Family find hero’s letters from the front

Northwich Guardian: Malcolm Rutter with documents that reveal his grandfather’s bravery during the First World War Malcolm Rutter with documents that reveal his grandfather’s bravery during the First World War

A REMARKABLE story of bravery and loyalty has emerged from a family whose grandfather was awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War.

Private John Henry Rutter saved his captain’s life twice, once carrying him to safety after he had been shot in the head by snipers and then rescuing him from the battlefield after he was knocked out in a gas attack – despite his own wrist being shattered by shrapnel.

He then returned to rescue another officer and take him to safety before he was also overcome by the fumes.

Private Rutter, from Little Leigh, convalesced in the Royal Infirmary at Shrewsbury and never returned to war after the incident, which happened during a 21-day battle near Ypres in early April 1915.

A total of 420 men were killed in the battle, including all of the eight men in the trenches with Private Rutter.

His story is chronicled in a series of postcards and letters he sent from the front to his wife Frances and eldest son Wesley, who was just three at the time.

His bravery was unknown to later generations of the family until these letters were uncovered.

Grandson Malcolm, who lives in Barnton, said: “I was only 11 when he died but I remember him well enough.

“I never knew about this, he never told me or discussed it and my dad Wesley never told me either.

“It brings tears to your eyes when you get involved with the letters.”

Malcolm thinks that his grandfather passed his documents to his youngest son Victor, who was also a military man, serving in Burma for six years in the Second World War. Victor’s daughter found the collection after he died and pieced the story together.

“We think my granddad was probably the first in the area to get something like that,” Malcolm said.

“One or two people in Barnton will be surprised when this comes out.”

Private Rutter lived at Heath Cottage, in Little Leigh, and worked at Brunner Mond when war started.

He was one of 600 volunteers from the company that joined up to serve their country and he served in The King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.

Brunner Mond promised to give £100 to the first of their employees to come back with a distinguished medal.

This was achieved by Private Rutter when he was awarded his VC and he used the prize to buy a family home in Spencer Street, in Barnton, where he lived until he died, aged 64.

 

 

Letters from the frontline

 

 

THE POIGNANT series of letters and postcards home makes for thought-provoking reading.
Private Rutter’s upbeat tone throughout the horror of the trenches truly does bring tears to your eyes, and the vividness of his first person account takes you to the front line.
You can imagine how cherished each missive would have been to his wife Frances and how she must have pored over every word.
In his letter to tell her about the VC, Private Rutter writes: “My dear wife, have you seen my name in the papers? I expect I have got the VC for bravery.
“I won’t tell you what for for if I did it would break your heart.”
A report in The Chronicle while Private Rutter was in hospital in Shrewsbury describes him as a ‘quiet, unassuming fellow’.
It goes on to state: “The distinguished decoration has not given him even a temporary spell of ‘swelled head’.
“He speaks as one who is just conscious that he has merely done his duty and makes no fuss.”
It describes how he first saved his officer, Captain Woodhead, when he was shot in the head while observing on a railway barricade, carrying him 200 yards while under fire.
The second rescue was also described.
“Suddenly the Germans turned on fluid gas and Captain Woodgate and his party were more or less overcome by fumes,” it said. “‘My officer,’ said Rutter, ‘was rendered unconscious and I, rushing forward, seized his body, which was up to its waist in mud and water, and carried him a distance of 50 yards’.”
He then returned to rescue Lieutenant McCulloch.
His shattered wrist meant that he could not return to the front.
The report states: “He is still a long way off being ready for the firing line, but, like the brave fellow he is, has not altogether given up hope ‘of having,’ as he says, ‘another pop at the Germans’.”

Comments (6)

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9:53pm Wed 2 Apr 14

rutrut says...

Really proud my great grandad, it is an honour to be part of his family.

Anthony and Tina Rutter
Really proud my great grandad, it is an honour to be part of his family. Anthony and Tina Rutter rutrut
  • Score: 0

11:17pm Wed 2 Apr 14

Jeni SD says...

Couldn't find anyone of that name in the lists of VC recipients
Couldn't find anyone of that name in the lists of VC recipients Jeni SD
  • Score: 3

10:20am Thu 10 Apr 14

IDZ6696 says...

Jeni SD wrote:
Couldn't find anyone of that name in the lists of VC recipients
Nor could I Jeni. I have looked at several lists. I have also looked at JH Rutters World War 1 record on "Ancestry" and there is no mention of him winning a VC. How can he have been missed off such comprehensive lists? If he did win such an illustrious medal those records need to be adjusted. But why was it not well celebrated within the family? There are many unanswered questions here.
[quote][p][bold]Jeni SD[/bold] wrote: Couldn't find anyone of that name in the lists of VC recipients[/p][/quote]Nor could I Jeni. I have looked at several lists. I have also looked at JH Rutters World War 1 record on "Ancestry" and there is no mention of him winning a VC. How can he have been missed off such comprehensive lists? If he did win such an illustrious medal those records need to be adjusted. But why was it not well celebrated within the family? There are many unanswered questions here. IDZ6696
  • Score: 2

12:11pm Sun 13 Apr 14

WHS says...

Sadly this simply did not happen how it is described and Mr Rutter did not win the VC. I am researching for a book on the local area in the last six months of 1914 to be called "A Call to Arms" and despite my best efforts I can find no mention of this story in any records. That is not to say Mr. Rutter was not a very brave man or that he was lying, he may have genuinely thought he was going to be awarded a medal for gallantry but many men thought the same and did not receive one.
Sergeant "Todger" Jones Mum came from Barnton, but he was from Runcorn and Sergeant James Clarke was born in Winsford but lived in Rochdale from the age of 19, that is as close as we got to having a VC winner.
WHS.
Sadly this simply did not happen how it is described and Mr Rutter did not win the VC. I am researching for a book on the local area in the last six months of 1914 to be called "A Call to Arms" and despite my best efforts I can find no mention of this story in any records. That is not to say Mr. Rutter was not a very brave man or that he was lying, he may have genuinely thought he was going to be awarded a medal for gallantry but many men thought the same and did not receive one. Sergeant "Todger" Jones Mum came from Barnton, but he was from Runcorn and Sergeant James Clarke was born in Winsford but lived in Rochdale from the age of 19, that is as close as we got to having a VC winner. WHS. WHS
  • Score: 2

12:24am Wed 16 Apr 14

Hampton67 says...

A few of us have been researching the names on the two memorials at Little Leigh church. One lists the 14 men that lost their lives, while the other the roll of honour of those that served their country & survived. There are two Rutters on the tablets, one that lost his life while serving with the Cheshire Regiment & the other was officially recommended for a VC. The recommendation was printed in the Liverpool Echo newspaper, dated Saturday 11 September 1915, while Private Rutter recovered from his wounds in Frodsham. I found the article at the British newpaper archive, search heading 'Private Rutter'.
A few of us have been researching the names on the two memorials at Little Leigh church. One lists the 14 men that lost their lives, while the other the roll of honour of those that served their country & survived. There are two Rutters on the tablets, one that lost his life while serving with the Cheshire Regiment & the other was officially recommended for a VC. The recommendation was printed in the Liverpool Echo newspaper, dated Saturday 11 September 1915, while Private Rutter recovered from his wounds in Frodsham. I found the article at the British newpaper archive, search heading 'Private Rutter'. Hampton67
  • Score: 1

8:23am Wed 16 Apr 14

WHS says...

Many men were recommended for awards, few received them. I have no doubt Mr Ritter was a brave man, they all were, but this story I based purely on his own statements and their is no corroborating evidence that I can find. His regiment confirmed he received NO award whatsoever.
Alan Lowe.
Many men were recommended for awards, few received them. I have no doubt Mr Ritter was a brave man, they all were, but this story I based purely on his own statements and their is no corroborating evidence that I can find. His regiment confirmed he received NO award whatsoever. Alan Lowe. WHS
  • Score: 1

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