b. 15/05/1887 Dulwich, London. d. 23/12/1958 Ipswich, Suffolk.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 09-10/1940 England.
Herbert John Leslie Barefoot (1887-1958), known as Leslie, was born in Dulwich, London on 15th May 1887, the son of Sydney John and Ellen Barfoot (nee James). Sydney was a timber merchant with Gabriel, Wade & English in Lambeth. Leslie was educated at Dulwich College between 1900 and 1905, and then enrolled as a student at the Architectural Association’s School from whence he was articled to WD Crane.
In 1914, he served briefly in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, before being transferred to the Officer Training Corps at the Inns of Court. He was then transferred again to the Royal Army Medical Corps, attached to the 4th Cavalry Division with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force from 1916-1919. He entered the city of Damascus and was mentioned in despatches in 1917. He ended the conflict with the rank of Captain.
Leslie married Amy Gladys Goddard and they had three sons, Brian, Michael and Peter, and after the war, he began working with H Munro Cautley, later forming a partnership Cautley & Barefoot, Architects, whose offices were at 22 The Thoroughfare, Ipswich. He also lectured at the Ipswich School of Engineering, and was a founder member of the Suffolk Association of Architects and later President from 1936-1938. He was also active in local amateur dramatics and promoted a reperatory company “The Leslie Barefoot Players”. He was also a highly talented watercolourist.
On the outbreak of World War II, he enlisted as a Lieutenant with the Corps of Royal Engineers and joined the Bomb Disposal Section. He was promoted to Acting Major, and during the Blitz over London between September and October 1940, he was a pioneer in bomb disposal work which, by definition, meant he was undertaking highly dangerous tasks. He worked on the first suspended parachute magnetic mine and it was this action that largely earned him the GC. By surviving this daunting challenge, he was able to provide invaluable information for other bomb disposal teams. His bravery and devotion to duty were said to have inspired those working under him. He was the first Army officer to be awarded the GC.
After being discharged in 1945, he resumed working with his architectural practice in Ipswich until retirement. He also learnt how to play the piano as a pastime. Leslie passed away on 23rd December 1958 in the East Suffolk and Ipswich Hospital, and was buried in Ipswich Cemetery. Remarkably, his wife Amy lived to the age of 104, passing away in 1991, and she was buried with him. Leslie’s GC, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45 and 1953 QEII Coronation Medal were placed on loan by the Barefoot family to the Imperial War Museum and are on display in the Ashcroft Gallery.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: IPSWICH NEW CEMETERY, IPSWICH, SUFFOLK.
Herbert Barefoot's medals including his George Cross on display at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier