Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005



People Page

Great Canadian People

Short and Sweet - The War-time Love Affair of Joe Barfoot

It's very rare that we get to glimpse into the private lives of men at war. Sure there are diaries of men at the front, describing the hell of life in the trenches, and the death of people close to you, but little is available of the stresses and strains that war time brings to the private life of soldiers awaiting imminent posting to the war zone.. This rare letter of Joseph Colclough Barfoot, from North Toronto, gives us some idea of what went on in countless families across Canada.

It was 1943; the world was in the midst of a terrific and devastating war that was killing millions. Canadian civilians, by the hundred thousands, like Joe Barfoot, signed up for duty overseas.

When war broke out he had lived in North Toronto. When he signed up for the Air Force, being a civilian, he needed training, which had to take place far from Toronto, where he had developed a relationship with Audrey Mackenzie, a nurse who hailed from a farm near Erin, Ontario.

Joe awaited months of training at Summerside, PEI, and expected to be sent overseas.

What to do about a relationship, pending imminent posting to the war zone, has plagued many a soldier and his gal, in every society, since time began.

This letter gives a glimpse of how Joe and Audrey tried to deal with hesitant parents when the clock was ticking... for love and life...

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
War-time Letter, Joe Barfoot, 1943
Orig. letter - Size - 13 x 20 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
A Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Flight Sgt. Joseph Colclough Barfoot
Right, parents Olive and Joe (senior), in the 1960s, in good middle class gentility, with her serving him, the sole bread winner, while she keeps the social calendar hopping, with dinners and teas with all the best people... His son wrote directly to his father, not "to Mom and Dad."
Joe and Audrey persevered, were married after he got his stripes, and had a honeymoon at Lake Louise. Right a photo taken by Joe.

It was to be the last time they would be together...

Joe was posted as crew member of a Canso PBY-5A flying boat, to Ucluelet, on the west coast of British Columbia, which, in 1943, was half way around the world from where Audrey was working in Toronto, and even today is remote and hard to get to.

The members of the crew who perished here were:

Pilot, Flight Lieutenant J.G. Kee
Pilot, Pilot Officer G.R. Morrison
Flight Engineer, Pilot Officer E.O. Herlen
Navigator, Flight Sergeant J.C. Barfoot
Wireless Air Gunner Warrant Officer C.F. Coleman
Flight Engineer Sergeant J.F. Wyatt
Wireless Air Gunner Sergeant A.E. Rydholm
Wireless Air Gunner Sergeant T.M. Edwards

The lone survivor:

Navigator Flying Officer C.M Amos

Photo & officer names courtesy of Barb Gudbranson of Ucleulet., British Columbia

Above, an eagle does a turn around the crash site as it looks today, with an "X" marking the impact location just off the tip of Lyche Island. Divers confirm that the wrecked Canso still lies there. The victims were all recovered; Joe was buried in Toronto's Mount Pleasant Cemetery. He had only been married a few months.

For his country Joe sacrificed a young life unfulfilled, a widow to grieve a tragically short marriage, and a daughter he would never see: Joan Barfoot Goldi right.

Thanks to Joe's sacrifice, and Veteran's Affairs Canada, she would have her university education paid for by the tax payers of Canada.

Had he lived, Joe Barfoot would have been pleased, and proud of his country, and his daughter... After all, he fought in service to them, not for a chest of medals...

Great Canadian Legacy - Joe would have been especially pleased with his daughter, who became one of Canada's top film, television, and video producers. Her over 130 international awards, for entirely Canada-specific documentaries, has not been surpassed, nor has another accomplishment.

In one eighteen month period she was awarded 60 international television awards - including an astonishing 29 Gold and Silver Medals - for documentaries about Canadians, in competition with the best producers from around the world, at top American Film and Television Festivals. It is an astonishing record of excellence that has not been equalled by anyone.

Joe would have been immensely proud... He is...

Go to Joe's Daughter

Left Joe Barfoot right, at Summerside, Prince Edward Island, where he trained for his sergeant's stripes with other fellow civilians. It is men like these who ultimately defeated Hitler.

The smiles are for the camera. Behind the scenes the letter shows stress between a dutiful son and parents - some things never change - who, he suspected correctly, were trying to hamstring his relationship with a farm girl who was only a nurse.

Olive and Joe (senior) moved in the circle of university professors and famous intellectuals (at the Royal Ontario Museum and the University of Toronto) and counted esteemed Canadian poet "Ned" Pratt, and his wife Vi, as close friends.

Joe, an insurance salesman, was as gregarious, down-to-earth, and without pretensions, as his stay-at-home wife was gregarious, of left wing persuasions, and while completely gracious, craved upward mobility for herself and her kids. A firm supporter of the United Nations Club, she had voted for Tim Buck, the Communist, when the government persecuted him for speaking freely.

Now, though there's a war on with Hitler, there is a more immediate threat to her family! Joe is getting serious, about a farm girl, which was not her idea of upward mobility.... and Joe senior agreed...

Left, a photo of an unknown Canso PBY-5A aircrew - but friends of Joe Barfoot - taken at Ucluelet, May 21, 1944. All were involved in taking long patrols over the Pacific Ocean looking for Japanese submarines or warships that might take hostile action against Canadian west coast towns, to prevent them from, either shelling the shore or actually putting spies or soldiers ashore.

Below left a 1944 Canso PBY-5A flying boat like Joe was in, coming in for a landing.

Just two weeks after the photo of the Canso crew left was taken, Joe's Canso came in for a landing in the inlet off the government dock at Ucleulet.

The Canso crashed and exploded in the water killing Joe and eight of the nine aboard.


Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
City of Toronto, Roll of Honour, Joe Barfoot, 1944
Orig. heavy card - Size - 31 x 41 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
Hand painted, original signatures