Captain, Robert Tennant Bruce – Prisoner of War – Survived

Royal Army Medical Corps, 1st/2nd Highland Field Ambulance

Royal Army Medical Corps Cap Badge, similar to the one which would have been worn by Robert Tennant Bruce.

Synopsis of Life and Military Service

Robert Tennant Bruce was a medical officer with the 152nd infantry Brigade, 51st Highland division when he was captured on the 22nd November 1917 during the battle of Cambrai. Together with the Padre, Reverend Andrew Grant MC, he had been reconnoitring the battlefield with a view to establishing aid posts when the couple stumbled on some German positions and were captured.

THE BATTLE OF CAMBRAI, German prisoners helping in a British wounded (51st Division) near Beaucamp, 20 November 1917. Copyright: © IWM Q 6277

He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland on 19 November 1872. His father was Robert Bruce, a General Practitioner, and his mother was Blanca Catalina Tennant. He followed his father into the medical profession and qualified as a Bachelor of Medicine (MB) and Master of Surgery (CM) from Edinburgh University in 1894.


On leaving University he held an assistantship in general practise and later joined a practise as junior partner at Broughty Ferry in Angus. Subsequently he moved to London and in 1903 received his M.D (Doctor of Medicine). Following that he practised in Thame, Oxfordshire.

On 13th November 1914 he was commissioned as a Lieutenant with the 2nd Highland Field Ambulance in the Royal Army Medical Corp. He arrived in France on 3rd of April 1915 and was promoted to Captain on the 13th May that year.

Captivity

THE BATTLE OF CAMBRAI, Soldier of the 51st Division bringing in two German machine gunners with their guns. Near Beaucamp, 20 November 1917. © IWM Q 6274

Having been captured Bruce was taken to Bourlon village for some initial questioning after which he and Grant were taken to Le Cateau, stopping at a village called Marquion where they were questioned again and then marched to Bourchain. The following day they were taken by train to Le Cateau where they stayed for roughly 4-5 days. Towards the end of November, he and around 20 other prisoners were taken to the train station where they waited for most of the day for a train to Karlsruhe.

When he arrived at Karlsruhe he was Initially kept at a holding facility. Their rooms were well warmed by radiators and their beds were comfortable. There was decent washing and sanitary arrangements and their food consisted of two meals a day. He stayed there the four or five days before being taken to the main camp itself.

On 28 December 1917, he was transferred to Heidelburg where he stayed until 11 February 1918. He was with a group of prisoners who were exchanged at Aachen, one of whom was Surgeon Probationer Alexander Joe who was taken prisoner following the battle of Jutland when his ship, HMS Nestor, was sunk.

Heidelberg Prisoner of War Camp for Officers.

Death

After Robert demobilised he retired from practise and settled in London. He had a number of hobbies including climbing, travel, literature, carpentry, photography, chess, bridge and croquet. He died in Woburn, Bedfordshire on 14th March 1949 after a painful illness lasting more than a year.

Family

According to various Census data, Robert had the following family members:

Father – Robert Bruce – 1829
Mother – Blanca Catalina Bruce – 1845
Sister – Blanche Katherine Bruce- 1870
Sister – Camilla Bruce– 1872 Brother – Frederick William Bruce– 1875
Brother – Graham Bruce – 1877
Sister – Emily Bruce – 1878
Brother – James M Bruce– 1879

In August 1903 Robert married Caroline Taylor Wybrants in Broughty Ferry; his brother Fred was best man and sister Emily was one of the Bridesmaids. The Dundee Courier reported in some detail on this “charming wedding”.

In March 1908 he benefited from the will of his aunt Enriqueta Augustina Ryelands (nee Tennant). She was the widow of Mr John Rylands, a merchant of Manchester, and the gross value of her estate was £3,448,692 pounds; Robert was left 15,000 pounds.

Addresses

  • 1881 – York Place, 12, St Mary, St Andrew, Midlothian, Scotland.
  • 1917 – Prisoner of War Records show his address as Norfolk Lodge, Barnet, Bedfordshire.
  • 1939 – 57 Albert Court, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, London.

Medals

Robert Tennant Bruce was awarded the 1914-15 Star, Victory and the British War Medals for his service in the Great War.

References

  •  Dundee Courier 12 August 1903.
  • Dundee Courier 16 March 1949.
  • Britain School & university memorial rolls.
  • Manchester Courier 27 March 1908.
  • Supplement to the London Gazette 2 October 1915.
  • The National Archives WO/161/97/35.

Groups

Contributors:-

  • Trevor Torkington.
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