John Goforth, MC

Lieutenant Colonel Col J.F. Goforth

From Wallaceburg, Ontario, John Goforth was the son of a famous Presbyterian missionary to China: Dr. Johnathan Goforth. Prior to the war he was the assistant minister at Knox Presbyterian Church, Wallaceburg.

Goforth entered the forces in 1940 serving originally, for nine months, with the Dufferin & Haldimand Rifles. Going overseas, he served as a chaplain with the Army Services Corps in England and the was transferred to the Canadian Black Watch – Royal Highlanders of Canada. It was while serving with this unit that he had the opportunity to be presented to Her Majesty the Queen during an inspection.

He was then transferred to North Africa, serving there with the Canadian Infantry in August of 1943. From there, he went to the 1st Division in Italy to serve with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regt. (the “Hasty Petees”.) Padre Goforth spent a lot of time with the motor transports and gained a lot of respect for the skills of the drivers at night on mountainous roads with little of no lights to see by. He served as the fought along the Adriatic coast, during the Moro River Campaign, at Cassino and as they smashed the “Hitler Line”.

Captain Goforth was awarded a Military Cross (MC) in 1944. It was winter and everyone and everything was filthy.   The rain made the mud like plasticine and that prevented the tanks from getting through.   The enemy had been out of food for four days but had lots of ammunition and were determined to hold their ground.  After 24 hours of continuous mortor fire, a small group of Canadians found themselves up front and in trouble.   All five had been wounded and they were in the shell of a building that was slowly being cut away by the gun fire.  During battles, Canadian Army chaplains gave aid to the wounded and helped to identify and bury the dead.   It was all to common to hear of a front line padre who had stealthily crawled to where a soldier was lying wounded, dressed his wounds, helped to load him on a stretcher and then crawled all the way back to unit lines.   Goforth knew what had to happen. 

His citation reads: “The Regiment was attacking strong German positions north of the Ortona-Orsogna Road. “A” company casualties, numbering six, were nested in a shell of a hut about five hundred yards to the flank of the battalion. As the battle ebbed back and forth the hut became isolated and under heavy shell and small arms fire. Honorary Captain JF Goforth gathered a party of stretcher-bearers together and attempted to reach the hut. Aimed fire from small arms was directed on the party and they retired. Shortly after, Goforth, with his party, made another attempt; very heavy small arms, machine gun, and mortar fire was brought to bear on them. The padre ordered the party to seek cover and, unprotected, he proceeded across the open ground in full view of the enemy, and through a hail of bullets to the nest of the casualties. Here, with no thought for his own safety, he spent five hours under continuous shellfire, rendering first aid and comforting the wounded. As soon as darkness fell the stretcher-bearers arrived and evacuated the casualties.” All of the casualties lived because of Goforth’s efforts..

Om 13 December 1944 Captain Goforth was wounded by a German mortor bomb. Reportedly, he asked the medical officer to “Just patch me up so I can get back to the boys.” The MO did and the padre was back with his unit by the end of January, 1945. That was no surprise to his sister who later said: “he believes that what is to be will be.   He would go on whatever happened.”  

The 1st Division went from Leghorn to Marsellies, through France to re-join the Canadian break through leading to V-E Day. They returned going through Holland where they received a warm welcome.

Padre Goforth returned to England were he helped with the “School of Christian Citizenship”and eventually found himself back in Canada in 1946, as chaplain at the Royal Military College, Kingston.