Rutherford, Charles Smith

Captain Charles Smith Rutherford, VC, MC, MM
Captain Charles Smith Rutherford, VC, MC, MM

Charles Smith Rutherford, VC, MC, MM was born in Colborne, Ontario on 9 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 2 March 1916. Having arrived in England he was transferred to the 23rd Reserve Battalion before embarking for France on 7 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 28 April 1918 and reassigned to the 5th CMR on 8 June 1918.

He earned the Military Medal at Passchendaele, Belgium, in 1917, and the Military Cross at Arvillers, France in 1918.

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.

He was demobilized on 20 March 1919.

He returned to farming although from 1934 to 1940, Rutherford was the Sergeant at Arms of the Ontario Legislature when Mitchell Hepburn was Premier. He was the first sergeant to eject a member of the Legislature.

During World War II he served with the Veterans Guard of Canada, reaching the rank of Captain.

Rutherford died in Ottawa, Ontario, on 11 June 1989 – the last winner of the Victoria Cross from World War I to die – and is buried in the Colborne Union Cemetery.

Colborne Union Cemetery, Colborne, Ontario
Colborne Union Cemetery, Colborne, Ontario

See also: RCMI Installs Captain Charles Rutherford’s Pistol

Victoria Cross Citation

“For most conspicuous bravery, initiative and devotion to duty. When in command of an assaulting party Lt. Rutherford found himself a considerable distance ahead of his men, and at the same moment observed a fully armed strong enemy party outside a ‘Pill Box’ ahead of him. He beckoned to them with his revolver to come to him, in return they waves to him to come to them. This he boldly did, and informed them that they were prisoners. This fact an enemy officer disputed and invited Lt. Rutherford to enter the ‘Pill Box,’ an invitation he discreetly declined. By masterly bluff, however, he persuaded the enemy that they were surrounded, and the whole party of 45, including two officers and three machine guns, surrendered to him.

Subsequently he induced the enemy officer to stop the fire of an enemy machine-gun close by, and Lt. Rutherford took advantage of the opportunity to hasten the advance of his men to his support.

Lt. Rutherford then observed that the right assaulting party was held up by heavy machine-gun fire from another ‘Pill Box.’ Indicating an objective to the remainder of his party he attacked the ‘Pill Box’ with a Lewis gun section and captured a further 35 prisoners with machine guns, thus enabling the party to continue their advance.

The bold and gallant action of this officer contributed very materially to the capture of the main objective and was a wonderful inspiration to all ranks in pressing home the attack on a very strong position.”

London Gazette, no.31012, 15 November 1918

Military Cross Citation

“As our right flank was ” in the air ” for over 4,000 yards, this officer was detailed with his platoon and a Tank to clear up a village. This he did most successfully, killing a large number of the enemy and taking several prisoners. The coolness and determination which he displayed in clearing up the village and his marked control over his men at all times cannot be too highly commended.”

London Gazette, no. 31119, 10 January 1919

"In Pace Paratus – In Peace Prepared"