Charles Smith Rutherford VC MC MM

b. 09/02/1892 Colborne, Ontario, Canada. d. 11/06/1989 Ottawa, Canada.

Charles Smith Rutherford (1892-1989) was born born in Colborne, Ontario, Canada on 9th January 1892, one of four sons to Mr and Mrs John T. Rutherford. Rutherford was farming at Colborne when he enlisted in the 83rd Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Overseas Battalion as a Rifleman on 2nd March 1916.

Charles S Rutherford

Having arrived in England he was transferred to the 23rd Reserve Battalion before embarking for France on 7th June 1916 and being posted to the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles as a reinforcement. He would be wounded twice, promoted to Sergeant and awarded the Military Medal before returning to England to train as an officer. He was Commissioned on 28th April 1918 and reassigned to the 5th CMR on 8th June 1918.

By June 1916, Rutherford and his unit were serving in France. After two terms of duty at Ypres his unit marched to the Somme. He was wounded in the Regina Trench but returned from the hospital in England in time to take part in the battle of Vimy Ridge in March 1917. Wounded in June of 1917 near Amiens, Rutherford didn’t return to his unit until August of that year.

At the end of October 1917 then Sgt. Rutherford went into action at Passchendale under the command of Major George Pearkes. Major Pearkes was awarded the VC for his actions and Rutherford was awarded the Military Medal for his part.

After being sent on course to Bexhill-on-the-Sea, Sussex,  Rutherford returned to his unit as a Lieutenant and was placed in charge of No. 9 platoon. In early August Rutherford’s actions once again brought recognition for which he received the Military Cross. In Rutherford’s words, he describes the action which led to his MC:

“On August 9th, 1918 I went into battle and with my Company we captured two towns, the first Arvillers, the German Division Headquarters where I managed to get a paymaster and a lot of German money. The Germans were clearing out as they knew we were coming. The only things that they left behind were a box of pigeons and 300 new machine guns. This was on the Amiens Front. Then we captured a little town called Bangor and that was as far as we were to go. I was given the Military Cross for capturing these two towns.”

It was later that same month that the actions that earned him the VC took place. While on leave in England in November of 1918 Rutherford met up with Colonel Pearkes VC and learned that he was to be presented with the VC by King George.

He earned the Victoria Cross in Monchy-le-Preux, France, 26 August 1918 with the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion whilst leading an assaulting party. Finding himself a considerable distance ahead of his men, he noted an enemy party standing before a pillbox ahead of him. Lieutenant Rutherford beckoned, revolver in hand, for them to come to him, and the enemy in return waved for him to come to them. This he did, and by masterly bluff, he informed them that they were surrounded. Incredible, the entire enemy party of 45, including two officers, surrendered to him. Rutherford then persuaded one of the officers to stop the fire of an enemy machine gun nearby. This allowed his own men to advance quickly to his support. Rutherford then captured another pillbox nearby, and another 35 prisoners, as well as a machine gun.

After the war Rutherford returned home to Colborne where he met and married Helen Haig in 1921. The couple established a dairy farm in Vernonville, a small hamlet close to Colborne. They had four children, Andrew, Isabella, Rosemary and Dora.

In 1934 Rutherford was appointed by the Mitchell Hepburn Government as Sergeant-at-Arms in the Ontario Legislature and in 1939 he was made Postmaster in Colborne. In 1940 after the outbreak of WW2 Rutherford joined the Veteran Home Guard. As well as being posted to Arvida, Quebec and Kingston, Ontario, Rutherford was also sent to the Bahamas from 1942 to 1943. In the Bahamas, part of his duty was to guard the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. He was discharged at the end of World War Two with the rank of Captain.

In 1955 Charlie left his beloved Colborne to go to Keswick on Lake Simcoe. There he and his brother-in-law ran a General and Drygoods store. In 1979 Charlie Rutherford returned to his hometown to retire. He settled into retirement on the same property that he had attended school on as a boy. The Legion Branch named in his honour welcomed him back with a motorcade and celebration dinner. Rutherford died in Ottawa, Ontario, on 11th June 1989 – the last recipient of the Victoria Cross from World War I to die – and was buried in the Colborne Union Cemetery. His medals are not publicly held.