Carruthers, Wallace Bruce Matthews

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Wallace Bruce Matthews Carruthers
13 February 1863 – 21 October 1910
Bruce Carruthers studio photograph.jpg
Nickname Bruce
Place of birth Kingston Ontario
Place of burial Cataraqui Cemetery, Kingston
Allegiance Canada
Service/branch Canadian Army
Rank Major
Commands held Assistant Adjutant General for Signalling
Awards Queen's South Africa Medal
Major Wallace Bruce Matthews Carruthers (13 February 1863 - 21 October 1910) was a Canadian soldier. He was a veteran of the South African War and the founder of the Canadian Signalling Corps.

Early Life

Wallace Bruce Matthews Carruthers was born in Kingston Ontario to parents John and Mary (nee Matthews), the youngest of six children. John partnered with Alexander Gunn and the two owned a wholesale grocer on the waterfront in Kingston, making them very wealthy. Bruce attended and graduated Galt Collegiate Institute in Galt, Ontario as a child.[1]


Carruthers entered the Royal Military College of Canada as a Gentleman Cadet (College Number 82) in Kingston, Ontario on 5 September 1879. He graduated in 1883 and accepted a commission with the 21st Hussars effective 8 August 1883.[2] While with the unit, he was placed in charge of Pioneering and Signalling for which he received recognition from the Inspector General of Cavalry in Ireland in 1886 saying "he deserves much credit for the manner in which he has instructed the Pioneers and Signallers." He served with the unit until just before they proceeded overseas for service in India, retiring his commission effective 21 May 1887.[3]

Upon returning to Canada, Carruthers continued his military service and was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Canadian Militia in 1888.[4] In 1892, he was commissioned as a Lieutenant with the 14th Battalion "The Princess of Wales' Own Rifles" in Kingston and promoted to Captain in 1893. In 1894 he was permitted to retire and retain the rank of Lieutenant in the Reserve of Officers.[5]

At Ottawa on 10 October 1899 he volunteered for service in the South African War and served as a Sergeant in the 2nd (Special Service) Battalion of The Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry. His occupation at the time of enrolment was listed as "Gentlemen". After a month long voyage, he arrived with the unit in South Africa on 29 November 1899. He took part in actions with the unit including the Battle of Paardeberg and the actions leading up to the capture of Pretoria. He appears to have been one of the 16 officers and 430 men that were withdrawn from company duty on 24 September 1900 and sailed for home on 1 October[6] as he was discharged back in Canada on 5 November 1900.

In 1902, Carruthers again volunteered for service in South Africa as a Lieutenant in the 2nd Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles. On 31 March 1902 he was involved in the action at Harts River (Boschbult) where he was leading some 21 men of 3rd and 4th Troops 'E' Squadron to screen the main body of Cookson's Column as they prepared a defensive position. Faced with several hundred charging Boers and no cover, Lieutenant Carruthers dismounted his men to meet the attack. They fought until out of ammunition by which time 18 had been killed or wounded, including Carruthers.[7][8] Some references, although not consistently, indicate that he was taken prisoner in that action but further details of that are unknown.[1][9] In general, the Boer were not capable or interested in keeping prisoners and usually, after being stripped of weapons and useful equipment, the prisoners were soon released. For this action, Carrtuhers was Mentioned in Despatches[10] by Lord Kitchener who said "There have been fewer finer instances of heroism in the whole course of the campaign."[11] As a result of his service he was awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal with five clasps: Paardeberg, Driefontein, Johannesburg, Cape Colony, SA 1902.[12]

Upon his return, he was promoted Captain on the unattached list from the Reserve of Officers in recognition of service in South Africa.[13] Based on his experiences in South Africa and his recognition of the importance of communications he lobbied for the establishment of a signal corps upon his return to Canada. He was successful and on 24 October 1903 the first independently organized signal corps in the British Empire was formed. Carruthers was appointed Inspector of Signalling (West), responsible for Militia Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 10 and 11, in February 1904.[14]

In December 1904, Carruthers' appointment was amended to make him Inspector of Signalling with the substantive rank of Major effective back to February 2nd.[15] In 1906, his appointment was changed to be the Assistant Adjutant-General for Signalling.[16]

Personal Life

Carruthers was quite active in the Kingston Community. In 1899, he was the vice-commodore of the yacht club. In the 1901 Directory, he is noted as being vice-president of Carnovsky Wood Manufacturing Company Ltd, a member of the Board of Governors of the School of Mining and Agriculture and a member of the Board of Directors for the Kingston Amateur Athletic Club.[17] In 1902, he is listed as the President of Young Men's Liberal Club.[18]

Prior to departing for South Africa in 1902, Carruthers was serving as the vice-chairman of the Kingston School of Mines at Queen's University and was noted as having contributed liberally and taken a great interest in it.[19][20] He appears to have continued his patronage after his returned in the form of scholarships.[21]

Carruthers married Henrietta MacPherson on 11 December 1901 at Kingston. They had no children and Henrietta died in 1905. Major Carruthers died at the age of 47 on 21 October 1910, from tuberculosis contracted during his service in South Africa. He was given a huge military funeral at Chalmers Presbyterian Church and was buried in the Cataraqui Cemetery.

Carruthers Lake

On the occasion of the Corps Diamond Jubilee in 1963, two lakes were named in honour of Canadian Signallers. "Carruthers Lake" at 62°32′00″N 100°16′00″W / 62.533333, -100.266667 honours Major W.B Carruthers, founder of the Signalling Corps (Militia) in 1903. The second lake is "Forde Lake".

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Related Items


  1. 1.0 1.1 Royal Military College Club of Canada Data Sheet.
  2. The London Gazette, 25257. 7 August, 1883. Page 3916.
  3. The London Gazette, 25702. 20 May, 1887. Page 2791.
  4. Canada Gazette, Volume 22, Number 11. 15 September, 1888. Page 478.
  5. Canada Gazette, Volume 27, Number 32. 3 February 1894. Page 1311.
  6. The Royal Canadian Regiment, 1883-1933. Fetherstonhaugh. Page 149
  7. Canadian Biography - Wallace Bruce Matthews Carruthers
  8. Organization of Military Museums Bulletin, Volume 3 (1974).
  9. South Africa and the Boer-British War Volume II, J. Castell Hopkins and Murat Halstead. Toronto : J.C. Winston, c1900-(1902?);
  10. The London Gazette, 27445. 18 July, 1902. Page 4594.
  11. The London Gazette, 27443. 17 June, 1902. Page 3971.
  12. South Africa Medal Register
  13. Canada Gazette, Volume 36, Number 27. 3 January, 1903. Page 1208. It is believed this applied to W.B.M. Carruthers although the name in the Gazette is J. Bruce Carruthers.
  14. Canada Gazette, Volume 37, Number 35. General Order 28. 27 February 1904, Page 1627.
  15. Canada Gazette, Volume 38, Number 29. General Order 177. 14 January, 1905. Page 1427.
  16. History of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals 1903-1961, John S. Moir (editor).
  17. Foster's Kingston directory : Volume VII (1900-1901)
  18. Foster's Kingston directory : Volume VIII (1901-1902)
  19. Kingston medical quarterly: Vol. 6, no. 3 (Apr. 1902)
  20. Queen's University journal: Vol. 29, no. 4 (Dec. 20, 1901)
  21. Queen's University journal: Vol. 31, no. 12 (May 6, 1904)