The son of a career soldier, Foot was educated at Winchester College and New College, Oxford, where he became involved romantically with Iris Murdoch. He joined the British Army on the outbreak of World War II and was commissioned into a Royal Engineers searchlight battalion. In 1941 searchlight units transferred to the Royal Artillery. By 1942, he was serving at Combined Operations Headquarters, but wanting to see action he joined the SAS as an intelligence officer and was parachuted into France after D-Day. He was for a time a prisoner of war, and was severely injured during one of his attempts to escape. For his service with the French Resistance he was twice mentioned in despatches and awarded the Croix de Guerre. He ended the war as a major. After the war he remained in the Territorial Army, transferring to the Intelligence Corps in 1950.
After the war Foot taught at Oxford University for eight years before becoming Professor of Modern History at Manchester University. His experiences during the war gave him a lifelong interest in the European resistance movements, intelligence matters and the experiences of prisoners of war. This led him to become the official historian of SOE, with privileged access to its records, allowing him to write some of the first, and still definitive, accounts of its wartime work, especially in France. Even so, SOE in France took four years to get clearance.
Foot left the Labour Party while his namesake Michael Foot — to whom he was very distantly related — was leading it, and joined the SDP (Social Democratic Party).
Foot was the great-great-great-grandson of Benjamin Fayle who built Dorset's first railway, the Middlebere Plateway in 1806. Fayle was the great-great-grandson of William Edmunson, the First Irish Quaker.
He was at one time married to the British philosopher Philippa Foot (née Bosanquet), the granddaughter of U.S. President Grover Cleveland. Foot's second was wife was Elizabeth King, with whom he had a son and a daughter. In 1972 Foot married Mirjam Romme.
M.R.D. Foot was appointed a CBE in 2001. He also received the Territorial Decoration for Long Service in the Territorial Army.
See also his obituaries at:
1) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obitu... accessed 26 May 2012.
2) http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/... accessed 26 May 2012.