Sir William Otter

Dec 3, 1843 to May 6, 1929

William OtterWilliam Dillon Otter was born near Clinton, Ontario, the son of Alfred William Otter and Anna de la Hooke. Educated at the Toronto Model School and Upper Canada College, he worked as a clerk, at the same time embarking on his military career in the Non Permanent Active Militia in Toronto in 1864.

By 1866, he was Adjutant of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and saw combat with them at the Battle of Ridgeway during the Fenian Raids. Otter married Marianne Porter in Toronto on October 3, 1865 and they had one daughter. When Canada established its own professional infantry unit in 1883, Otter joined the Permanent Force as an infantry officer and on May 2, 1885, he led a Canadian force in the Battle of Cut Knife against Poundmaker’s Cree Indians which proved ineffective forcing him to retreat.

In 1890 Otter founded the Royal Canadian Military Institute and in 1893 he was appointed as the first Commanding Officer of the Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry, holding this position at the outbreak of the Second Boer War.

He led the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry in South Africa becoming the first Canadian to command Canadian troops in an overseas war. A strict disciplinarian he was not popular with junior ranks but they did respect his courage and knowledge. When wounded in the jaw and throat by a sniper’s bullet he remained in command until the battle was over he won even higher respect from all ranks.

Otter and his regiment were given credit for the defeat and capture of the Boer General Cronje at Paardeburg, the battle that really decided the outcome of the war. On his return to Canada, he was promoted to Colonel and three years later to Brigadier-General with the appointment of Chief of the General Staff, the first Canadian born soldier to hold that position.

Between 1910 and 1912 he was Inspector General of the Canadian Militia when he retired. Coming out of retirement at the start of World War I, Otter commanded operations for the internment of enemy nationals resident in Canada.