Frederick Rutland

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Squadron Leader Frederick Joseph Rutland DSC and Bar, AM, (1886 – 1949) was a decorated British pilot in World War I who later worked for the Japanese. He was a pioneer of naval aviation. For his exploits in 1916, he earned the nickname "Rutland of Jutland".

"Rutland of Jutland"[edit]

Main article: Battle of Jutland

He joined the Royal Navy as a Boy seaman in 1901. He was graded as Flight Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) in December 1914,[1] awarded his aviator's certificate by the Royal Aero Club on 26 January 1915 after training at Eastchurch[2] and promoted to Lieutenant on 7 January 1916.[3]

Remnants of Rutland's Short Type 184 at the Fleet Air Arm Museum. While it survived the First World War intact, it was damaged by bombing during the Second World War.

At Jutland he served as a pilot on the seaplane tender HMS Engadine. On 30 May 1916, Engadine carried two Short Type 184 and two Sopwith Baby floatplanes and was attached to the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron. Engadine accompanied the cruisers when the Battlecruiser Fleet sortied from Rosyth that evening to intercept the German High Seas Fleet. Beatty ordered Engadine to make a search to the north-northeast. At 15:07 Lieutenant Rutland took off in his Type 184 and his observer, Assistant Paymaster G. S. Trewin, signalled Engadine that they had spotted three German cruisers and five destroyers at 15:30.[4] This was the first time that a heavier-than-air aircraft had carried out a reconnaissance of an enemy fleet in action. After a few other spot reports were transmitted, the aircraft's fuel line ruptured around 15:36 and Rutland was forced to put his aircraft down. He was able to repair it and signalled that he was ready to take off again, but he was ordered to taxi to the carrier on the surface. The aircraft reached the ship at 15:47 and it was hoisted aboard by 16:04. Engadine attempted to relay the spot reports to Beatty's flagship and the flagship of the 5th Battle Squadron, but was unsuccessful.[5] Rutland was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross "for his gallantry and persistence in flying within close distance of the enemy light cruisers".[6] He received a second award of the DSC in 1917 for "services on patrol duties and submarine searching in home waters".[7]

Rutland's Sopwith Pup takes off from a platform on the forward gun turret of HMS Yarmouth, June 1917

During the Battle of Jutland, the armoured cruiser HMS Warrior had been crippled by numerous hits by German battleships. At 19:45 Engadine attempted to take her in tow, but the jammed rudder prevented that until it was trained amidships. Early the following morning Warrior‍ '​s progressive flooding had worsened and she was sinking. The captain ordered his ship abandoned after Engadine came alongside to take the crew off at 08:00. About 675 officers and men successfully made it to the much smaller Engadine. Among these were about 30 seriously wounded men who were transferred across in their stretchers; one man fell from his stretcher between the ships, but, against orders, Rutland dived overboard with a bowline to rescue him. For his bravery he was awarded the First Class Albert Medal for Lifesaving in gold.[8]

Rutland's Short 184, aircraft number 8359, was presented to the Imperial War Museum in 1917, where it was damaged in a German air raid in 1940. The unrestored forward section of the fuselage is now an exhibit in the Fleet Air Arm Museum.[9]

On 28 June 1917, Flight Commander Rutland took off in a Sopwith Pup from a flying-off platform mounted on the roof of one of the gun turrets of the light cruiser HMS Yarmouth, the first such successful launch of an aircraft in history.[10]

He transferred to the Royal Air Force when it was formed in April 1918. He was appointed to command the RAF unit in HMS Eagle in September 1921. He resigned his commission in 1923.[11]


Material released by The National Archives on 10 November 2000,[12] revealed that Rutland had come to the notice of MI5 in 1922 when he decided to resign from the RAF. The agency received what it called "reliable information" from a "very delicate source" that the Japanese had secret talks with Rutland. MI5 noted that Rutland possessed "unique knowledge of aircraft carriers and deck landings".

Rutland left the RAF and started a business in Los Angeles and another in Honolulu.[13] The intercepts of Japanese communications later showed that Tokyo had paid Rutland to set up a "small agency in Hawaii". He had subsequently been providing technical details which helped the Japanese design aircraft carriers,[14] in the years before the attack on Pearl Harbor.[15] This was discovered when Japan's cyphers were broken.[16]

MI6 discovered that Rutland had come to the attention of the US authorities. He returned to Britain on 5 October 1941[17] and on 16 December 1941 he was interned[18] under Defence Regulation 18B "by reason of alleged hostile associations".[19]

Rutland committed suicide in 1949.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ London Gazette Issue 29102 published on the 16 March 1915. Page 10
  2. ^ Aviator's CertificatesFlight, 5 February 1915, p. 93
  3. ^ London Gazette Issue 29434 published on the 11 January 1916. Page 5
  4. ^ "Aircraft In The Naval Battle"Flight 13 July 1916
  5. ^ Layman 1990, pp. 96–98
  6. ^ London Gazette Issue 29751 published on the 15 September 1916. Page 4
  7. ^ London Gazette Issue 30316 published on the 28 September 1917. Page 3
  8. ^ London Gazette; Issue 29703 published on the 11 August 1916, Page 10; "His bravery is reported to have been magnificent"
  9. ^ "Short 184 (8359)". Fleet Air Arm Museum. Retrieved 28 May 2012. 
  10. ^ Sturtivant, Ray, British Naval Aviation: The Fleet Air Arm, 1917-1990, Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1990, ISBN 0-87021-026-2, p. 215.
  11. ^ London Gazette Issue 32863 published on the 18 September 1923. Page 7
  12. ^ "Release of MI5 material relating to the Second World War" The National Archives
  13. ^ Royal Navy hero officer 'was spy for Japanese' - Telegraph
  14. ^ "Reassessing pre-war Japanese espionage: The Rutland naval spy case and the Japanese intelligence threat before Pearl Harbor"
  15. ^ "British flying ace was spy for Japan" Richard Norton-Taylor The Guardian, 10 November 2000
  16. ^ Michael Smith (2000). The Emperor's Codes: The Breaking of Japan's Secret Ciphers. Arcade Publishing. ISBN 978-1-55970-568-4. 
  17. ^ Operation Crossbow: The Untold Story of Photographic Intelligence and the Search for Hitler's V Weapons by Allan Williams Random House, (2013)
  18. ^ Lashmar, Paul (10 November 2000). "Revealed: The man who started World War Two". The Independent. Retrieved 2009-06-10. 
  19. ^ Hansard HC Deb 22 January 1942 vol 377 cc439


  • Young, Desmond (1963). Rutland of Jutland. Cassell. 
  • Layman, R. D. (1989). Before the Aircraft Carrier: The Development of Aviation Vessels 1859–1922. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-210-9.