Colonel Bruce Seton

Brevet Colonel Sir Bruce Gordon Seton (1868 – 1932), C.B., the ninth Baronet of Abercorn was both the son and grandson of soldiers. [1]. He entered the Indian Medical Service as a Surgeon Lieutenant in 1892. [2] He served on the North-West Frontier in the Waziristan campaign of 1894-95 where he was severely wounded. He also received a medal in the Tochi campaign of 1897-98. [3] During his time in India Seton rose to hold the appointment of Deputy Director-General of the Indian Medical Service [4] in a career that spanned over 20 years. [5]. He became a Brevet Colonel on June 13, 1913 [6] and during the War served as the commanding officer in charge of the Kitchener Indian Hospital at Brighton. Colonel Seton eventually retired from the Army in May 1917. [7]

During his tenure as the commanding officer of the Kitchener Indian Hospital Colonel Seton may have been a strict disciplinarian (see the section on discipline and morale at the Kitchener Hospital) but we also see another side of the man and his attitude towards Indians.

Knowing how important a role religion played in the lives of the Indian patients at his hospital, Colonel Seton had a Gurdwara set up for the Sikhs and ensured that they were provided with the Guru Granth Sahibs. [8]. Colonel Seton also requested the Imam of the Woking mosque to visit the Kitchener hospital to discuss setting up a mosque for the Muslim patients. [9]

When the honour of Indian soldiers fighting on the frontlines in France was questioned by the military authorities suspecting that the cases of self-inflicted wounds were more common among Indian soldiers. It was Colonel Seton who on his own initiative undertook a top-secret medical study based on 1,000 wounded Indian soldiers admitted to the Kitchener hospital. Colonel Seton chose wounds for study which were most likely to be self-inflicted: wounds to the hand, of the arm and forearm, and wounds of the leg and foot. Colonel Setons findings indicated that the incidences of such wounds were by mere chance and statistics showed that the occurrences of such wounds among the Indian soldiers were no higher than among soldiers of other British regiments in the war. [10]

Footnotes

1. “Sir Bruce Gordon Seton”, The Glasgow Herald, Mon July 4, 1932, 13

2. The Services”, The British Medical Journal (July 23, 1932) 178

3. Ibid.

4. “Sir Bruce Gordon Seton”, The Glasgow Herald, Mon July 4, 1932, 13

5. The Services”, The British Medical Journal (July 23, 1932) 178

6. Ibid.

7. “Sir Bruce Gordon Seton”, The Glasgow Herald, Mon July 4, 1932, 13

8. David Omissi, “Europe Through Indian Eyes”, English Historical Review (Vol. 122, Numb 496, 2007) 379

9. The Islamic Review & Muslim India, ed. Chwaja Kamal ud Din, Laulvie Sadr un Din (Vol. III, No. 4, April 1915, Woking, England) 166

10. Mark Harrison, Disease, Discipline and Dissent: The Indian Army in France and England, 1914-1915. in: Roger Cooter, Harrison Mark, Sturdy Steve, eds Medicine and Modern Warfare (Rodopi B.V., Amsterdam, 1999) 198