August 26, 1918
Charles Smith Rutherford
When Lieutenant Charles Rutherford, only 26, took part in the Fourth Battle of the Scarpe on Aug. 26, 1918, he had already earned the Military Medal at Passchendaele in 1917 and the Military Cross earlier in the month in the Battle of Amiens. He was about to add the Victoria Cross to his honours.
In the vanguard in the advance on Monchy-le-Preux, France, Rutherford was leading an assault party of 5th Battalion, Canadian Mounted Rifles, when he became separated from his men. He came across a pillbox harbouring two enemy officers backed by 43 men and three machine guns. He gestured them to come out with his revolver. When they declined his invitation, he accepted theirs to go closer, his boldness adding credence to a convincing bluff. He persuaded the officers they were surrounded, hoodwinking them into surrendering. He also inveigled one of the enemy officers to stop a nearby machine gun playing havoc with his men, who were then able to come more quickly to his aid.
When further advance of the assault was held up by machine-gun fire from yet another pillbox, Rutherford led a Lewis gun section in and captured 35 more prisoners, and their guns.
The Victoria Cross was awarded “for most conspicuous bravery, initiative and devotion to duty,” reads the citation. “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.”
Rutherford began his military career among the ranks, but ended it as a captain. After the war, he served as sergeant-at-arms of the Ontario Legislature and joined the Veterans Guard of Canada during the Second World War.
Rutherford died in 1989, aged 97, believe to be the last of the First World War Victoria Cross recipients in Canada. He is buried in his hometown of Colborne, Ont.