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Captain John Rutherford

Captain John Rutherford

 

Unit : Battalion HQ, 3rd Parachute Battalion

Army No. : 122030

Awards : Military Cross

 

John "Sandy" Rutherford was the Medical Officer of the 3rd Parachute Battalion, having served with them throughout the North African and Italian campaigns. For his actions in Sicily he was awarded the Military Cross:

 

On July 13th 1943 this officer was jump-master in an aircraft of the 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment when the Battalion was dropped in Sicily on operation Fustian. After flying through heavy anti-aircraft fire his aircraft dropped its stick close to the outer defences of Catania Aerodrome, and about 5000 yards from the Battalion objective. Without any hesitation he rallied his stick and led them without any delay to the objective. Throughout the battle which ensued on July 14th in the vicinity of Primosole Bridge he displayed great courage in tending casualties. Twice when under heavy artillery fire he superintended the moving of the Regimental Aid Post and finally when a withdrawal became necessary he did not withdraw himself until all the wounded whom it was not possible to move had been placed in a safe place. His behaviour throughout was an inspiration to all.

 

At Arnhem, it is believed that Captain Rutherford was captured whilst attempting to obtain medical supplies from the St. Elizabeth Hospital.

 

The following is Captain Rutherford's obituary as printed in the Daily Telegraph.

 

John "Sandy" Rutherford, who has died aged 83, was awarded an immediate MC in 1943 for his actions following a night parachute assault in Sicily.

 

On the night of July 13 1943, Rutherford was jump-master in an aircraft of the 3rd Battalion, Parachute Regiment (to which he had been attached from the RAMC) when the battalion was dropped into Sicily.

 

After flying through anti-aircraft fire, his group was dropped close to the outer defences of Catania aerodrome, and about 5,000 yards from the battalion objective.

 

Rutherford rallied his stick and led them without delay to their target. Throughout the battle which ensued on July 14, in the vicinity of the Primosole Bridge, he displayed great courage in tending casualties.

 

Twice when under heavy artillery fire, Rutherford superintended the moving of the regimental aid post. Finally, when a withdrawal became necessary, he did not remove himself until all the wounded whom it was not possible to move had been placed in safety.

 

"His behaviour throughout", his citation recorded, "was an inspiration to all."

 

John Rutherford was born in Dumfries on June 1 1915 and educated at Melville College and Edinburgh University, where he read Medicine and Surgery.

 

After the outbreak of war he joined the RAMC, and in 1942 volunteered for the Parachute Regiment, becoming the founder Medical Officer of the 3rd Battalion.

 

Subsequently, Rutherford parachuted with the battalion into Bne, where they fought their way as infantry to Tunis in a campaign remembered for its tough fighting, rough terrain and bitterly cold rain. Rutherford was always to the front of the battle, tending wounds and sustaining morale.

 

After Africa he parachuted into Sicily, where the battalion fought another hard campaign, at the end of which the Allies had lost 31,000 men, the Germans 37,000 and the Italians 130,000 (mostly prisoners).

 

The Paras then landed at Taranto and fought their way up the Aegean coast until they were withdrawn and posted to England. Three months later they were dropped at Arnhem in an attempt to outflank the German defences.

 

Unfortunately, unknown to the Allies, the Germans had two Panzer and one Infantry divisions in the area, as well as four infantry battle groups. Although the Airborne Division, which had hoped to seize and hold the Arnhem Bridge, fought with remarkable courage and tenacity, it was outgunned and outnumbered; only 2,000 of the original 10,000 soldiers managed to survive and get back across the Rhine.

 

Rutherford could probably have escaped, but preferred to stay to tend the British dying and wounded. Eventually he was taken prisoner. After liberation in 1945, and before being repatriated, he held medical surgeries in the local German villages.

 

Back home, Rutherford became a GP, first in Wales and then in Northamptonshire.

 

In his youth he was a fine athlete and represented his university at rugby. Later, he enjoyed golf. He had a tremendous zest for life and was game for anything.

 

Sandy Rutherford married in 1947, Grace Elizabeth Monks, who died in 1991. He is survived by two daughters.

 

Thanks to Jane Foreman, Captain Rutherford's daughter, for this information.

 

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