had previously served with the 44th Lincoln and Welland Regiment and the 77th Battery in the Canadian Field Artillery. Francis was a big man, 6’4″ and 190 lb with a 39″ chest; his nickname was Tiny. He signed up as a gunner with the 17th Battery, 5th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery. He headed overseas with his unit on 29 June 1915 and in England he was transferred to the 2nd Reserve Battery. He was sent to France three months later, arriving there on 6 October, and he was assigned to the 1st Artillery Brigade. He served with this unit for about five months.

On 1 April 1917 Francis returned to England with the view of getting a commission. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant on 20 August and posted to the 2nd Reserve Battery. In early September he attended an eight-day telephone course and starting on 23 September he had a one-month Officers’ Firing Course. At the end of October he was sent back to France and transferred to the 3rd Artillery Brigade. The Canadians spent the winter of 1917-18 holding a long stretch of the front line in the Vimy-Lens area. In March 1918 Francis suffered shell gas poisoning and he spent four days recovering in a field ambulance.

The final period of the war, known now as the Hundred Days Offensive, started on 8 August 1918. The Canadians were heavily involved in operations in those last three months. Francis was wounded on 10 October, suffering a gunshot or shell wound to his face, and he spent about ten days at No. 8 British Red Cross Hospital in Boulogne. He was also suffering from stomach problems, nervous debility and varicose veins in both legs. He was given sick leave in the UK from 31 October to 30 November and during that time the Armistice ended hostilities on the Western Front. In December Francis returned to France where he was posted to the Canadian Infantry Base Depot. He was assigned to Conducting Duty with the rank of Acting Captain while so employed.

Francis returned to England at the end of January 1919 and served for another five months. He was awarded the Military Cross in February 1919, for his actions in France in September 1918 at Blecourt and Cuvillers. He embarked from Southampton in late June 1919 on the SS Mauretania, arriving in Halifax on 3 July. He was discharged on demobilization on 10 July in Toronto and his intended residence was Winnipeg.

Francis was married in Winnipeg on 16 July 1919, just a few days after returning home. His wife, Ada Isabella Sharman, was born in 1885 in the RM of Glenwood, Manitoba, the daughter of William and Sarah Sharman. She had at least four sisters and two brothers but both boys died during the war, Lieutenant William Sharman in September 1918 in France and Lieutenant Harry Sharman in March 1918 in Winnipeg.

When the 1921 census was taken Francis and his wife were living in Sutherland, Saskatchewan, where he was employed as a stenographer with the Canadian Pacific Railway. He had a lengthy and prominent career with the CPR, getting promoted to chief conductor then to assistant superintendent and superintendent. He was also a Colonel in the militia and Officer Commanding of the 17th Field Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery. He and his wife had one son, Francis William Wootton, who was born in Saskatoon in 1922. Francis William graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada and went on to have a career in the military.

Sometime during the late 1930s Francis became the assistant superintendent for the CPR in Kenora, Ontario. He and his wife moved there and he enlisted again when the Second World War started. He signed up in December 1939 and went overseas in early 1940 as an officer with the Royal Canadian Artillery. He returned to Canada later the same year and served at Camp Petawawa until 1943. He organized the First Canadian Railway Operating Group, Royal Canadian Engineers, and commanded the unit in France and Germany in the last two years of the war. According to the Kenora Miner and News, he was the oldest active Canadian officer serving in a theatre of war. He was presented with the Order of the British Empire in June 1945. His son also enlisted during the war and served overseas in the Italian campaign.

After the war Francis was promoted to superintendent in Medicine Hat, Alberta and he was there for four years. He retired from the CPR in November 1949 and moved to Ottawa, where he served as a railway advisor to the Defence Research Board. He was awarded the Efficiency Decoration for his long and meritorious service with the militia.

Francis Edward Wootton, MC, ED, OBE, passed away in the Ottawa Civic Hospital on 27 September 1951, at age 66. Ada died in 1959 and they are both interred at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto. Their son Brigadier General William Francis Wootton passed away in Kingston in 1998.

Francis is commemorated on the First World War Roll of Honour for the Canadian Pacific Railway.

By Becky Johnson

Grave marker photos courtesy of findagrave.com.


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