Rutherford, Robert Henry (No. 133718)

Rutherford, Robert Henry (Bobby)

Flying Officer (Navigator)

No. 133718, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve

Killed in an aircraft accident on Thursday 22 July 1943 (aged 20)


Bangor Cemetery, Co. Down (Section 2. H. Grave 166)


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Bangor and District War Memorial

First Bangor Presbyterian Church

Bangor Grammar School


Robert Henry (Bobby) Rutherford was born on 20 August 1922 in Dublin and he was the younger son of Samuel William and Pauline Anne Rutherford (nee Bryant) who were married on 19 May 1910 in Ormond Street Presbyterian Church (St Michan’s), Dublin.  Samuel Rutherford (aged 30), who was born in County Cork, was a police officer in the Exchange Court, and he was a son of Robert Rutheerford, a land steward.  Pauline Anne Bryant (aged 24), who was born in County Longford, was from 2 Upper Pembrook Street, Dublin, and she was a daughter of Charles Bryant, a court crier.

Samuel and Pauline Rutherford (nee Bryant) had at least three children:

Samuel William (born 17 February 1913 in the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin)

Pauline Matilda (born 3 October 1918 at 37 Lower Leeson Street, Dublin)

Robert Henry (Bobby, born 20 August 1922 in Dublin)

Later the Rutherford family lived at 25 High Street, Bangor.

Bobby Rutherford was 13 when his father died in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast on 14 September 1935 (aged 55).

Bobby Rutherford was educated at Bangor Central Public Elementary School, then Bangor Grammar School from 1935 until 1938 and Ardmore College, Belfast.  After leaving school he worked in the costing office of Messrs Short and Harland in Belfast before joining the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 1941.  His brother, Samuel William Rutherford, became a teacher at Bangor Central School, and he and Eleanor Bennett were married on 2 May 1939.

Samuel and Eleanor Rutherford (nee Bennett) had at least two children – Lorna and Wendy.

Bobby’s sister Pauline worked in Bangor Library before moving to Holywood after her marriage to Henry Ballagh on 20 August 1942.

Bobby Rutherford was described as a ‘gifted amateur actor’ and he played principal roles with Bangor Drama Club.  He had a good singing voice and was a member of First Bangor Presbyterian Church choir.  He was also a fine athlete and won both the 100-yards and 200-yards Northern Ireland Boys’ Championships.  He played rugby for Bangor Grammar School.

Bobby Rutherford went to Canada for training under the Empire Training Scheme and extracts from a letter that he wrote to friends at home were published in the 9 May 1942 edition of the County Down Spectator.  He described the camp as ‘super, the most up-to-date in Canada’.  He said, ‘The ‘food is marvellous (ham and eggs each morning for breakfast), as are the beds and bathrooms where you may have a shower at any time of the day’.  He described the sea crossing to the United States of America when at times the seas were very rough and how he had volunteered for duty on the anti-submarine look-out post – a swivel-chair on top of the bridge deck – and how he was equipped with special oilskins and powerful binoculars.  Then he travelled by train to Canada and he told of his experiences on route in New York and in Bangor, Maine, USA.  He was impressed by all the shops ‘brim-full of chocolate, cigarettes, fruit (bananas too) and every conceivable product you could think of’.

Bobby Rutherford qualified for his commission as Pilot Officer in December 1942 and was promoted to the rank of Flying Officer in June 1943.  One month later, when he was serving with 1657 Heavy Conversion Unit, he was killed, and his death was announced in a Died on Active Service notice in the 31 July 1943 edition of the County Down Spectator.   On 22 July 1943 he was one of a crew of seven aboard a Short Stirling aircraft (W7586) that took off from RAF Stradishall in Suffolk to practise circuits and landings.  The starboard outer engine was feathered, and they were making a three-engine approach.  When the aircraft overshot, the pilot tried to go round again but the aircraft stalled and crashed at 5.46 pm.  All the crew on board were killed.  In addition to Flying Officer Robert Henry (Bobby) Rutherford (aged 20) the other six crew members who died were:

  • Pilot Officer Leonard Gerrard Sellars (aged 31), Royal Australian Air Force
  • Sergeant John Archibald Campbell (aged 20)
  • Flight Sergeant Raymond Henry Murdock (aged 31), Royal Canadian Air Force
  • Sergeant Richard George Kings (aged 27) from Ettington, Warwickshire
  • Sergeant George Frank Albert Wix (aged 20) from Leytonstone, London
  • Flight Sergeant Ernest Henry Benjamin Saker (aged 20), Royal Australian Air Force

On its way from Belfast to Bangor on 27 July 1943 the funeral cortege stopped at Holywood for a few minutes where the Rev W.G. Wimperis conducted a short family service.  The interment in Bangor Cemetery was preceded by a service in First Bangor Presbyterian Church.  There is an inscription on his CWGC headstone:



Flying Officer Robert Henry Rutherford (No. 133718) is commemorated on Bangor and District War Memorial; in First Bangor Presbyterian Church and in Bangor Grammar School.

His mother, Pauline Anne Rutherford, died on 19 December 1975 (aged 90).