Lieutenant Colonel C.R.E. Willets, D.S.O.
Royal Canadian Regiment
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He went forward to the front line under very heavy fire and organized the defence of the position with great skill. He has at all times displayed the greatest courage and initiative.
(Willets, D.S.O. citation, 26 July 1917)
Born in Windsor, Nova Scotia on 21 May 1880, Charles Richard Edward Willets had left the Royal Military College early to serve in South Africa in 1901. After five years with the South African Constabulary, he was gazetted as a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Regiment.
During the First World War, he assumed command of the regiment in October 1917, succeeding Lieut. Col. C.H. Hill, who had been assigned instructor at the Senior Officers’ Course School. Willets was three times mentioned in dispatches and received the Distinguished Service Order.
Hill took command again in April 1918 until July when he was appointed Commandant of the Canadian Corps School. Willets again succeeded him until he was severely wounded by shell fire on 28 September 1918. His replacement was Major G.W. MacLeod, a twenty-nine-year-old decorated 49th Battalion officer with no prewar militia training. While the Permanent Force scoffed at a “civilian” replacement colonel, MacLeod earned their respected and commanded the regiment. until the end of the war.
Willetts served as commanding officer of the PPCLI from 1920 until 1927. He remained in the army until his sudden death in Kingston, Ontario on 1 September 1931.