The Victoria Cross is the highest decoration for valour in the British armed forces. It is awarded for extreme bravery in the face of the enemy and therefore is a highly prestigious medal, all of the recipients of which are well documented by the British Government.
It was instituted in 1856 by Queen Victoria at the request of her consort, Prince Albert. The first crosses were awarded during the Crimean War.
In 1858, new statutes allowed the Victoria Cross to be conferred for gallantry when not in the presence of the enemy; instances of this were extremely rare, and by 1881 the cross was again awarded only for conspicuous courage in the face of the enemy. King Edward VII in 1902, decreed that the honour could be awarded posthumously, which, since then, it frequently has been.
Anyone in any branch of the British armed forces is eligible, including women, although no woman has as yet received the award.
James C (Crosthwaite?) Carruthers?
There are those who have stated that a James Crosthwaite Carruthers born in Bury, Lancashire, England in April 1883 son of William, and his mother, Mary Ann Mitchel, had received the honour of being awarded the Victoria Cross.
They go on to say that James Crosthwaite Carruthers enlisted in 1914 as a private with the Northumberland Fusiliers, raising to the rank of Lance Corporal in the Kings Liverpool Regiment as a member of a Pals Battalion. James Crosthwaite Carruthers returned home and married Minne Maken and had two children together. He then married Elizabeth Horrocks in March 1956 in Bury England. It further states, sadly died on July 30, 1956, in his hometown of Bury at the age of 73.
Bury is a town in Greater Manchester just under 8 miles northwest of Manchester centre itself, and historically sat in the county of Lancashire on the west part of central England. So why is at least some of this information wrong:
The Northumberland Fusiliers
The Northumberland Fusiliers was an infantry regiment first raised in 1674 as the 5th Regiment of Foot and given the regional designation of ‘Northumberland’ in 1782 and the distinction of being defined as a Fusilier regiment in 1836. They had 52 battalions serving in the First World War. Their base is in Newcastle upon Tyne in the North East of England. However, Pvt JamesC Carruthers was definately in the ‘North’d Fus’ as his listing for his medals shows and his regimental number is clearly shown as 19/1199.
Although, if the others are right, his listing on the Roll of Individuals for a decoration also has him serving with the Kings Liverpool Regiment at the time, as a L/Cpl. Both these papers (A&B) were issued at the end of WW1.
Kings Liverpool Regiment
The King’s Regiment (Liverpool) was, like the Northumberland’s, one of the oldest infantry regiments in the British Army being founded in 1685. Originally designated the 8th (Kings) Regiment of foot in 1751, and rather than having a regional designation, it represented and was associated with the the City of Liverpool, situated in the mid west coast England. It was one of only four regiments to do so and it remained as such during the First World War, only amalgamating and changing in 1958.
During WW1 the Kings Liverpool Regiment, nicknamed the Leather Hats or Kings Hanoverian White Horse (Kingsmen), fielded a minimum of 49 battalions of men. Of those forty nine, 26 served overseas, receiving 58 battle honours and six Victoria Crosses. Of the battalions raised, four became known as the Liverpool Pals.
It is suggested that nearly 14000 ‘kingsmen’ died in the course of the war, one of whom was Pvt Sidney Carruthers of the 1st/10th Battalion, who was killed He was killed in he charge at Hooge, Belgium on the 16th June 1915. He had been part of the original contingent of the 10th (Scottish) Battalion King’s Liverpool Regiment who were posted to the Western Front on the 1st November 1914. Sydney was 28 years of age when he died.
L/Cpl James C Carruthers is clearly shown on the Roll of Individuals above, having served in one theatre of war, and disembarked on the 7th of November 1915 as being granted his decorations on the 23rd of December 2018. His regimental number is not the same as James C Carruthers of the Northumberland regiment.
These battalions, and those of the Manchester Pals were made up of friends from same towns and villages. The Liverpool Pals consisted of the following battalions of the Kings Liverpool Regiment:
The Liverpool Pals consisted of:
- 17th (Service) Battalion – 1st City, formed at Liverpool 29 August 1914 by Lord Derby
- 18th (Service) Battalion – 2nd City, formed at Liverpool, 29 August 1914 by Lord Derby
- 19th (Service) Battalion – 3rd City, formed at Liverpool, 29 August 1914 by Lord Derby
- 20th (Service) Battalion – 4th City, formed at Liverpool, 16 October 1914 by Lord Derby
- and 21st (Reserve) Battalion – formed at Knowsley Park, August 1915 from depot companies of 17th and 18th Battalions
- 22nd (Reserve) Battalion – formed at Knowsley Park, August 1915 from depot companies of 19th and 20th Battalions
Although not complete, there is no listing of a Carruthers being included in any of thePals battalions.
Liverpool Pals Cap Badge
The cap badge reflects the crest of Lord Derby who came up with the concept and formed the Pals Battalions. It is blazoned: On a chapeau Gules, turned up Ermine, an eagle with wings expanded Or, preying on an infant proper, in its cradle Or, swaddled Gules, banded Or.
The eagle, simply based on the Liverpool relationship with the cap badge has been on occasions, wrongly considered a Liver Bird, the symbol of the city of Liverpool, which it isn’t.
The Victory Medal
The award of a common allied campaign medal was recommended by an inter-allied committee in March 1919. Each allied nation would design a ‘Victory Medal’ for award to their own nationals, all issues having certain common features, including a winged figure of victory the obverse and the same ribbon. Fifteen countries finally awarded the medal to include Britain, where the country is named as in eg Victory Medal.
The Victory Medal was issued to all those who received the 1914 Star or the 1914-15 Star and to most of those who were awarded the British War Medal. It was not awarded singly and was definitely not the Victoria Cross.
To qualify, recipients need to have served in:
• the armed forces of the Great Britain, as the country was known at the time,
• or the British Empire,
• or with certain recognised voluntary organisations,
and have entered any theatre of war between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918. While home service did not count, United Kingdom based members of the Royal Air Force who were actively engaged in the air against the enemy did qualify, as did those who flew new planes to France.
Women qualified for this and other First World War campaign medals while serving in nursing and auxiliary forces in a theatre of war.
When is James C Carruthers not James C Carruthers?
The purpose in all of this research was to check whether:
a) A Carruthers had been awarded the highest British award for gallantry; the Victoria Cross?
b) Whether the James C. Carruthers of the Kings Liverpool Regiment and the James C. Carruthers of the Northumberland Fusiliers, were in actiual fact one and the same person?
As can be seen above, Lance Corporal James C Carruthers of the Kings Liverpool Regiment, Reg No 25739, having served in one theatre of campaign would have received three medals, as was the norm; the Victory Medal, the British War Medal and the 1914/1914-1915 Star.
L/Cpl James C Carruthers received his medals, at the end of the campaign as dated the 23rd December 1918 on his decorations sheet.
The war ended on the 11th November 1918 and he was clearly ranked as a L/Cpl at that time.
With this in mind, it is clear the L/Cpl (Regimental No 25739) who disembarked into the theatre of war in November 1915, was not the Pvt James C Carruthers of the Northumberland Fusiliers, Reg No 19/1199.
It wasnt until 1917 that the regimental numbers had their prefixes removed e.g. 19 was the battalion and 1199 the Regimental number. But with some regiments retaining therir numbering system, it was only after demob in 1920 that all regimental numbers were synchronised across the Army, using this new system. Therefore an individual serviceman would have retained their regimental numbers until then.
This also shows that an incorrect connection has been made in assuming that the 19th battalion of the Fusiliers was also the 19th battalion and thus a ‘Pals Battalion’ of the Kings Liverpool Regiment. Two different regiments, two different battalions.
We also know that Pvt James C Carruthers 19/1199, remained with the Northumberland Fusiliers and held the rank of Pvt until the end of the war. We know this because his medals list, which would only have been issued after the war was over, clearly shows that. It is a reasonable assumption that both men, because of the issuance at the time, would have received the Victory and British War Medal and the 1914/1914-1915 Star as was the norm and stated above.
Interestingly there was another James Carruthers, again of the Northumberland Fusiliers, Reg No 4/903, of the 4th Battalion, who seems to have progressed through the ranks to attain the rank of ‘serjeant’ before demobbing in 1920. It seems he also survived the war but again was not awarded the Victoria Cross.
Carruthers and the Victoria Cross
Without attempting to denounce the bravery of any person who fought in any campaign, never mind the horrors of the First World War, there are no records of either of these individuals having been awarded the Victoria Cross.
Therefore after careful research, again into the claims of others, we are saddened to say categorically that to date no Carruthers has been awarded the Victoria Cross.
As a family we would of course be honoured if one of our own had been awarded one. It would allow all of the name to proudly share in the valour of one of our own. However, we cannot continue to make claims that are inaccurate as it simply taints both of our name, as well as those who have actually been awarded this prestigious honour.
As is the case with all information especially that regarding our family and clan, if not being taken from a reliable source, it is worth checking the validity of the information offered.
Here at the CCSI we try very hard, based on current and available information, to publish evidenced pieces in order to report on our families rich history. However, sadly some of our precious time is currently wasted on countermanding the false claims of others.
With the information and facts being continually placed in the public domain people e.g. members of our family and clan and those external to it, must come to their own conclusions.
With regards James C Carruthers and his VC and you can chose either one, we wish it was true, but sadly the evidence suggests that it is not.