Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

Les Rutherford

Discussion in 'WWII Obituaries' started by GRW, Dec 3, 2019.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Oct 26, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Stirling, Scotland
    "A Second World War hero who survived Dunkirk by paddling out to sea on a shed door has died aged 101.
    Les Rutherford was bunkered down under heavy German gunfire during the famous 1940 Operation Dynamo evacuation when he made the daring escape.
    He later joined RAF Bomber Command as an aimer - until he was shot down, captured and imprisoned in Poland's infamous Stalag Luft III POW camp.
    Yet despite suffering the misery of the war, the courageous ex-soldier would tell how proud he was to 'fight for the freedoms people enjoyed today'.
    Tributes to the extraordinary veteran from North Hykeham, Lincolnshire, today hailed him as 'a wonderful man who will be sorely missed'.
    Mr Rutherford's breathtaking war experiences were revealed last month when his never-seen-before prison diary was made public.
    He signed up to the Army aged 20 when he and a fellow soldier fled Dunkirk on a blown-up shed door, before being rescued up by a French trawler boat.
    Mr Rutherford then completed 24 missions with Bomber Command's 50 Squadron, where his job was to direct the pilot when to release the plane's explosive payloads over German cities.
    But during one raid on Frankfurt on December 20, 1943, the nose of his Lancaster bomber was hit by enemy fire and sent the aircraft plummeting towards the ground from 20,000ft.
    The engines and the bomb bay caught fire and Mr Rutherford scrambled to eject himself to avoid being engulfed in the flames.
    Yet as he went to evacuate, the second hook of his parachute slipped off just as the Lancaster exploded and knocked the soldier unconscious.
    Miraculously, he woke up in time to safely deploy his parachute.
    He and the wireless operator were the only ones to survive the grisly explosion, and they were both captured by the Nazis who marched them to Stalag Luft III.
    Mr Rutherford arrived at the camp just before the notorious Great Escape, although he was not part of it and remained there until January 1945, when he and fellow prisoners were taken to a camp 30 miles south of Berlin as Russia advanced.
    During his captivity, he traded three chocolate bars for a Canadian diary from a Red Cross parcel and used it to jot down his memories.
    Filled with humorous sketches and cartoons and details about the concerts Mr Rutherford played in with his guitar, the diary was revealed by the University of Lincoln in November.
    It includes pictures of war planes, guards, fellow prisoners and even women.
    All of the prisoners were eventually freed by the Russians, who handed them to the US. It wasn't until June 1945 that Mr Rutherford was sent back home."

Share This Page