Name:Henry Siviour Carruthers
DoB: January 10 1897
Regt: Rifleman 470563 12th County of London
DoD: April 6 1917
Academic Career: CGS 1909-1912 County Council Minor Scholar
Other: son of Joseph, 35, Rickergate , Boy Clerk, Savings Bank Dept.,
Henry Siviour Carruthers was the elder son of Joseph and Margaret Carruthers. Joseph was a grocer and Henry and his adopted brother, Ralph were brought up over the shop on Rickergate. Henry’s paternal ancestry was Cumbrian for generations, his grandfather and great-grandfather were both local blacksmiths at Irthington. His mother was Margaret Siviour from Mitcham, Surrey. Members of her family say that she was a nursery nurse prior to her marriage to Joseph, presumably that’s why she came to Carlisle, marrying Joseph on Sept 19 1895 at Stanwix.
Henry and his brother both attended the Grammar School , had minor County Council Scholarships and were day students. Henry won the 100 yard dash on Sports’ Day in 1911. In 1910 and 1911 he was active in the debating society and spoke in favour of the motion “That International Arbitration is a substitute for War”, the motion was lost by one vote. He spoke against the motion that “cricket is a finer game than football”, this motion was lost by 12 to 24 votes.
When he was fifteen in 1912 Henry was accepted as a Boy Clerk for the GPO a post of responsibility in West Kensington. Henry must have been close to his mother’s family hence his moving to London. He joined the 12th County of London Regiment. His cousin filled in more sad details he enlisted with two cousins Walter and Gilbert Siviour, all three died in 1917 and are commemorated on the War Memorial in Mitcham, Surrey. Walter died at Ypres and Gilbert is buried at Achiet-le-Grand.
The Cumberland published news of Henry on the July 3 1915 under the heading
“CARLISLE PRISONER OF WAR”, it read
“Rifleman H.T. Carruthers, of the 12th County of London Regiment (The Rangers), son of Mr Joseph Carruthers, Richergate who has been missing since May 8th has written to say he was slightly wounded at Ypres and taken prisoner. He was kindly treated while in hospital and is POW in camp in Germany”.
However nearly two years later things were much worse. Henry’s fate is unique amongst our Old Boys, he died on April 6th 1917 as a prisoner of war of the Germans, he died in modern day Latvia and is buried at Nikolai, one of 32 graves. The following extract is the only account we have been able to find about the POW camp. The conditions were appalling.
The following are excerpts taken from a précis of a statement by Company Sergeant-Major A. Gibb, 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, who was the Senior 2nd Class W.O. of on party of 1000 British N.C.O’s and Men sent to Russia in 1916.
“One thousand N.C.O’s and men left DOEBERITZ for Russia on 8th May 1916. At FRANKFORT-AM-ODER another 1000 N.C.O’s and men were collected. The 2000 left FRANKFORT for Russia on 11th May 1916. Thereafter, Company Seargent-Major Gibb’s statement concerns only one of the four parties or companies into which the men were divided (each 500 strong)
No. 4 Company to which the statement refers was employed in the docks in LIBAU from 14th May 1916 to February 1917. No special complaints are brought forward concerning this period.
On 23rd February the company, strength 500 left LIBAU for MITAU, AND ON THE 25th marched along the frozen River Aa to the village of LATCHEN, NEAR KELZIEN, a distance of 25 kilometres. The escort of the party, a squadron of Uhlans, drove the party along all day in the most brutal manner possible, and only about 80 of the 500 were able to reach LATCHEN in any sort of formation. The remainder were scattered along the route for several kilometres, being thrashed along by the Uhlans by means of lances and whips.
Accommodation at the new camp was one tent, about 70 yards by 7, for all the 500 N.C.O’s and men, pitched on a frozen swamp. No fuel for heating the tent, no light, no proper means of obtaining water for cooking or washing, and rations barely sufficient to keep the men alive. No parcels allowed, no smoking; this tent was under Russian shell fire, which, however, was not serious.
Orders were read, stating that the British had been brought to this place as a reprisal for the employment of Germans in France, where they were being ill-treated, starved and made to work under fire. The orders to the guard stated that no mercy was to be shown to the prisoners, every one of whom had assisted to stop the Kaiser’s army from reaching Paris……….
…..The working parties were constantly under Russian shell fire, but there was little rifle and or machine gun fire. The treatment was so brutal that the men soon became mere living skeletons, too weak to move about. Nevertheless, they were kicked and beaten out to work morning after morning by the medical feld-webel; their comrades had to help them to walk out, lead them about all day and very often carry them home at night. Hospital accommodation was quite inadequate in the camp and medical comforts or attention almost non-existent. The result, in figures, was that 14 men died at the camp, and eight more in hospital at MITAU, all from exhaustion and starvation except one who was murdered. The death took place shortly after the party returned to LIBAU…77 N.C.O’s and men lasted out the period out of the total of 500 but had it not been for an improvement in the weather about the end of April, and the receipt at the time of the first consignment of parcels it is doubtful if any would have been left at all. About 20,000 parcels of food from home were collected during this period, and had they been allowed to be issued to the prisoners, probably they would have saved all these 23 lives. Instead, they were stopped at MITAU, where they were stored and looted by the Germans, as well as allowed to waste by perishing…….In addition to starvation and exhaustion, frostbite and vermin ravaged the men’s bodies.
The camp was broken up on the 10th June 1917, and after a months rest at LIBAU, the party was employed in light work and occupied good quarters until November 1917, when it was sent back to Germany. 276 N.C.Os and men returned of the original strength of 500 from the front lines to LIBAU. Of the remainder most had already been sent back to Germany incapacitated for any other work, some of these for the remainder of their lives” WO/161/100/557
Reports of ill-treatment did make it back to England the following is part of the transcript in which Mr Churchill, the Secretary of State for War is asked about the circumstances under which Private A. Skett “met his death”
asked the Secretary of State for War whether evidence has been taken from returned prisoners of war as to the circumstances under which Private A. Skett, No. 6055, 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards, met his death while on commando at Latchen, Kurland, on orabout 6th April, 1917; if so, will he state these circumstances; whether he is aware that the whole details of this case were personally reported by Company Sergeant-Major William Acton Francis, No. 7078, 1st Battalion Cheshire Regiment, to Mr. Vrendenburgh, the Dutch representative in charge of British interests, at Libau on or about 5th June, 1917; if he will say at what date His Majesty’s Government learned for the first time of Private Skett’s death; and on what date the officer commanding the Coldstream Guards and the deceased soldier’s next-of-kin were officially informed as to the exact circumstances of his death; and what action His Majesty’s Government proposes to take to bring those responsible for the death of Private Skett to justice?
Evidence has been taken from repatriated prisoners of war on this subject. The circumstances in which Private Skett met his death appear to have been as follows: On 6th April, 1917, Skett, a prisoner of war at Pinue, on the Eastern Front, being exhausted after a long march in the snow, was unable to proceed. He was ordered by the sentry to move on. On his replying that he was unable to do so, the sentry deliberately killed him. The report received from the German Government stated that Skett feigned inability to move, and that in the circumstances the sentry was justified in shooting him”
Private Skeet died the same day as Henry and they were buried in adjoining graves. The man who buried them Alexander Gibb of the 2nd Battallion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders gave the following account.
“On 6th April 1917 Private Skett, Coldstream Guards, was shot under the following circumstances. About 20 or 25 men , too weak to go to work, were left in camp in the morning. About 10 a.m. some 10 of them were taken outside by the Germans for fatigue. This consisted in moving the guards and officers’ property from the old camp at Latchen to the new one. A hand cart was used for this purpose and the road was deep in mud. They completed one trip in the forenoon, and while returning from a second in the afternoon Private Skett collapsed several times from weakness. At last he was quite incapable of rising, and one of the German sentries went to him, put the muzzle of his rifle close to his breast, and fired, killing Private Skett where he lay. I was not a witness of this. I heard the shot from our tent, and the case was reported to me when the party came in 20 minutes later, bringing the body on the cart. No 645 Lance-Corporal M. Purdon, Gordon Highlanders, was with him at the time. The body of Private Skett lay outside the enclosure for 2 days more. Private Carruthers, 12th London Regiment, who had also been left in that morning too weak to go out and work, died during the 6th April. His body was placed beside that of Private Skett and both covered with a sheet of tin. I buried them both on the morning of the 9th about 100 yards from the hut. They were both simply human skeletons. I saw the wound in Private Skett’s body just by the heart”
Alexander Gibb CSM No 6826, 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
7th February 1818
12th County of London
a) Carlisle School Memorial Register 1264-1924
c) Bridgid Parkin (www.solentpc.demon.co.uk)
d) Cumberland News 3 /7/1915
e) Census: 1911 RG14PN31323
1901 RG13 4867 85 18
1891 RG12 4292 37 25
1881 RG11 5150 61 1
1871 RG10 5211 66 8
1861 RG09 3909 69 10
1851 HO107 2427 389 15
1841 HO107 169 2/4 2