Number VI in our series on former Military Colleges Commandants.
Lieutenant General William Alexander Beaumont Anderson (RMC 1936) OBE, CD, BA 1960-2 was born in Montreal in 1915. He was the XXIII RMC Commandant
His father, the late Major-General W.B. Anderson, CMG, DSO, of Ottawa, was a former Commander of Military District No. 3. His uncle, 433 Major-General T.V. Anderson, (RMC 1897-1900) DSO, was Chief of the General Staff at the outbreak of the Second World War. His uncle, Colonel A.A. Anderson, DSO, was second-in-command of the Royal Canadian Signals Training Centre, Kingston during World War II.
LGen Anderson studied at Rothesay Collegiate School in Saint John, New Brunswick where he joined the Frontenac Regiment at age 13. He entered Royal Military College in 1932 and spent two summers training with the Royal Canadian Navy, the first as a Cadet at HMCS Stadacona and the next afloat aboard HMCS Saguenay. He was battalion sergeant major from 1935-6. When he graduated from RMC in 1936, he was commissioned a Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery. He was subsequently placed on leave to attend Queen’s University where he earned a BA. He served with “A” Battery in Kingston and “C” Battery in Winnipeg. In 1939 he attended the Artillery Staff Course and was completing this training when the Second World War broke out. He and Caroline Jane Waddell were married on 4 Nov 1939. The couple eventually had two children, Robert and Anthony.
On mobilization, he was appointed Adjutant of 3rd Field Regiment and went overseas in December 1939. In May 1960, he was appointed Staff Captain, Royal Artillery, at the 1st Division Artillery Headquarters and led the advance party to Brest, France in June 1940. Staff appointments at Canadian Military Headquarters, London, were followed by attendance at the Camberley Staff College in 1941. He served as personal assistant to General Crerar in 1942. He was given command of 15 Field Regiment from 1943 to May 1944. He was awarded the Order of the British Empire (Officer), the Belgian Order of Leopold 1948, the Belgian Order of the Crown with Palm, the Croix de Guerre 1946, and was also Mentioned-in-Dispatches in 1944.
He served as General Staff Officer Grade One (Operations) from 1944-5 at Headquarters First Canadian Army. The Pacific Force was disbanded before he could take up his appointment to the Pacific Force (6 Canadian Division) as Deputy Commander, Royal Artillery. Promoted Colonel in 1946, he was appointed Director of Military Intelligence in Ottawa from 1946-9. As the army’s senior intelligence officer, he briefed Prime Minister William Lion Mackenzie King on 13 Nov 1946. He ‘”profoundly impressed; the members of cabinet who were concerned that the world situation is definitely more dangerous that we had yet believed it to be.” He attended the National Defence College in 1949 and was appointed as Director of the Canadian Army Staff College. Promoted to Brigadier, he commanded Western Ontario Area and served as Commandant of the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade in Germany from 1954-5. In 1956 he attended the Imperial War College. He successively served as vice adjutant-general and Deputy Chief of the General Staff from 1959-60.
“General Anderson was a large, impressive looking soldier. He loved the College and being an Ex-Cadet (…) was an imposing personality to challenge.
During his time at the College he authorized Dr. Preston to write the History of The Royal Military College which represented tremendous research and has been a great asset to the College.
General Anderson , during his tour as Commandant, was aided and abetted by a very distinguished lady, his wife Caroline.”
S109 Major (ret’d) Danny McLeod – served as Director of Athletics under General Anderson.
He served as Commandant of RMC from 1960-2. In 1962, he opened the re-established RMC Museum in Fort Frederick to display the collection of arms presented to the college by Walter Douglas and to illustrate the college’s history and service. He appointed H16511 Doctor Richard Arthur Preston as chairman of a committee to tell the history of the Royal Military College. Although the West Point hockey series was resumed, it was no longer a straight run of victories for RMC. The sports program was expanded with more opportunity for intercollegiate games and intramural competition. He felt that his staff must be united in sentiment and ideals since they shared a single objective – the production of superior service officers. He served only part of a normal tour as Commandant because he went on to a higher post in Ottawa. In January 1962 he was promoted Major-General and served as adjutant-general from 1962 until the army reorganization of 1964. 2424 Brigadier General George Hylton Spencer, OBE, CD, ADC (RMC 1938) filled his unexpired term as Commandant of RMC.
He chaired the study group tasked to produce a career management plan for officers. In October 1965, he was appointed Deputy Chief of Reserves. He was promoted to Lieutenant-General and given command of Canada’s army, chief of Mobile Command in 1966. In 1967, he took the salute of members participating in the Warriors’ Day Parade for Canada’s 100th Birthday in Toronto. He retired from the army in 1969. He joined the Ontario Civil Service as a Deputy Minister in 1971. His appointments included Chairman of the Ontario Civil Service Commission and Secretary to the Management Board of the Ontario Cabinet 1974. He was Deputy Provision Secretary Resources Development 1979. He was Special Adviser to Federal Government on Lambert and d’Avignon Reports from 1980-1982. He later served as Vice Chairman of the Ontario Inflation Restraint Board 1982-1985. He served as President of the Royal Life Saving Society of Canada 1982-1985, was a member of the Advisory Council of the Niagara Institute, and was honourary governor of the National Ballet of Canada. From 1986-92, he served as Colonel Commandant to The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery.
LGEN. WAB Anderson participated in a panel discussion at the CDA Institute for Security and Defence Studies Seminar in 1997 on the roles of the reserves and their value to Canada.
Lieutenant-General Anderson passed away in Ottawa in 2000.
Preston, Richard Arthur. Canada’s RMC: A History of Royal Military College (2nd edition). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982.