Robert Otterson (1911-1949)

"Three years had seen him incarcerated as a prisoner of war, first in North Africa, then in Italy and finally in Germany. As he walked up the narrow street of a village in Surrey, England, to be reunited with his family again in the late spring of 1945, he described his feelings as "on top of the world."

Photo: Otterson family album
Photo: Otterson family album

In Honor of the Soldier

SERGEANT ROBERT OTTERSON was buried in the summer of 1949. Soldiers fired rifle shots over the grave and a Union Jack was draped over the coffin. Later, his older brother would say of the funeral wake that it was a particularly sober affair. The usual attempts to cheer up the mourners with stories and even a little humor were absent. Such was the stunned reaction to the death of a man who, at age 37 and a professional soldier, had spent more years away from home that he had ever wished. Three of those recent years had seen him incarcerated as a prisoner of war, first in North Africa, then in Italy and finally in Germany. As he walked up the narrow street of a village in Surrey, England, to be reunited with his family again in the late spring of 1945, he described his feelings as "on top of the world."

Four years later, he was dead. Not the glorious battle field death of a soldier, but a common road accident that threw him from his motorbike on a Welsh country road. For me, his son, it meant growing up without a father. I was nine months old and have no memory of him. I felt no particular deprivation during my boyhood - due, no doubt, to a devoted mother and two caring older sisters. But as I grew older I began to sense the loss. I missed the experience of talking to a father. I missed the things I imagined he would have taught me. I missed his wisdom.

Yet that void has been the stimulus for me to learn all I could about his life. Over the years I have recreated from interviews and letters, from a wartime journal and painstaking research, what I could not learn first-hand. I share it now as a tribute to him in several pages on this website for his children, his 10 grandchildren and 28 great grandchildren, with the hope that they and their posterity will come to know and appreciate this remarkable man.

Michael Otterson, August 2006

 

Photo: Michael Otterson
Photo: Michael Otterson