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The Airmen's Stories - P/O R D Rutter


Robert Durham Rutter was born on 3rd August 1919 at Gosforth, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. He was brought up in Belgium, where his father was based representing British coal exporters. He was educated at the College St. Michel and the Athenaeum at Brussels.

Rutter joined the RAF on a short service commission and began his initial flying course on 26th June 1939 at 9 E&RFTS Ansty. He was posted to 14 FTS Kinloss on 1st September and with the course completed he went to 11 Group Pool St. Athan on 28th February 1940.



He was posted to 10 MU Hullavington. On 27th April he delivered a Gladiator to 24 MU Ternhill. He then went to 6 OTU Sutton Bridge where he converted to Hurricanes.

He was posted to 73 Squadron in France on 11th May and joined it at Rouvres on the 13th. Rutter flew with it until the squadron was withdrawn to Church Fenton on 18th June.

Rutter was ordered to fly to England with a message, hurriedly written in pencil by Air Vice-Marshal DCS Evill, asking for immediate transport to evacuate RAF personnel.

When Rutter landed at Tangmere the station's officers were at breakfast and after telephoning Evill's message to the Air Ministry Rutter tucked into a hearty breakfast. He then luxuriated in the first bath he had had for several weeks. Later that day the remaining survivors of 73 Squadron joined him.

He received a Mention in Despatches.


Above: just before leaving Church Fenton for the south September 1940 - L to R: Sgt. AE Scott, F/Lt. RE Lovett and Rutter.


On 5th September 1940 Rutter was shot down in a surprise attack by Me109s, whilst intercepting a Ju88. He baled out and was admitted to Billericay Hospital with a bullet in the ankle. His Hurricane, P3110, crashed at Seamans lane, West Hanningfield. He was made non-effective sick.

He returned to the squadron in plaster on 19th September and flew no further sorties during the Battle.

Rutter was posted to 17 Squadron at Croydon on 3rd March 1941, staying until 26th June.

He was posted to the Defence Flight at Takoradi but his troopship ‘Anselm ’ was torpedoed and Rutter only saved himself by diving overboard. He was picked up and made it to Takoradi where he served from 22nd July 1941 until 4th November 1942 when he left for the UK, going to 56 OTU Tealing on 13th January 1943 as Chief Flying Instructor.

After three weeks at the Fighter Leaders School at Aston Down, Rutter joined 195 Squadron at Fairlop on 2nd December 1943 as a Flight Commander.

When the squadron was disbanded on 18th February 1944 he went to 183 Squadron at Tangmere.

On the attack on Gestapo headquarters in Amsterdam Rutter led 263 Squadron in at low level, timing the attack for lunchtime so as not to endanger children in the school behind the building. The attack was a complete success; Rutter later learnt that his delayed-action bomb had sailed right in through the Gestapo's front door.

Rutter took command of 263 Squadron, operating Typhons at Harrowbeer, on 9th April (below).



All images courtesy Chris Goss collection.


He led the squadron to France on 6th August 1944 and was awarded the DFC (gazetted 1st September 1944) and the C de G (Fr).

On 27th August 1944 he was part of a Wing operation that were tasked by the Navy to attack enemy ships off Le Havre. The ships were actually part of a RN minesweeping flotilla. Rutter and the Wing leader repeatedly asked for confirmation and were directed to go ahead.

Hussar, HMS Britomart and HMS Salamander were sunk or badly damaged. 86 men were killed and 124 injured, many seriously.

The Typhon Wing was exonerated and three naval officers were court-martialled.

On 3rd January 1945 Rutter was posted to the Directing Staff at the School of Air Support at Old Sarum. He went into RAF Hospital, Wroughton on 5th February 1946 with tuberculosis and remained there until late December.

Rutter was invalided out in 1947 as a Squadron Leader, he then joined the advertising agency J Walter Thompson.

His fluency in French brought him posts in the Paris and Brussels offices and he was given the Whitbread account when the company sought to break into the Belgian beer market. He joined the agency's management committee in 1968.

Rutter died in October 1998.


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