Alfred James Carruthers was born 15 June 1878, the fourth of six children - five sons and one daughter - of John Carruthers, a shoemaker, and his wife Margaret (née Bowman), of Chester-le-Street. The family lived first at 59 Front Street and later moved to Cookson Terrace in the town. At the time of the 1891 census, aged 13, Alfred was already a pupil teacher, and he gained his professional teaching qualification at Bede College, attending between 1897 and 1899. He went on to teach in an elementary school in Middlesbrough, boarding first at 87 Grange Road, two doors down from the local workhouse cottage homes for children, then after his marriage living at 26 Wellesley Road. In September 1910 he married Jane Ellen Hobson of Middlesbrough, and they had three children, Margaret, John Hobson and Robert Alfred.
It was while he was working as an elementary school teacher in Middlesbrough that he enlisted in the 23rd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. During the war he served in the 26th then 23rd Royal Fusiliers with distinction. He won the Military Medal for bravery under heavy fire in directing stretcher bearers to positions of wounded men, the award being gazetted in December 1917.
Carruthers died on 8 October 1918, aged 41, as a result of wounds sustained during the Battle of Cambrai, and is buried in Delsaux Farm Cemetery at Beugny to the south-west of Cambrai on the road to Bapaume. His sacrifice is also commemorated on the Bede College 1914-1918 Cross, but not for some reason on the college’s Plaque and Roll of Honour. He is also remembered on the 1914-1918 plaque inside St Mary & St Cuthbert parish church, Chester-le-Street, and on the war memorial within the church grounds; and on the Middlesbrough war memorial.