Major Bruce Carrauthers

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Updated 27 November 2013

From Chapter One of History of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals 1903 - 1961
written by Officers of the Corps and edited by John S. Moir, M.A., Ph.D.
Published 1962
[Major Bruce Carruthers]
Major Wallace Bruce Matthews Carruthers
(Photo - C & E Branch)
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Bruce Carruthers was born in 1863, graduated with honours from the Royal Military College of Canada in 1883 and immediately accepted a commission in the British Regular Army as a lieutenant in the 21st Hussars. Nine years later he was commisioned in the 14th Battalion, The Princess of Wales' Own Rifles, Canadian Militia, and rose to the rank of captain. On the outbreak of the South African War, Bruce Carruthers reverted to the rank of sergeant to be able to go on active service with the Royal Canadian Regiment. He returned with the Regiment to Canada in November 1900, was discharged, but re-enrolled one year lateras senior lieutenant with the 2nd Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles, which was being raised for service in South Africa.


Carruthers arrived for his second tour in South Africa in February, 1902, and returned to Canada in June of that year. In those few months he participated in the action near Hart River. On 31 March a reconnaissance party was marching to the junction of the Brakspruit and Hart riverswhen it overtook a much larger enemy force. Lt. Bruce Carruthers was commanding Nos. 3 and 4 Troops of E Squadron as the rear guard when the Boers attacked with rifles and light aetillery and drove in one defence post. Carruthers immediately had his men dismount and although there was no cover, they held the enemy at bay for some time. Their action, in which 17 of the 21 troopers under Carruthers were either killed or wounded, won from the Offocer Commanding the highest praise as he described the "invincible courage and devotion to duty" of Bruce Carruthers and his party. Carruthers had so distinquished himself that he was mentioned in despatches, and promoted to captain on the Unattached List "in recognition of services in South Africa".

It was after his return to Canada that Captain Carruthers apparently began his campaign to persuade the military authorities to establish a separate signalling service. He was not alone in this ambition, for a few other people were thinking along the same lines, presumably as a result of the experiences with communications in the recent highly mobile war in South Africa. As early as April 1903 Lord Dundonald had remarked in public on the need for "a better system of Signals" in the army. "I would like to see heliographs brought into use, to enable me to signal my forces at a distance, and I believe that there should be established schools of instruction in signalling."

On the surface 1903 seemed an unpropitious time to press for such an innovation as a signal corps. Canadians were bound to return to their unmilitary tradition now that hostilies had ceased, and the great government-sponsored campaign to people the Canadian west was already absorbing much of their interest and energies. Nevertheless, the war hsd aroused some enthusiasm for soldiering, and Lord Dundonald's reforms in the Canadian Militia were made with a view to meetingany future hostilities in Europe. But military signalling was still a matter of visual signals, by flags, lamps and heliographs operated by anyone interested. Telephone and telegraph communications were already in the capable hands of the engineers, and wieless, which hadbeen used in military operations for the first time in South Africa, was still regarded as an unproven novelty, or even as a toy. Forward signals then, in the sense of a trained body of specialists, did not exist in any army of the Empire. It was Bruce Carruthers' aim to create such anarm, and to the extent that the Canadian Signal Corps made this a reality, it is largely his monument.
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