Balck-Foote, John Anthony (1924-1944)
Sherborne School, UK, Book of Remembrance for former pupils who died in the Second World War, 1939-1945.
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Credit: Sherborne School Archives, Abbey Road, Sherborne, Dorset, UK, DT9 3AP.
Details: John Anthony Balck-Foote (1924-1944), formerly John Anthony Balck Foote, born 11 June 1924, son of Dr John Albert and Eileen Balck-Foote, White Lodge, Weyhill Road, Andover, Hampshire.
Attended Winton House preparatory school, Winchester, Hampshire.
Attended Sherborne School (School House) May 1938-July 1942.
WW2, Private, 2/4th Hampshire Regiment. Died of wounds near Rimini, Italy, on 16 September 1944, aged 20.
Gradara War Cemetery, Italy, II, D, 70. Inscription on his headstone: ‘WE SHALL GO TO HIM BUT HE SHALL NOT RETURN TO US’ www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2077343/BALCK-FOOTE,%...
Sherborne School: War Memorial Staircase; Book of Remembrance.
Obituary in 'The Shirburnian', December 1944: 'Anthony Foote died of wounds received in Italy in 1944. After he was hit, "throughout he carried on cheerful conversation, displaying the utmost fortitude." His Company Commander writes, "He always carried out his duty, cheerfully, efficiently, and bravely, and was held in very high esteem by us all." At school he was not the prominent social type, but behind his reserve lay a fine sense of values and a great deal of courage, noticeably displayed during an unhappy time of bereavement. His many interests, among them a real appreciation of music, his sincerity and his ever ready willingness acquired for him respect and liking amongst those around him. He was one of those whom one felt would never fail in the important things. Nor did he; he was ever a true and honest member of his House and School.'
Transcript of an essay by J.A. Balck-Foote about the bombing of Sherborne on 30 September 1940:
‘My impressions of September 30th 1940’, IV B. English Essay, 12 February 1941.
‘At about half past four on Monday afternoon on the 30th September, when the School had settled down for the afternoon periods, we heard the “banshee wailing” of the sirens. Nobody took any particular notice as we had had several daylight ’alerts’ before, and nothing out of the ordinary had so far happened except for the low pitched drone of enemy machines. When that particular ‘alert’ was sounded I was in Room 13 trying to do some Geometry. If I remember rightly it had been quite a fine day, rather cloudy, but no rain. The sun was setting or just about to set at the time, it wasn’t a magnificent sunset, but just an ordinary one, one would expect on such a day.
For the first five minutes of the ‘alert’ everything was peace and quiet, and I really didn’t pay much attention to the outside world. But suddenly I looked up. Had I heard something? I listened again – yes, it was unmistakable this time – the continued low pitch drone of bombers. The thought flashed through my mind – where were they bound? Yeovil, Bristol, or some important town further inland? I think I must have been one of the first to look up, for a little later I saw the rest of the form raise their heads. The master taking us saw that & told us to get on with our work & pay attention to him as he was just about to explain something on the blackboard. Before he began, however, he reminded us what to do if bombs should fall i.e. climb under the desks & keep away from the windows. Hardly had he finished his sentence, when I thought, (and I think a good many others thought) I heard somebody rather heavy trying to get in through the door. But hardly had the thought flashed through our minds when there was another thump – then another and another getting nearer each time. No – it was impossible, there could be no person trying to get into the room. Those thumps were bombs, bombs & more bombs – what else could they be?
Then, with one accord everybody shot under the desks & they came nearer, nearer & nearer. Then the whole place seemed to shake. “By Jove that’s a near one” I thought. It is us not Yeovil or Bristol that’s in for it. I grit my teeth & crouched lower. It felt more like an earthquake than anything else, the whole place seemed to rise several feet, quiver & then fall sharply back again. Then for a fleeting second thoughts like this flashed through my mind. What happened if there is a direct hit? If the roof falls in? Splinter & debris are hurled at you like thunderbolts? But no sooner had they entered my mind, they went. There seemed to be a lull. I and a few others gingerly got up. No sooner had I poked my head over the top of the desk that I was down in a shot. A whining whistling noise was descending uncomfortably nearer. A second or two later it landed – the whole place shook from top to bottom, the windows were blown in & scattered all over the floor, the whole place was filled with dust & rubble & the place stunked of cordite. That’s the Science buildings gone up, I thought and still they fell screaming, “thudding” & shaking and almost deafening you. What seemed an eternity dragged to an end. The whole “incident” took about 3½ minutes. After a lull of about half a minute we slowly got up and shook all the dust and filth from our clothes. Almost immediately someone from outside shouted, “All in the cloisters. Hurry up please.” We wended our way there without further ado, and stayed there for about twenty minutes. We were then told that the “all clear” had “sounded”, but the electricity, gas & water mains were out of order. We then teemed out into the Courts to find it compassed by one huge crater & two smaller ones. Then I set off by myself & later on with a group of people to look at the damage. The Science buildings still stood, though badly damaged, the class room slightly battered in places & the Big Schoolroom tottering, but the cloisters were unharmed. Then the usual notices that nearly always appear after a raid, & were seen denoting the presence of time bombs.
At first sight, the whole town looked as though it had been lifted up & thrown violently down again twenty miles off. But as the days passed, things began to look & be normal again, and I was truly thankful that I & everybody else had escaped possible death or serious injury.
Sherborne has certainly been in the war, like a good many other “blitzed” towns & cities, has come through it with spirit undaunted ready to stand up to anything more fate may decree. At any rate we still have with us the “silent influence of the Abbey.” ‘