Veteran who escaped Dunkirk by paddling out to sea on a shed door dies aged 101

A Second World Battle hero who survived Dunkirk by paddling out to sea on a shed door has died aged 101.

Les Rutherford was bunkered down below heavy German gunfire throughout the well-known 1940 Operation Dynamo evacuation when he made the daring escape.

He later joined RAF Bomber Command as an aimer – till he was shot down, captured and imprisoned in Poland’s notorious Stalag Luft III POW camp. 

But regardless of struggling the distress of the warfare, the brave ex-soldier would inform how proud he was to ‘combat for the freedoms folks loved right this moment’. 

Tributes to the extraordinary veteran from North Hykeham, Lincolnshire, right this moment hailed him as ‘an exquisite man who can be sorely missed’. 

Heroic Les Rutherford, who escaped Dunkirk by paddling out to sea on a shed door and was later a POW at Stalag Luft III, has died aged 101. Pictured left final month and proper in his 20s

Mr Rutherford’s breathtaking warfare experiences have been revealed final month when his never-seen-before jail diary was made public.   

He signed as much as the Military aged 20 when he and a fellow soldier fled Dunkirk on a blown-up shed door, earlier than being rescued up by a French trawler boat. 

Mr Rutherford then accomplished 24 missions with Bomber Command’s 50 Squadron, the place his job was to direct the pilot when to launch the aircraft’s explosive payloads over German cities.

However throughout one raid on Frankfurt on December 20, 1943, the nostril of his Lancaster bomber was hit by enemy fireplace and despatched the plane plummeting in the direction of the bottom from 20,000ft. 

The engines and the bomb bay caught fireplace and Mr Rutherford scrambled to eject himself to keep away from being engulfed within the flames.

But as he went to evacuate, the second hook of his parachute slipped off simply because the Lancaster exploded and knocked the soldier unconscious.   

Miraculously, he wakened in time to securely deploy his parachute. 

Right here, Mr Rutherford highlights Christmas day on 1944, writing in nice element about how the event was marked throughout his incarceration. He even writes out a listing of meals they ate on the day

One other heart-rending entry, right here Mr Rutherford highlights the psychological torture of being a POW. He writes concerning the melancholy of realizing you owe your life to your captors. The entry was initially written by Winston Churchill throughout his time as a prisoner within the Boer Battle

This touching poem appears to be devoted to the Nice Escape and particulars the problem and hazard of attempting to interrupt out of the notorious compound

He and the wi-fi operator have been the one ones to outlive the grisly explosion, they usually have been each captured by the Nazis who marched them to Stalag Luft III.

Mr Rutherford arrived on the camp simply earlier than the infamous Nice Escape, though he was not a part of it and remained there till January 1945, when he and fellow prisoners have been taken to a camp 30 miles south of Berlin as Russia superior. 

Throughout his captivity, he traded three chocolate bars for a Canadian diary from a Purple Cross parcel and used it to jot down his recollections.

Crammed with humorous sketches and cartoons and particulars concerning the live shows Mr Rutherford performed in along with his guitar, the diary was revealed by the College of Lincoln in November.  

It consists of footage of warfare planes, guards, fellow prisoners and even ladies.  

All the prisoners have been ultimately freed by the Russians, who handed them to the US. It wasn’t till June 1945 that Mr Rutherford was despatched again dwelling.

Mr Rutherford served as a part of Bomber Command which, along with the US, strategically bombed German cities.

Of Bomber Command’s 125,000 air crews, greater than 55,000 have been killed throughout the Second World Battle – the very best casualty fee of Britain’s three armed forces.

This drawing is titled ‘Kriegies on the Free?’. Kriegies is what POW referred to themselves and the sketch of two hounds might counsel that escapees have been being hunted

Mr Rutherford’s drawings have been of a few of the folks he met throughout his incarceration. After being shot down in 1943, he stayed on the notorious camp till January 1945

Nonetheless, the deaths of 300,000 to 600,000 civilians brought on by their bombing stays controversial.

In recent times, Mr Rutherford has visited faculties in North Hykeham, Lincoln to inform the story of the warfare and his experiences.       

He stated: ‘We had quite a lot of criticism after the warfare – most of which got here from individuals who didn’t go to warfare.

‘We did a job and we did it properly. We thought it was important. We fought for the freedoms that individuals get pleasure from right this moment.’

The Worldwide Bomber Command Centre has a bodily constructing and a memorial to those that served within the Second World Battle however a part of its creation included a digital archive, which belongs to the College of Lincoln. 

The college was awarded a grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund to create the archive and has a workforce of curators who’ve developed the content material over the past 4 years. 

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