William Egerton Hodgins

Both of his sons also served with distinction in the war, and one, Frederick Owen, would die in 1924.

William Egerton Hodgins, lawyer, civil servant, and army officer; b. 3 Oct. 1851 (some sources give 1850) in Toronto, eldest son of John George Hodgins and Frances Rachel Doyle; m. first 23 June 1880 Caroline Seymour Clark (d. 28 Feb. 1881) in Cobourg, Ont.; m. secondly 30 Oct. 1883 Eleanor Jaffray Ritchie in Ottawa, and they had two sons and a daughter; d. there 27 Feb. 1930.

The son of a long-time deputy superintendent of education, William Egerton Hodgins appears to have enjoyed the privileges associated with being born to an upper middle class family. He was educated at Hellmuth College in London, Ont., and the University of Toronto (ba 1874, ma 1875). Admitted to the bar in 1877, he practised in Toronto and for a time in Bowmanville; in addition, he attempted to secure various public registrarships. His first wife, Carrie, died at childbirth in 1881. Following his remarriage, to a daughter of Chief Justice Sir William Johnston Ritchie, he was hired as a barrister in November 1883 by the federal Department of Justice. One of his first assignments for its minister from 1885, John Sparrow David Thompson, was the compilation and publication of documents on the allowance and disallowance of provincial and territorial legislation, a voluminous and useful work that Hodgins would later update.

At an early age he had also embarked on a military career. He entered the Toronto Military School in 1866 as a cadet, and served as a trooper during the Fenian raids. While at university, he joined the 2nd Battalion of Rifles (Queen's Own Rifles of Canada) and in 1877 he became a captain. Following his move to Ottawa, he transferred to the No.1 Battalion of Infantry (Governor General's Foot Guards); promoted major in 1890, he assumed command of the regiment in 1894, apparently with some reluctance since it was in a state of disarray. Even so, his tenure seems to have been without controversy, and he served as an aide-de-camp to a number of governors general. A member of the councils of the Dominion and Ontario rifle associations, from 1897 to 1903 he was secretary of the national organization. In 1903 he accepted appointment to the Permanent Force, a move that necessitated his retirement from the justice department; appointed colonel in 1909 and brigadier-general in 1914, he held a number of district commands.

In January 1915, during World War I, Hodgins was made acting adjutant-general in Ottawa, and in September he was promoted major-general. In September 1917, as a representative of the Department of Militia and Defence, he joined the demobilization committee of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada, based in England and chaired by Sir Hugh Montagu Allan. He threw himself into this work with characteristic zeal; he studied how other countries approached the problem and his reports were perceptive and comprehensive. In a draft report in February 1918 to the minister in Ottawa, Sydney Chilton Mewburn, Hodgins, maintaining that demobilization and repatriation were "inseparably allied," recommended two new government departments, for "reconstruction" and "pensions and invalids," and a central advisory committee. He was far removed, however, from the political negotiations that produced the Department of Soldiers' Civil Re-establishment that same month. Hodgins retired from service in March, and in June he was created a cmg. Both of his sons had also served with distinction in the war, and one, Frederick Owen, would die in 1924 as a consequence of disabilities resulting from the conflict.

A "splendid athlete" in his youth, Hodgins was an active member of the Royal Ottawa Golf Club, the Rideau Curling Club, and the local branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. An Anglican, in Ottawa he attended St George's Church and then All Saints'; in 1920 he participated "whole-heartedly" in the Anglican "Forward Movement." He then began to slow down, though some recognition would still come his way. In 1925, for instance, the University of Toronto awarded him an lld. Following his death after a brief illness in February 1930, it was reported in obituaries that he had held the record for the longest military service in Canada. Hodgins had performed competently in two very different careers, law and the military, which he favoured. He never attained the fame of some contemporary military figures, but he performed his tasks, a number of them quite onerous, with proficiency. He was apparently ill rewarded, for his estate consisted almost entirely of life insurance. Enormously popular in Ottawa, he was accorded one of the largest military funerals seen in the city for many years.

—Text by Kerry Badgley, “HODGINS, WILLIAM EGERTON,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 15, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed February 22, 2016. For this article's bibliography and other related information, visit Dictionary of Canadian Biography online.