Bruce Turnbull was born at Kirkee near Poona, India on 4 November 1880, the son of Surgeon-General Peter Stephenson Turnbull of the Indian Medical Service, Bombay.  Bruce’s father had been commissioned in October 1860 and would retire in 1896.  During his long period of service, he served in the war in Abyssinia in 1868.  Family history suggests that Peter treated the Ethiopian Emperor himself on the operating table.

Bruce attended Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh with his two brothers, George and Hugh, both of whom also went on to serve in the Indian Army, George with the 26th Punjabis and Hugh with the 57th Wilde’s Rifles.

Bruce attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst and was commissioned on 28 July 1900.  As was customary, he joined the Unattached List for the Indian Army and sailed to India for a year’s service on attachment with a British Regiment.

Arriving in India in October 1900, Bruce joined the 1st Battalion South Wales Borderers on the North West Frontier before transferring in November to the 2nd Battalion the Connaught Rangers at Ahmednagar then in March 1901 to the 3rd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade in Meerut.

He was formally appointed to the Indian Army on 9 October 1901 and joined the 23rd Punjab Pioneers on 19 October 1901 at Chakrata near Dehra Dun before the Regiment moved to Mian Mir (Lahore Cantonment) prior to service in Waziristan on the Mahsud-Waziri Blockade.  The Regiment returned to Lahore in April 1902.  Bruce was awarded the India Medal with North West Frontier Waziristan 1901-02 clasp.

Bruce had actually left India for leave in the UK from February to October 1902.   On his return, he attended the Delhi Durbar 1902-03.  The main ceremony took place on New Year’s Day with the proclamation of Edward VII as Emperor of India.

In late 1903, the Regiment, now the 23rd Sikh Pioneers, moved to Sikkim and then joined the Tibet Force.  The war services for Bruce Turnbull show him taking part in the action at Niani on 26 June 1904, the operations at and around Gyantse 5 May to 6 July 1904 and the march to Lhasa 14 July to 3 August 1904.  He was awarded the Tibet Medal with clasp and was mentioned in despatches.

The 23rd Sikh Pioneers returned from Tibet to Jhelum in late 1904.  The Regiment sent a detachment to the Kangra Valley in 1905 to deal with the aftermath of an earthquake.

The Regiment moved to Sialkot in April 1905 and Bruce had two spells as Officiating Adjutant later in 1907.  He also spent three weeks as Famine Inspecting Officer in United Provinces Jan-Feb 1908 and was commended for his services by the Lieutenant Governor of the province.

Back in the UK on leave in early 1907, Bruce had an unsuccessful trial for the Scotland hockey squad.

Back in India, the 23rd Sikh Pioneers then formed part of the Bazar Valley Field Force against the Zakka Khel in February 1908.  Bruce Turnbull was awarded the Indian General Service Medal 1908 with clasp for North West Frontier 1908.

Bruce then spent six months (Oct 1908 to Apr 1909) on attachment as Deputy Assistant Adjutant General responsible for Musketry with Indian States Forces.

He remained with the 23rd Sikh Pioneers from 1909 to Jan 1912.

Bruce was promoted Captain on 28 July 1909.  He went on leave in the UK from April to November 1909.  He was again on leave in the UK from August to October 1911 when he married Jessie Ker on 5 Sept 1911 at Morningside Parish Church in Edinburgh.  Their children were Barbara (born 1912), Ronald (born 1914), Hester (born 1917) and Tom (born 1925).

On his return from the UK, Bruce was part of the 23rd Sikh Pioneers contingent at the Delhi Durbar in December 1911 and he was awarded the Delhi Durbar Medal.

Bruce was then appointed Adjutant of a unit of the Indian Volunteers, the 2nd Battalion, the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway Volunteer Rifles from January 1912 until 1914.  The Regiment served as mounted rifles and the 2nd Battalion HQ was at Ajmer.

Bruce returned to the UK on leave in March 1914.  While still on leave at the outbreak of war in August 1914, Bruce volunteered his services to the Army and joined the newly raised 7th Service Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders and went with them to Aldershot.

With the arrival of the Indian Army Corps in France at the end of September 1914, Bruce moved to France and joined the 34th Sikh Pioneers (serving with the Lahore Division) on attachment on 14 November 1914.  He transferred to the 107th Bombay Pioneers (serving with the Meerut Division) on 18 November 1914.  Bruce was wounded while reconnoitring enemy positions near Festubert under cover of darkness on the evening of 23 November 1914 in the aftermath of the German attacks the previous day and the attempts by the Indian Army Corps to regain their lost positions.

Bruce’s injury according to the Army medical records was a gunshot wound to his left jaw.  He was initially transferred to 2nd General Hospital, Le Havre on 25 November 1914.  He was then returned to the UK on the hospital ship HMHS Asturias on 28 November 1914.  Bruce was admitted to the Queen Alexandra Hospital, Millbank on 28 November and remained there until 8 December 1914, when he was discharged to Sussex Lodge Auxiliary Hospital, Regent’s Park.

The Auxiliary Hospitals were usually requisitioned private properties under the control of a Commandant and Matron, with Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) nursing staff.  They were used to free up beds in the mainstream military hospitals and housed both bedridden and convalescent patients.

After his recovery, Bruce briefly rejoined the 34th Sikh Pioneers in Flanders on 7 February 1915 but was then out of the line at Rouen from 8 February 1915.  It is believed that he returned to a British base hospital for further treatment or convalescence.

Bruce next joined the 47th Sikhs, according to their war diary, on attachment on 2 April 1915 and participated with them at the 2nd Battle of Ypres on 26 April 1915 where he was badly wounded in the attacks of the Ferozepore and Jullundur Brigades near St Jean.  The medical records show that he suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder.

The Germans had begun attacks on the Allied lines held by French troops north of Ypres on 20 April.  The Lahore Division was warned to be in readiness to move to Ypres on 23 April.  The 47th Sikhs were in billets near Neuve Chapelle and could hear the heavy gunfire from Ypres.  Leaving their positions at 1.45pm on 24 April, the Regiment marched 24 miles north towards Ypres, resting up at 11.30pm, then setting off again at 7.00am on 25 April to march a further 9 miles to a hutted camp near Ouderdom.

The following is an extract from the published War Record of the 47th Sikhs 1914-1918:

“Early on the 26th [April], orders for an attack to be made that afternoon were issued: the gist of these was as follows:-

The French were to attack northwards with their right on the Ypres-Langemarck Road.  That portion of the [British] 2nd Army facing north was to cooperate in the attack.  The Lahore Division was to attack with its left in touch with the French right, and the 5th Corps was to cooperate on the right of the Lahore Division.  Accordingly the Jullundur Brigade marched at 7.30am by a road skirting the south and east of Ypres to Wieltje.  This road was under shellfire, which caused us some 40 casualties.

About noon the Regiment was halted, and took cover in some trenches about 200 yards south of the St Jean-Wieltje road.  Whilst in this position we were shelled with tear shells.

At about 12.30pm attack orders were issued verbally to COs. [The 47th Sikhs took a frontage of 150 yards on the left, with the 40th Pathans in the centre and the 1st Manchesters on the right.  In support behind were the 59th Scinde Rifles and 4th Suffolks.]”

The War Records then continue as follows:

“The Brigades [Ferozepore and Jullundur] came under shell and rifle fire on crossing the St Jean-Wieltje road, and on reaching the first crest the fire of all kinds, including tear shells, was terrific.  As was inevitable, direction was soon lost, and the two Brigades became much mixed up.  The enemy’s fire was overwhelming, casualties were very heavy and the attack was held up a short distance north of the farm.  No reinforcements reached the front to give fresh impetus.  Small parties from various Regiments pushed on gallantly, working forward to ditches north and east of the farm, and some few reached to within a few yards of the enemy’s trenches.”

At 2.30pm, signs of gas were seen coming from the German lines though the wind blew much of it towards the left and the French positions.  The French withdrew in confusion but the Indian Brigades stood firm and repelled a German counter-attack.

Bruce was lying wounded in the open to the north-east of the farm.  Havildar Mula Singh and Sepoy Rur Singh of the 47th Sikhs bravely went forward under fire to carry him to safety.  Mula Singh then returned to the field to carry another solder into cover.  He was later awarded an Indian Distinguished Service Medal.

At the end of the battle, only one British officer was left unscathed, Lieutenant Drysdale.  Out of 11 British Officers and 433 men at the start of the battle, the 47th Sikhs were reduced to just one British officer and 94 men at its conclusion.

Bruce was sent back to the UK and was admitted once again to the Queen Alexandra Hospital, Millbank on 30 April 1915.  He was discharged on 27 May 1915 to the 24 Park Street Auxiliary Hospital, Mayfair.

Bruce was promoted Major on 1 September 1915.  Having recovered from his wounds at Ypres, on 8 September 1915 he was appointed Brigade Major of 202 Infantry Brigade, a training brigade based in Kent.

Bruce eventually returned to the 23rd Sikh Pioneers in March 1916 as a Double Company Commander.  The Regiment had transferred to Egypt from Somaliland in January 1916, having earlier seen action against Turkish forces in Arabia, to the north of Aden.

In August 1916 he was appointed Brigade Major 20th Indian Infantry Brigade, in Egypt.  Bruce then had six weeks leave back in the UK prior to transfer to the staff of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force as Brigade Major Northern Canal Section from November 1916 to May 1917.  He then spent a short period on attachment as Acting GSO(I) with Egyptian Expeditionary Force Line of Communication defences briefly in May 1917.

Bruce returned to Sialkot, India in June 1917 and was appointed as 2nd in Command and Wing Commander of the 2/32nd Sikh Pioneers, a new battalion raised at Sialkot in December 1916.

Bruce was mentioned in despatches in the London Gazette of 6 July 1917.

Bruce was then promoted Temporary Lieutenant Colonel and appointed commander of the 2/34th Sikh Pioneers 2 July 1917.  The battalion was raised on 7 June 1917 at Sialkot.  The first CO, Lt Col Lye, had died almost immediately on taking up his post.

The 2/34th Sikh Pioneers remained in India and were mobilised in May 1919 for the Third Afghan War.  The battalion served at Jamrud, Landi Kotal and Landi Khana and returned to Sialkot in 1920 prior to disbandment in January 1921.

In addition to the 1914 Star, War and Victory Medals, Bruce was also awarded the Serbian Order of the White Eagle 5th Class with Swords.  It was common for the Allies to award each other medals and chivalric orders for their shared sacrifices in the war.

Bruce had been promoted Brevet Lieutenant Colonel on 3 June 1919 during the Third Afghan War, and he was briefly appointed Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General to the 2nd Indian Division.

Early in 1920, Bruce left the 2/34th Sikh Pioneers on leave prior to returning to the UK where he had won a place at Staff College Camberley.  He passed out from Staff College in 1921.

Bruce then returned to India and rejoined the 23rd Sikh Pioneers on the North West Frontier as Second in Command, engaged in road construction in Waziristan.  He was awarded the Indian General Service Medal with Waziristan 1921-24 clasp for war services.

Bruce was then appointed as Inspector of Physical Training at the Military Training Directorate Army HQ on 28 August 1922.  This would be his final Indian Army appointment.  The post also meant that he was appointed as Honorary Secretary of the Army Sports Control Board (India), which had been formed in 1919.  The Central School of Physical Training for India was established at Ambala, which relocated to Kasauli in the summer months.

Bruce was promoted full Colonel on 3 June 1923 and retired from the Indian Army on 20 June 1926.

In the interim however, Bruce had been elected first President of the Indian Hockey Federation on its inception in 1925.  He also sat on the Rules Board and the Referees and Umpires Committee.  It is understood that Bruce did not play hockey at school and had learned the game at Sandhurst, then during his period of service with the Indian Army.  As Honorary Secretary of the Army Sports Control Board, Bruce was one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the Indian Hockey Federation.

Bruce went on to coach and manage the Indian hockey team to the Olympic Gold Medal in Amsterdam in 1928, where he also acted as umpire and became a member of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Bureau, the forerunner of the FIH Council.  His assistant manager at the Games was a fellow Sikh Pioneer, Major Edward Ricketts.

Back home in Edinburgh, in 1928 Bruce was appointed commander of the 4/5th Battalion (Queen’s Edinburgh Rifles) The Royal Scots, a Territorial Army battalion.  He was then appointed commander of the 155th (East Scottish) Territorial Brigade in 1932.  He finally retired from the Army in 1937 and was awarded the CBE.

Bruce also served as President of the Scottish Hockey Association from 1935 to 1937 and on the FIH Rules Board.  In this role, he attended the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, where he acted as umpire and a member of the jury of appeal.

He was appointed Deputy Lieutenant for the County of the City of Edinburgh in 1935.

Bruce served on the Edinburgh Education Authority from 1928 to 1930 and on Edinburgh Town Council for Morningside Ward from 1933 to 1952.

On the outbreak of war, from 1939 to 1941 Bruce served as Senior Military Liaison Officer, Scottish Regional HQ.  Then from 1941 to 1945 he served as Deputy District Commissioner for Civil Defence, South East Scotland.

Bruce served as Bailie, Edinburgh Town Council from 1944 to 1947, then as Judge of Police and also as Senior Magistrate from 1946 to 1947.  He was also involved with the first Edinburgh Festival and was Chairman of Civic Amenities Committee from July 1950.

Bruce Turnbull died on 21 January 1952 at his home in Edinburgh.