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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.
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2 SFTS Harvard II LAC. John Keith Rutherfurd

Operation: Training

Date: 23rd January 1943 (Saturday)

Unit: No. 2 Service Flying Training School

Type: Harvard II

Serial: NZ928

Code: -

Base: RNZAF Woodbourne

Location: Delta landing ground

Pilot: LAC. John Keith Rutherfurd NZ/4210093 RNZAF Age 22. Killed


During a solo practice flight on approach to land at 09:30 hrs. on the Delta landing ground he executed a steep right-hand turn at low speed; stalled and spun into the ground from 400 feet.

It is thought that he may have become distracted by the large number of aircraft exercising in the same area and time and inadvertently allowed his airspeed to drop.

This aircraft was previously seriously damaged on the 15th June 1942 on a late night check flight. During a landing NZ928, was flown by LAC. William John Polson NZ/42452 overseen by F/O. Keith Stuart Strode-Penny the aircraft stalled resulting in a spin and fell heavily to the ground. Neither of the crew suffered injuries and the Harvard was repaired.

Burial and other details:

LAC. John Keith Rutherfurd. Buried on the 26th January 1943 at Kelvin Grove Cemetery. Grave 74. B. 4. Born on the 16th June 1920 at Palmerston North. Educated at Palmerston North Boys' High School, Victoria University and Wellington and Massey Agricultural College. Served 2 years in the territorial army. Enlisted at Rotorua on the 03rd September 1942 as a pilot under training. With No. 2 Elementary Flying Training School on the 13th October 1942. No. 2 Service Flying Training School 02nd January 1943 90 flying hours logged with 9 solo on the Harvard.

Son of James Willoughby Rutherfurd (died 29th September 1971, age 81) and Leah Margaret Rutherfurd (née McCrea - died 27th July 1966, age 72), of 11 Union Street, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


By the death of Leading Aircraftman John Keith Rutherfurd, only son of Mr. and Mrs. - J.W. Rutherford, of 11 Union Street, Palmerston North, a most promising young life was cut short. The young airman, who was only 22 years of age, met his death as the result of an accident in an operational flight at a South Island aerodrome.

Jack, as he was known to a wide circle of friends was universally esteemed for the sterling qualities of his character and his innate modesty. Born in Palmerston North, he received his early education in the city, being a pupil at the Boys High School from 1933 to1937 where he took an agricultural course. He passed the school certificate and university entrance examination in 1936 and in 1937 specialised in science in Form VI. He was awarded the higher leaving certificate and also an agricultural bursary of the New Zealand Education Department. He entered enthusiastically into the general life of the school and was a prominent member of the first eleven. He also held office as a prefect. Aircraftman Rutherford proceeded to Victoria University College in 1938 where he passed the intermediate examination for the degree of Bachelor of Agriculture. He then continued his studies at Massey Agricultural College where he was awarded the William Reed Scholarship, tied for the Bledisloe Prize and completed the degree at Bachelor of Agriculture in 1942.

He was captain of the Massey College senior hockey team and a member of the teen that won the inter University tournament. He was also a vice-president of the Massey College Students Association.

The grave photograph was taken on 20th August 2022 Courtesy Margaret Riordan

Testifying to the wide esteem in which the young airman and his parents are held, there was a large and representative congregation at St. Andrew's Church where the funeral service was held. Major General G.S. Peren represented the Army and the Mayor (Mr A.E. Mansford) the City Council, while others present were Mr J. Hodgens, M.P., and a large representation of the legal fraternity, the Justice Department and local bodies. Rev. A.W. Baxter officiated at the service and also at the graveside, where the 'Last Post was sounded. F/O. Clarke and Fl/Lt. Parkes attended the cortege to the Kelvin Grove cemetery. The pall-bearers and a guard of honour were provided by the RNZAF.

Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot, thanks to the extensive research by Errol Martyn and his publications: “For Your Tomorrow Vols. 1-3”, Auckland Library Heritage Collection, Weekly News of New Zealand, Air Museum of New Zealand, Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland, Margaret Riordan for his grave photo, other sources as quoted below:

KTY 18-08-2022

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Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives, Michel Beckers, Major Fred Paradie (RCAF) and MWO François Dutil (RCAF) - Paradie Archive (on this site), Jean Schadskaje, Major Jack O'Connor USAF (Retd.), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Archiwum - Polish Air Force Archive (on this site), Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Franek Grabowski, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Stan D. Bishop, John A. Hey MBE, Gerrie Franken and Maco Cillessen - Losses of the US 8th and 9th Air Forces, Vols 1-6, Dr. Theo E.W. Boiton - Nachtjagd Combat Archives, Vols 1-13. Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of CWGC, UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, New Zealand National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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