Author Topic: A historical question  (Read 7661 times)

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Offline E.R. Campbell

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A historical question
« on: August 14, 2008, 18:02:22 »
This is by way of a question, I guess. Can anyone help me confirm or deny this story?

I’m sure this is a fact: The Canadian Signalling Corps was formed in 1903 – years and years before the British Army established its own Royal Corps of Signals.

I’m also sure this is true: In Aug 1914 First Canadian Divisional Signal Company was formed. Its CO was Maj. Frank Lister, of The RCR, who had been the Assistant Director of Signals.

Is this true?  In 1914, after the division arrived in England, it was decreed that the Signal Company would be an RCE unit, and badged as such.  But Maj. Lister protested to the Div Comd, MGen Alderson stating that he would refuse to re-badge, his other officers who were, mostly, CSC, also resented the order. Alderson agreed, ignored the direction from higher, and allowed First Canadian Divisional Signal Company to go on its merry way as a CSC unit. Second, Third and so on Divisional Signal Companies were established as RCE units.

BUT: The C&E Branch history says: “...Major Bruce Carruthers (unattached list) and Major F.A. Listor (Royal Canadian Regiment), although virtually running the corps, remained members of their parent corps).
 
On 12 June 1917, to overcome confusion about the parent corps of Canadian signal units, the Canadian Corps Headquarters issued Routine Order 1283 which stated that Signals, from that date, would be known as "Canadian Signals, Canadian Engineers". Since the Chief Engineer felt that members of the pre-war Signal Corps should be allowed to wear their own badges if they so desired, the Corps Commander ruled that change of badges would be left to the discretion of divisional commanders.”

That seems to contradict the story that Lister ‘preserved’ the fledgling Signalling Corps in 1914. Can anyone shed any light on this?
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline Old Sweat

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Re: A historical question
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2008, 09:32:17 »
Edward,

I have gone through both Duguid's first (and only) volume of his history of the CEF and Nicholson's official history. While the divisional signal companies are shown separately from the sappers in the various tables and charts in the former, Nicholson manages to mention the 1st Division's company twice. None of the others are mentioned except the 6th Company, which was part of rhe Siberian Expeditionary Force. Unfortunately, the second mention (p. 127) includes "Enterprising sappers of the 1st Canadian Divisional Signalling Company did much to lift the pall of boredom by constructing a long wave receiving set . . ." His source is W.A. Steel, "Wireless Telegraphy in the Canadian Corps in France," Canadian Defence Quarterly, July 1929, 445.

Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: A historical question
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2008, 08:40:25 »
Not related to the question, proper, but Happy (105th) Birthday, Signals.

See also: http://www.commelec.forces.gc.ca/index-eng.asp .
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline geo

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Re: A historical question
« Reply #3 on: October 24, 2008, 09:23:57 »
Ed...
In April 1903 Lord Dundonald (Major General Douglas MacKinnon Baillie Hamilton Cochrane, 12th Earl of Dundonald, General Officer Commanding, Canadian Militia) publicly remarked on the need for "a better system of Signals" in the army. He stated that "I would like to see heliographs brought into use to enable me to signal my forces at a distance and I believe that there should be established schools of instruction in signalling.".

On 1 July 1903 the Canadian Engineer Corps (CE) was formed as a "Permanent" Corps" and, as part of its many duties, was assigned responsibility for all communications above unit level. The non-permanent engineer corps then acquired sole title to the name "Canadian Engineers". In 1913 brigade level signals were assigned to the Canadian Signal Corps while Division and higher remained with CE. During World War I most division and higher level signal units were actually engineer signal units (except for 1 Canadian Divisional Signal Company which was formed as a mixed corps unit). CE lost its communications role in 1920 when all responsibility for signalling was assigned to the Canadian Signal Corps.

In 1909 the Royal Canadian Engineers provided support for the first Canadian demonstration of the military applications of heavier-than-air aircraft at Petawawa, Ontario. This involved provision of hangers, the first, albeit temporary, military airstrip and assistance in assembling the flying machines, called "aerodromes" at the time. The pilots, J.A.D. McCurdy and F.W. Baldwin, were former members of 2 Field Company CE. The first aircraft, Silver Dart, was demonstrated on 2 August 1909 and after several successful flights was wrecked while landing. On 12 August its replacement, Baddeck I, was demonstrated and, unfortunately, was also damaged on 13 August. This terminated the demonstrations. Subsequent attempts to create an Aviation Section RCE, while gaining Militia Council approval, were not funded by the Privy Council and were opposed by the Minister of Militia and Defence, Sir Sam Hughes.

In 1913 6 Field Company, CE submitted a proposal for the formation of an aviation section similar to the Air Battalion, Royal Engineers which formed in 1912 and later became the Royal Flying Corps. This idea was rejected by Sir Sam Hughes.

http://www.rcsigs.ca/ViewPage/History/90-Years-And-Counting/Page/1/

« Last Edit: October 24, 2008, 09:36:26 by geo »
Chimo!

Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: A historical question
« Reply #4 on: October 24, 2008, 09:33:00 »
Thanks, geo but it sill leaves my original question: Why, in the face of an overarching Imperial General Staff order, did 1st (Canadian) Division Signals remain a 'mixed' (or Canadian Signalling Corps?) unit? Why didn't GOC 1st Canadian Division do what, it appears to me, 'they' intended?

I rather like the legend that Frank Lister (The RCR) would not rebadge and disobeying 'higher' was much, much easier than finding a replacement for him.
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline geo

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Re: A historical question
« Reply #5 on: October 24, 2008, 09:38:41 »
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:

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.
When war broke out, the 10 officers, eight attached officers and 276 men of the Canadian Signal Corps were attached to the Canadian Engineers for discipline and administration. They provided telphony, visual signalling and dispatch riders. Interestingly enough, no additional officers were posted to the Canadian Signal Corps during the war and most eventually became signal officers for various headquarters. Often infantry officers assumed the signal officer duties in Canada. Engineer communicators consisted of five telegraph detachments, each established for one officer and 58 other ranks and one wireless detachment of one officer and 18 other ranks.

On 6 August 1914, General Order 142 authorized the formation of First Canadian Divisional Signal Company. On 20 August 1914 the company began forming at Valcartier. Personnel of this unit were a mixture of CSC, RCE and CE. The commanding officer was Major F.A. Lister (infantry) and he had 5 CSC officers and 1 RCE officer. While Major Lister was serving overseas the appointment of Assistant Director for Signalling was carried out by Captain W.F. Hadley, RCE. Subsequent World War I corps and divisional signal companies were Engineer Signalers.


Chimo!

Offline Old Sweat

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Re: A historical question
« Reply #6 on: October 24, 2008, 09:51:32 »
We still have not resolved the issue of the 1st Division Signalling Company. It may well have been that faced with an impending move to France, Major General Alderson, the GOC of the 1st Division, decided to let Lister have his own way. If the darn thing worked, why worry about cap badges?

Management by unnecessary change was no more effective then than it is now. That, of course, doesn't mean that it has never been utilized by the ambitious as a career self-management tool. In this case Alderson, Byng and Curry all must have been satisifed, or it would have been 'fixed.' Perhaps a review of the officers of the company through the war might provide an answer. Were Lister and his cohorts gradually promoted or otherwise eased out of the company to be replaced by sapper signallers - or is it signaller sappers - or did a significant number stay in place for the nearly five years of the division's existence?

Offline E.R. Campbell

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Re: A historical question
« Reply #7 on: October 24, 2008, 09:58:26 »
It appears, based on information gleaned during my attempts to answer the original question, that in 1914 the company had one other combat arms officer (I cannot recall which regiment) and three or four Canadian Signal Corps officers. The 'crew' seems to have remained relatively stable during the war with many names (Lister and Ford come to mind) remaining constant. One or two officers appear to have left and arrived - one arrival being RCE, I think.

It looks to me as though 'things' were just left pretty much alone for all four years of the war.

It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline Old Sweat

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Re: A historical question
« Reply #8 on: October 24, 2008, 10:26:26 »
Then, Edward, why didn't the dog bark? It looks like we have one of those little mysteries that may be resolved somewhere, somehow when a misfiled memo appears or an obscure diary entry is unearthed. Maybe, just maybe, somebody figured fighting the hun was more important that putting Lister in his place.

Offline pronto91

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Re: A historical question
« Reply #9 on: February 17, 2011, 21:07:17 »
I would submit that Lister did actively support the Signal Corps in the Great War. It is clear to me from what I've researched and read that he felt strongly about the CSC and wasn't afraid to act on his beliefs. As noted above, he left in 1909 but came back in 1910 to make the changes he felt necessary.

From reading the unit's war diary it seems like he left command of 1st Canadian Divisional Signal Company after again standing up for CSC, perhaps once to often. The 24 October 1915 entry reads:

    Visited Corps Headquarters re adoption of "C.S.C"
    In office all afternoon, an applicant for transfer.
    Saw Maj-Gen Harrington re Training Depot.

He gave up command of the unit (to Captain Forde) and departed for England on 6 December 1915.

So, although this doesn't deal with specifics, it certainly makes it seem entirely plausible that he stood up for the CSC when the first contingent was being formed.