Open Friday - Tuesday, 10am - 4pm

Lieutenant Colonel Hugh G. Carruth’s Uniform

Georgia Kerby, Exhibitions Curator


When looking into local World War Two history everyone has a story and most people have some remnants of their family experience, whether clothing, medals, documents, or photographs. That is because the war touched everybody’s lives, as much for those who remained in New Zealand as those who went abroad.


For our newly opened special exhibition, Tora! Tora! New Zealand!, It was difficult to choose items from Whangarei Museum’s Collection for display to highlight the local experience. As an example of a New Zealand Expeditionary Force uniform, we have chosen a jacket, trousers and two hats which belonged to Lieutenant Colonel Hugh G. Carruth and were donated by Mrs. G. Carruth.


His great uncle William was one of the first British settlers in Whangarei. Hugh Carruth was born in 1895 in Whangarei, and attended Whangarei Boys High School, with which he continued a long relationship, by playing in Old Boys Football team and eventually, after the war, became the Chairman of the Whangarei Boys High School Board from 1947 - 1952.


At the age of 19, Hugh served in WWI. This is recorded on the coloured service ribbons on his jacket lapel. In the 1920s and 1930s he joined the family business as a solicitor.


As an experienced military man, Major Carruth was second in command of the motorised squadron of the North Auckland Mounted Rifles at the opening of World War Two. In 1941 he was appointed leader, Lieutenant Colonel, of the Divisional Cavalry- a light armoured cavalry regiment.


With them, he moved to the 2nd NZ Expeditionary Forces camp in Ngaruawahia in Waikato where they trained as scouts, in reconnaissance and intelligence gathering methods as part of the first special division for overseas service. After a brief visit to his home in Maunu, Lt. Col. Carruth sailed to Egypt, where he became Commander of the Composite Training Depot from 1941 - 1942. He returned for service back home in June 1942, greeted by a dance in the Maunu Hall. In 1943 and commanded the Kumeu area of the Home Guard.


Lt. Col. Carruth's formal uniform consists of a peaked dress cap, a lemon squeezer hat, a belted brown twill jacket, trousers and pair of black shoes. The felt lemon squeezer cap has an interesting history and was used in both World Wars, so would have been familiar to Lt. Col. Carruth. His peaked dress cap was introduced in 1939, to distinguish men of the Special Expeditionary Forces from the Territorial Forces who wore a slouch cap. Upon discharge from the Army, Hugh Carruth returned to his solicitors practice and continued serving our region with activities with the Whangarei Boys High School and Whangarei District Progressive Society.


This is one small snippet of the many extraordinary stories from Northland in the 1940s. Visit Kiwi North this summer to hear more personal stories of the war and its impact on Northlanders’ lives at home.