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Captain Frank Ott, MC

Franklin Walter Ott, MC (1893-1918)

Frank Ott was born in Brantford, son of Charles and Emma Ott. His father was a lieutenant in the Dufferin Rifles, and his uncle, E.W. Hagarty, was principal of Harbord Street Collegiate in Toronto, and would raise the 201st Battalion, CEF (it was to be a ‘liquorless battalion’). Frank had been a pupil at Parkdale Collegiate and University of Toronto Schools (his name is on their memorial). His step-father, Charles Elliott, was chief librarian at Osgoode Hall, and Frank decided to study law.

He was at the University of Toronto when he enlisted in the 25th “Varsity” Battery Canadian Field Artillery, in March 1915. He went overseas with them in June, and they were part of the 5th Artillery Brigade, stationed at Otterpool, Kent. In October there was a Zeppelin raid over the camp, that killed 71 people, including fifteen Canadians. Frank felt he came close to death that day.

126th “Peel” Battalion cap badge

Frank’s mother was seriously ill, and he was given furlough to return to Canada before she died, in December. That month he was commissioned a lieutenant in the 36th Peel Regiment. He was attested as lieutenant in the 126th Peel Battalion CEF April 1916, recruited men in the Port Credit area, and trained with his company at Camp Borden.

He returned overseas with the 126th on the Empress of Britain in August 1916. When they arrived, they discovered the battalion was to broken up for reinforcements, and Ott was one of the 350 men plus the band who were transferred to the 116th Battalion (which was raised in Ontario county, and is perpetuated by the Ontario Regiment). He served at the battles of Vimy, St Eloi, Lens, Hill 70, and Passchendaele. Captain Ott was mentioned in despatches in April 1918, and was awarded a Military Cross. The citation in the London Gazette reads:

He, when in charge of a company during an advance, showed the greatest skill and courage in handling his men. He organised bombing parties, and led them against enemy posts, capturing prisoners and two machine guns. During the enemy counter-attack he collected eight men, repulsed several attacks, showing a great example to his men and being the last to leave when the post was forced against very heavy odds to retire. He again organised a party and re-took the post. He showed great initiative in consolidating and holding the position against all counter-attacks.

London Gazette, 11 January 1919.

At the end of August the battalion took part a the massive (two Canadian divisions and one British one) breakthrough during the second battle of Arras. Two weeks later they were resting nearby, in the Guemappe area, and at the end of the afternoon the German artillery started to fire on the camp, killing several men by the field kitchens and wounding more. Captain Ott, who was the adjutant, went with the CO and others to look after the casualites, when a shell burst within a few yards of them. Ott and another officer were killed, and the CO seriously wounded. The 116th Battalion in France, (Toronto, 1921), 77.

Frank Ott is buried in the Monchy British cemetery, Monchy-le-Preux, France, is named on the University of Toronto Schools memorial, and is commemorated in Trinity-St Paul Anglican church in Port Credit.

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