|Date of Birth||January 19, 1885|
|Place of Birth||Niagara on the Lake, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Jane (Henry C.) Rogers, mother, Niagara on the Lake, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Student|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||3rd Artillery Brigade|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Field Artillery|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||November 7, 1914|
|Age at Enlistment||29|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Decorations and Medals||Military Cross|
|Date of Death||September 27, 1951|
|Age at Death||66|
|Buried At||Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario|
Lieutenant-Colonel (Retired) Francis Edward Wootton, OBE, MC, ED, 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 an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the last year of the war. He was also awarded the Canadian Efficiency Decoration for his long and meritorious service in the militia.
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 24 years in Great Britain, the Mediterranean, the West Indies and Canada. He was with the 16th Regiment of Foot from 1844 to March 1857. He was married in Quebec in April 1857 to Sarah Murphy. He re-enlisted the following year and served with the Royal Canadian Rifle Regiment from 1858 to 1870. The Royal Canadian Rifle Regiment was a home defence unit that recruited veterans of the British army. During his twelve years with them Edward served in Quebec, Kingston, Ontario and St. John’s, Newfoundland. He was discharged in Kingston in 1870, at age 43, due to the disbandment of his regiment. He and his wife had at least six children: William James (1858), Edward John (1859), Sarah Ann (1861), Richard (1862), Edward George (1867) and Susan/Emma (1868). After his military career ended Edward and Sarah settled in Niagara, Ontario and Sarah died there in 1874, at age 39.
Francis’ mother, Jane Bevin, was born in Niagara around 1857. She married Edward in Merritton, Ontario in February 1882. They both listed their residence as Niagara and it was Jane’s first marriage. They had four sons: William Robert (1883), Francis Edward (1885), Alfred Collin (1887) and Charles Clare (May 1890). Edward was entitled to a British army pension but records show he supplemented this income by working as a labourer into the early 1880s. 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 he 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. About a year later Francis moved west to work as a harvest hand and around 1903 he was hired by the Canadian Pacific Railway in Brandon, Manitoba. He was employed in their bridge and building department and later in the train department. He was stationed for awhile in Sutherland, Saskatchewan. Around 1911 he moved to Winnipeg to attend Wesley College then he enrolled in engineering at the University of Manitoba in the fall of 1913.
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 Winnipeg-based militia unit, and he’d previously served with two other militia units. Francis was a big man, 6’4” and 190 lb with a 39” chest; his nickname in later years was Tiny. He signed up as a gunner with the 17th Battery, 5th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery. He headed overseas as a reinforcement in June 1915, sailing from Montreal on the SS Northland on 1 July and arriving in England about ten days later. He was transferred to the 2nd Reserve Battery and stationed at Shorncliffe, where he trained as a signaller. In early October he was sent to France and later the same month he was assigned to the 1st Battery, 1st Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery. He spent the next 18 months as a signaller with this unit.
On 1 April 1917 Francis returned to England with the view of getting a commission. He was posted to the 2nd Reserve Battery and commissioned as a Lieutenant on 20 August 1917. 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 12th Battery, 3rd Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery. 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 about 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 6 October, suffering a slight 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 30 October to 30 November and he recuperated at a castle in northern Scotland. 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 in January 1919 and served as a staff officer for the next 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 26 July 1919, just a short time after returning home. His wife, Ada Isabella Sharman, was born in 1885 in the RM of Glenwood, Manitoba, the daughter of William Sharman and Sarah Wilson. Ada had four sisters and two brothers but one of the girls, Clara Louise, died in 1904 at age 14. Sadly both of her brothers died during the war, Lieutenant William Sharman on 29 September 1918 in France and Lieutenant Harry Sharman on 28 March 1918 in Winnipeg. Francis had lived with the Sharman family in Winnipeg, before the war started, and he had kept in touch with them by letter during his time overseas.
When the 1921 census was taken Francis and his wife were living in Sutherland (now part of Saskatoon), where he was employed as an assistant superintendent with the Canadian Pacific Railway. He also attended the University of Saskatchewan and graduated with an engineering degree (with “great distinction”) in 1921. He had a lengthy and prominent career with the CPR, eventually becoming a superintendent. He was also an officer in the militia, getting promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1924 and commanding the 17th Field Brigade, Royal Canadian Artillery from 1924 to 1936. 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, retiring as a Brigadier-General.
In July 1937 Francis became assistant superintendent for the CPR in Kenora, Ontario and he and his family lived there for more than two years. Francis enlisted again when the Second World War started. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant-Colonel and given command of the 4th Army Field Brigade, Royal Canadian Artillery on 1 December 1939. He led his unit to England in February 1940 but returned to Canada in April. He served at Camp Petawawa until 1943, most of that time as the senior administrative officer. In March 1943 Francis helped organize the No. 1 Canadian Railway Operating Group, Royal Canadian Engineers, and he 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 appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in June 1945 and returned to Canada in September. His son also enlisted during the war and served overseas in the Italian campaign.
In November 1945 Francis was promoted to superintendent for the CPR in Medicine Hat, Alberta. In November 1949 he moved to Ottawa to serve as a railway advisor to the Defence Research Board. He retired from the CPR in January 1950 after 47 years of service, including ten years with the Canadian army.
Lieutenant-Colonel (Retired) Francis Edward Wootton, OBE, MC, ED, 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 Francis William Wootton, passed away in Kingston in 1998.
Francis is commemorated on the First World War Roll of Honour for the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Wesley College Roll of Honour 1914-1918, the University of Manitoba Roll of Service 1914-1918 and the Honour Roll of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
By Becky Johnson
Additional information provided by Brigadier-General William John Patterson, Ret’d, OMM, CD, UE, MA, FAPT.
Grave marker photos courtesy of findagrave.com.