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CHAPTER TWO

BIRTH OF THE CANADIAN SIGNALLING CORPS

Captain W. Bruce M. Carruthers, a Kingston native and hero of the Boer War, had noted that, in South Africa, signalling inadequacies had severely limited the efficiency of British Empire forces. He proposed that a specialist signalling corps be created to ensure standardization of signalling among Canadian army units. His proposal was accepted and on 24 October 1903, General Order (GO) 167 authorized formation of the "Canadian Signalling Corps (Militia)" (CSC) - the first independently organized Signal Corps in the British Empire. Its stated function was to supervise signal training of the cavalry, artillery and infantry signal sections and to ensure uniform methods of instruction and standards of qualification. Its authorized establishment was 18 officers and 60 other ranks and there was no Permanent Force counterpart. Provision of actual formation level signalling was the responsibility of the Canadian Engineers (CE) Signalling Service. It should be noted that, while the Canadian Signalling Corps was the first independent signal corps in the British Empire other nations had earlier taken similar steps. On 21 June 1860, during the American Civil War, the United States Congress had authorized their army to have one Signal Officer in the rank of major and $2,000 for signalling equipment while the Confederate States of America formally established its Confederate Signal Corps on 19 April 1862, "the first independent branch of professional military signalmen in history". E.P. Alexander. The United States Army Signal Corps was authorized on 3 March 1863 with Albert James Meyer as founder, organizer and first chief. during the Civil War

On 20 March 1904 Bruce Carruthers was appointed "Inspector of Signals" in the rank of Major. Lieutenant (Brevet Captain) F.A. Lister, Royal Canadian Regiment, was made "Assistant Inspector of Signalling". Operating from Kingston, Major Carruthers was responsible for Military Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, and 11 while Capt Lister, working from Fredericton and later Quebec City, handled 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 12. By 1905 they were responsible for the supervision of all signalling instruction and practice in Canada.

In 1904 District Signalling Officers were appointed from the active militia for each military district. Some of these "officers" were actually senior NCOs rather than the lieutenants authorized by establishment.

In 1904 the first Provisional School of Signalling was authorized and over the next two years schools were held in Ottawa, Kingston, Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax, London, Quebec and Toronto. Major Carruthers' Report for 1905 showed that 546 officers and men of the Rural Corps had received training in semaphore at summer camps and 68% had qualified.

In 1906 Major Carruthers was appointed Assistant Adjutant-General for Signalling. The Signalling Service of the Canadian Militia was defined as consisting of the Signalling Corps including a regimental staff drawn from the Permanent Force and regimental signallers of the Permanent Force, city and rural corps. Command Signal Officers in the rank of Captain were also added to the establishment.

In March 1908, General Order 33 authorized the first Canadian Signalling Corps badge which had been designed by Major Carruthers. This cross flags badge was a Canadian variation on the badge of the British 21st Lancers (with whom a young Lieutenant Carruthers had previously served in order to gain experience in a "real" army). The 21st Lancers' facing colour, French gray, was also adopted for the new Canadian Signalling Corps. At that time the selected Corps motto "Velox Versutus Vigilans" (original rendering into English was "Swift, Skilled, Alert") was added to the badge in place of a regimental name.

In 1908 qualified signallers were permitted to wear a distinguishing badge, crossed flags, on the right arm while, for the Canadian Signalling Corps, the first distinctive uniform was authorized. French gray was incorporated into this new uniform to be the distinctive Signals colour.

By 1908 the Corps had grown to 13 sections (numbered sequentially: London, Toronto, Kingston, Ottawa, Montreal, Granby, Quebec, St John, Halifax, Winnipeg, Victoria, Charlottetown and Calgary). Sounders were added to the lamps, flags, telephony and heliographs used for signalling.

On 21 October 1910 Bruce Carruthers died in Kingston and was buried in Cataraqui Cemetery. Major Wallace Bruce Mathews Carruthers was born in 1863, graduated with honours from Royal Military College on 26 June 1883 and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the 21st Hussars (British Army). In 1892 he joined the 14th Battalion, The Princess of Wales Own Rifles, Canadian Militia. When the Boer War broke out in 1899 he reverted to Sergeant to be able to go. In 1900 he returned to Canada and was discharged. In 1901 he re-enrolled as a senior lieutenant in the 2nd Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles (CMR). In 1902 he returned to South Africa where, on 31 March 1902 he commanded a reconnaissance force consisting of Numbers 3 and 4 Troops of E Squadron, CMR, in an action at Hart River. Despite being attacked by a much larger Boer force supported by artillery and a lack of cover he held the enemy at bay for some time. In the process, 17 of his 21 men became casualties. For his efforts he was mentioned in dispatches and promoted to Captain on the Unattached List. During his Boer War service he was wounded and was, for a short time, a prisoner of war. On return to Canada he conducted a campaign to establish a separate signalling service. He was successful and, as the "Father" of the Canadian Signalling Corps, he formed the Corps and led it during its early days.

In 1909 Captain F.A. Lister had returned to regimental duty with the Royal Canadian Regiment. This separation from the Corps proved to be of short duration however as, with the death of Major Carruthers, Captain Lister replaced him and on 29 November 1910 was appointed Assistant Director of Signals effective 1 January 1911.

In April 1911 the four military commands and Military Districts 1 to 9 and 12 (all in Eastern Canada) were reorganized to form six divisional areas on the British model. Divisional Signal Officers were appointed for the first time. Canadian Signalling Corps sections were authorized as follows although only four were eventually formed:

Authorized Units:
 
No 1 Section London ON  1 Division Area
No 2 Section Toronto ON  2 Division Area
No 3 Section Kingston ON  3 Division Area
No 4 Section Ottawa ON  3 Division Area
No 5 Section Montreal QC  4 Division Area
No 6 Section Sherbrooke QC  4 Division Area
No 7 Section Quebec City QC  5 Division Area
No 8 Section Saint John NB  6 Division Area
No 9 Section Salt Springs NS  6 Division Area
No 10 Section Winnipeg MB  Military District 10
No 11 Section Victoria BC  Military District 11
No 12 Section Charlottetown PE  6 Division Area
No 13 Section Calgary AB  Military District 13

Units Actually Formed:
 
No 1 Company London ON (Lieutenant J.T. Hennessy commanding)
No 2 Company Toronto ON (Captain E. Forde commanding)
No 3 Company Kingston ON (Major D.E. Mundell commanding)
No 6 Company Halifax NS (Capt T.E. Powers, commanding)

In August 1911 a Special Course of Training was held at Petawawa which evolved in 1912 into a School of Signalling. With the war clouds from the "German menace" looming in Europe, Canada's signalmen were being groomed for their role in the upcoming war.

In 1913 General Order 96 detailed a major reorganization for the new Signalling Corps in anticipation of war in Europe.

In June 1913, General Order 98 redesignated the Signalling Corps as the "Canadian Signal Corps" (CSC). The authorized establishment was 18 officers and 276 men in 4 companies of 3 sections each. For the first time a war time role, to provide brigade signal sections for mobilized divisions, was assigned. All other formation signalling was still to be done by the Canadian Engineers Signalling Service.

 
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