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Remembered Today:

Cpt. Rutter and 2nd Lt. Jackson: One Must Presume (R.A.F.)


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NOTICE of 12 September 2016:


Although the title of the post reads Rutter & Jackson, it is now apparent that they are not the one or two men that are in the graves at Tyne Cot Cemetery. The records were altered to allow that to appear to be the case but they were clearly not Sub-Lieutenants and thus not in the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). The background information remains valid but you will need to read on to see the development of this case.




If 2nd Lt. John Bell Jackson went down in the same plane as Cpt. Donald Campbell Rutter and they were found in the same German Cemetery, would not one think that they were buried together? Sheet 20.N.30.d.0.8 (Merchem Ford Military Cemetery -probably Merkem). Unknown area for me but on this map of Yser River Region.

They were in a Sopwith Strutter, Number A8221 in a ground attack and hit by friendly fire from the barrage.

It appears that D'Arcy and Pickering were flying with them in A8248 but were able to make it back home after being hit.



It would appear that it would necessary to show that Jackson was buried with Rutter in the original cemetery. I will leave that to anyone who wants to hunt down records for Merchem (Merkem) Ford Military Cemetery.



Edited by laughton
Added important notice to top of post.
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Trevor Henshaw is looking into this one with his pal in Flanders who knows the Military Cemeteries. To start with they believe where is says FORD it was meant to say FORT. There is a Chateau at Merckem. The map reference is just a few hundred yards east of Merckem and the Chateau.



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  • 4 months later...

I had not heard from anyone on this case, so I was checking on what else might apply. I note on the ICRC cards that the HQ RFC reported that both men were killed. I also checked Trevor's book at it appears that the may have been hit by their own barrage during a ground attack.


I will check with Trevor to see if there was anything more from Belgium on the cemetery records.


What I was really looking for was to see in anything referred to a FLIGHT SUB-LIEUTENANT as that is what it says on the COG-BR so I assume that was marked on the grave or found in the cemetery records. Although many of the records refer to him as a Lieutenant (i.e. as in the Kipling case) he was a 2nd Lieutenant according to the records. Maybe he came from the RNAS prior to the RFC? Says he came from the Royal Scots.


Then another mystery, as his RAF VAULT card says he is buried in Tyne Cot British Cemetery but a check of the CWGC shows no record of him at that location. They have him clearly on the Arras Flying Services Memorial. Is it possible that someone may have looked for Jackson, saw he was reported buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery and so excluded him as the unknown with Captain Rutter?





Edited by laughton
added card for Rutter missing from earlier post
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There are some irregularities with this case as Merkem is quite a bit north of Ypres.
The ICRC cards say "missing at messines ridge"
The RFC has : [A8221 Sopwith 2str] Missing after firing at troops SE Ypres. Capt DC Rutter missing/Lt JB Jackson missing
The Burial Return has a question mark after the name and NO means of identification mentioned: cross, burial list .....

Why was Jackson removed: http://archive.cloud.cwgc.org/archive/doc/doc1834148.JPG
The ranks don't match.
43th squadron operated in France (Lens - La Bassée) during that time, there's only one combat report for the Messines area in June 1917.
And from this topic :


I've added a bit to the old entry in The Sky Their Battlefield - he was in Sopwith Strutter A8221 on ground attack work at dawn during the opening of the Messines battle (they left at 4-10am). He was with 2Lt JB Jackson, who was also killed.

I've learnt that they were seen falling before crashing heavily, after very likely having been hit by their own barrage fire, between Ploegsteert and Messines. May they both rest in peace.

Hope this helps.



What would they have been doing that far north???

Could this be a mis-identification?

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Good catch Luc! I had not checked what was on the GRRF - not the first time I have made that mistake. I think you are correct and it is probably not Captain Rutter that is there either, as all the Flight Sub-Lieutenants missing are Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). Only TAYLOR is listed as Air Force after the amalgamation in 1918. So of the 215 Flight Sub-Lieutenants lost, 32 are on the Arras Flying Services Memorial - good, not a big list to check against Trevor's book.


The first task is to look at cases where two (2) are missing on the same day.



Edited by laughton
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That eliminated some in France and left two in Belgium, but since they went down on separate days and one was KIA and the other dies as a POW, it blows a hole in the supposition that they died on the same day, It is perhaps more likely it is that they died as POWS, as was the case with Sub-Lieutenant Weir. Guess that means I have to check them all!



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Two (2) POWs but ICRC has no details of location that I could see - Luc often finds more!

 Also the ones at Houthulst Forest NW of Roulers might be considered.




Going back also to the issue of the GRRF raised by Trevor - most certainly they stroked out Jackson but what is the meaning of the entry for the 43rd Sqdn. To include that they also had to drop any reference to the Flight Sub-Lieutenants to take them out of the RNAS and put them in the RFC.




Is there any meaning to the entry that now put them in the RAF on the Concentration Report, which would suggest that this was after the amalgamation. Did this information come from the Merckem Fort Military Cemetery Records or was in a creation of the Exhumation Company that completed the task?


If the mention of the 43rd Squadron is accurate then there are 20 men to evaluate from the Arras Flying Services Memorial. Of those six (6) are RAF and not RFC. None of those have a link to the RFC.


To give you an idea of the separation distance that suggests it is not Captain Rutter, here is Mesines on the south and Houthulst on north with Ypres (the red mass) about mid-way.



Edited by laughton
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  • 3 weeks later...
On 8/25/2016 at 10:41, laughton said:

If the mention of the 43rd Squadron is accurate then there are 20 men to evaluate from the Arras Flying Services Memorial. Of those six (6) are RAF and not RFC. None of those have a link to the RFC.


It pays to take some time away from a confusing case so that you can re-examine it with a clear mind. I asked myself the question about the mention of the 43rd Squadron and why it was added to the GRRF document? The answer now is obvious, that was the unit of both Captain Donald Campbell Rutter and Lieutenant John Bell Jackson, as noted on the linked CWGC pages. There it also says that Rutter came from the Royal Sussex Regiment and Jackson from the Royal Scots.


The IWGC investigation at that time resulted in the GRRF being altered to show that the remains found in Tyne Cot Cemetery in Plot 58 Row A Grave 15 were those of Captain Rutter.


That decision to place Captain Rutter in Tyne Cot Cemetery was most likely incorrect and so this may not be a case where we can solve who is in that grave but we can show that it  is NOT Captain Rutter. Of course, the best solution would be if we can find out who are the two (2) inhabitants of those graves?


To take a step back, the COG-BR of 4 January 1921 clearly says that the remains in that grave were removed from the Merchem Ford. (Fort) Military Cemetery and they were those of a Flight Sub-Lieutenant. It is clear that the listing also shows Rutter? R.A.F. so the addition of the ? must have raised some concern with someone, or were they not clear that the markings actually said Rutter?


Click here to see the COG-BR Document 1836300


You will note that the entry from the second aviator in Plot 58 Row A Grave 14 also says the remains were those of a U--B--Offr. Flight Sub-Lieut. R.A.F., so in both cases they were clear that the men were Flight Sub-Lieutenants. That means that they served in the Royal Naval Air Service and not in the Royal Flying Corps. That  in itself eliminates both Rutter and Jackson as candidates for the occupants of these two graves. As Luc has already pointed out, the distance away from the flight area and crash is not a match for where the remains are reported to have been found. The COG-BR shows that the exhumations were at 20.N.30.d.00.80. There is no evidence that the men were ever taken as POWs and moved that far north, for as we know now they were in operation in the area of Lens (France) and as Trevor has noted  "I've learnt that they were seen falling before crashing heavily, after very likely having been hit by their own barrage fire, between Ploegsteert and Messines."  That places them in a 2,500 yard stretch of Belgium running south to north to the border north of Armentieres. That is approximately 8.5 miles due south of Ypres and 18 miles southwest of Houthulst where the remains were recovered.


The GRRF was prepared or stamped on 21 September 1922 but we do not know exactly when the changes were made. There is some evidence from the black ink markings and the notation in the lower right corner that that appears to say "AE 16-10-22". It is at that time in October 1922 then that the notation is made that the remains in 58.A.14 were to stay as a UBO Flight Sub-Lieutenant of the RAF but the other remains were now to be those of  Capt. D. C. Rutter of 43 Sqd.RFC. I would agree that the RAF may have appeared as the entries were made post-amalgamation of the RFC and RNAS but then why would they keep Rutter as RFC and not also list him as RAF? It appears the same person also signed the stamp in the upper right corner as the "Supervisor Registration Office 3 May 1922".


Click here to see the GRRF Document 1834148


I have extracted from the previously posted spreadsheet the details on the five (5) candidates that are most likely those that are in the two graves at Tyne Cot Cemetery, extracted from the cemetery at Merckem Fort. I had not previously located the spot for Eyre, now located approximately 8 miles northwest of Houthulst, so the furthest north of all the candidates. All 5 of these candidates were Flight Sub-Lieutenants. We have notified the CWGC that De Wilde was with the 10th Naval Squadron not the 3rd Naval Squadron.




Sorry, I think that last one for Eyre should be NE of Houthulst. It was Diksmuide that was to the NW.


You will note that two (2) of these men have cards with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC):

I had not noticed before that HOUGH was also a Canadian, as was GRACE. Is that coincidence?



Edited by laughton
added CWGC links to HOUGH and GRACE as Canadians.
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Information on the Canadian Aviators involved in this investigation can be found at this link:




A corresponding link at the CEFSG points back here for the initiation of the investigation. If this had been a topic about Canadians at the onset, it would have been posted on the CEFSG. At that time in April 2016 it was about two British Aviators, a topic which is not discussed on the Canadian site.


We have stated at that site:


The CWGC would have us believe that Captain Rutter, lost near Messines at the bottom of the map would have ended up in the Merkem-Houthulst area well to the north. Thanks to CEFSG member Luc Degrande for pointing out that issue when we were looking to see if Jackson was with Rutter.

To be clear, I am NOT SAYING that it is Grace and Hough that are in the two graves in the Tyne Cot Cemetery, rather that they are 2 of the 5 likely candidates. It is likely that it was NOT Eyre as he was too far to the north to be a likely candidate, well off the maps shown. Hodges and Dewilde were in the area of Merckem (Merkem) and the Houthulst Forest and are candidates as well. The only way we will know for sure is to find the locations of the other missing men. Eyre should be easy to spot if we ever find a concentration from that area.

Luc is scouring the cemetery records in Belgium looking for RFC/RNAS aviators so I suspect this is not the end of this story.

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I have probably spent more time than I should over the last couple of days looking at this thread. I have not got any answers, but a few thoughts:


(i) If they were buried at Merckem, I would have expected them to have come down in the immediate vicinity and died, either instantaneously, or very shortly afterwards, before there was a chance of getting them back to a rear area medical facility.


(ii) I still cannot reconcile the map reference and description with a German military cemetery at that location. Unfortunately I can't access any detailed maps later than about September 1917, but even the German map that I have shows nothing closer than isolated graves at Wasp Farm. The three nearest mapped cemeteries are at Merckem Chateau, across the road from the mill and the one at Kippe. "Merckem Ford." eludes me. The full stop after Ford could imply an abbreviation, but for what? A small point possibly, but the BR actually references the wrong map sheet. It should be 20SW, not 20SE.


(iii) I have trawled the Burial Returns for Tyne Cot, Harlebeke, Bedford House, Perth (China Wall) and Strand Cemeteries and this entry, as far as I can see, is the only one for Sheet 20, Square N. Are there any other concentration cemeteries that are likely to have covered this particular area, or is it, jn effect, outside of the British zone?


(iv) There is a possibility that Eyre was recovered from Praat Bosch German Military Cemetery (20.C.11.d.9.4) and now lies in Harlebeke, Plot 11, Row A, Grave 17. The Burial Report can be found on page 72/202 in your COG-BR Binder.


(v) I really do despair at the British grasp of map reading and referencing. I was just l flicking through the Harlebeke BR's and found Dadizeele Communal Cemetery referenced as Sheet 20, instead of Sheet 28. (COG-BR page 87/202).



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I actually responded to your post yesterday and at times the response appears then it disappears? I have no idea why. I have given others the link to the pages in the COG-BR binders that you had referenced:





Your comment about the FORD abbreviation caught my eye! Either Luc or Trevor had already suggested that it was not "Ford." but "Fort." and matching that to your comment suggests that what they were referencing was "Fortress". I believe I have read that the Merckem Chateau was also referred to as the "Merckem Fortress" so I am now looking for that reference.


18 hours ago, Phil Evans said:

The three nearest mapped cemeteries are at Merckem Chateau, across the road from the mill and the one at Kippe. "Merckem Ford." eludes me. The full stop after Ford could imply an abbreviation, but for what? A small point possibly, but the BR actually references the wrong map sheet. It should be 20SW, not 20SE.


If you Google that term, one of the descriptions that appears is for the Houthulst Fortress that was constructed:




I have also noticed a number of references to the "Merckem Dugouts". If you have the book "Beneath Flanders Fields - The Tunnellers War 1914-18" you can see a picture of those on page 86.  There is an interesting map in a downloadable text "Military Operations in France and Belgium 1914" that shows the strategic location of the forest just behind the German lines:



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