Military Communications and Electronics Museum | Musée de L'électronique et des communications militaires

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THE EARLY YEARS

IN THE BEGINNING

Military communications in pre-confederation Canada were, at best primitive. British garrisons relied on written correspondence, couriers, liaison officers and, where practical, primitive short range signalling devices such as heliographs and semaphore tower systems.   Commercial telegraph, introduced in 1846, was occasionally utilized.

With confederation in 1867 the British garrisons began to withdraw. The new Canadian Government slowly assumed the responsibility for Canadian defence. Militia artillery, cavalry and infantry unitscontained internal signalling elements, however, standardization was lacking. No military communications, tactical or strategic, existing above unit level.

 

 

AT THE THRESHOLD

The Royal Canadian Corps of Signals owes its origin largely to the South African War. The War probably brought Bruce Carruthers and signalling together. Bruce was born in 1863 and after graduating from the Royal Military College, in Kingston, Ontario accepted a commission in the British Regular Army as a lieutenant in the 21st Lancers. At the outbreak of the South African War, then Captain Carruthers resigned his commission in order to go overseas. He quickly rose to the rank of Sergeant and distinguished himself on the battlefield. During his second tour of duty in South Africa now Captain Carruthers, along with other notables commented that signalling could be put to better use. It was after his return to Canada that Captain Carruthers began his campaign to persuade military authorities to establish a separate signalling service.

The war had aroused some enthusiasm for soldiering and Lord Dundonald's reforms in the Canadian Militia were made with a view to meeting and future hostilities in Europe. 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 an arm and to the extent that the Canadian Signalling Corps made this a reality, is largely his monument. The Special General Order dated 24 October 1903 created the Canadian Signalling Corps.

In the same year the Canadian Engineers were assigned responsibilities for
communications while the fledgling Canadian Signalling Corps was created to standardize communications.


GAINING IDENTITY

In March 1908, the first Canadian Signalling Corps badge, designed by Major Carruthers, was approved. This crossed flags badge was a Canadian variation on the badge of the 21st Lancers (with whom a young lieutenant Carruthers had previously served). The selected Corps motto "Velox - Versutus - Vigilans" (Swift - Skilled - Watchful) was added
to the badge in place of a regimental name.

The facing colour of the 21st Lancers, French gray, was also adopted for the new Canadian Signalling Corps.

Qualified signallers were permitted to wear a distinguishing badge on the right arm, for the Canadian Signalling Corps, the first distinctive uniform was authorized . French gray was incorporated into the piping and trouser stripes as the distinguishing Signals colour.



CREATING A STANDARD

The Canadian Signalling Corps' original 1903 mandate was to create uniform standards of signalling. The Corps' members were trainers.

The first Provisional School of Signalling was authorized in 1904. Schools were held in Ottawa, Kingston, Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax, London, Quebec and Toronto over the following two years.

Major Carruther's Report for 1905 indicated that 546 officers and men of the Rural Corps had received training in semaphore at summer camps and 68% had qualified.In August 1911 a Special Course of Training was held at Petawawa which evolved in 1912 into a School of Signalling.

With war clouds looming in Europe, Canada's signalmen were being groomed for their role in the upcoming war.