John Rankin Rathbone

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Person.png John Rankin Rathbone  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(politician, pilot)
John rathbone.jpg
Born5 February 1910
Died10 December 1940 (Age 30)
Alma materEton, Oxford/Christ Church
Member ofBullingdon Club
British establishment politician who died young, early in WW2

John Rankin Rathbone was a British Conservative Party politician.[1]

Early life

He was born in 1910 to William Rathbone, a marine architect, and Agnes Dorothea Rankin. John Rathbone came from a long line of Liverpool merchants. His grandfather William Rathbone was a philanthropist and Liberal Member of the House of Commons. His aunt Eleanor Rathbone was a feminist essayist and activist, and an independent MP.[2][3]

For his education John attended West Downs and Eton College before attending Christ Church, Oxford. John Rankin Rathbone was a member of the Bullingdon Club.

Whilst up at Oxford he met an American student, Beatrice Frederika Clough, who had come to study at the university. The pair married in 1932 and had two children, a son, John Rankin Rathbone (known as Tim) and a daughter, Pauline Rathbone.

Political career

From the 1935 general election until his death, he was Member of Parliament (MP) for the Bodmin constituency in Cornwall. After his death, his American-born wife Beatrice was elected unopposed to succeed him as MP.[4]

Foreign travel

John and Beatrice travelled to the United States of America in the summer of 1934, sailing back to Britain aboard the RMS Aquitania in October. They returned to America in 1936, again sailing back to Britain in the October, this time aboard the RMS Queen Mary.

John travelled as part of a parliamentary delegation, accompanied by Beatrice, to Nazi Germany. A fluent German speaker, John was appalled at what he saw in the country as he participated in the work of the delegation.

He was a qualified pilot, learning to fly with the Old Etonian Flying Club and getting his Avro Club membership on 19 May 1938. Upon returning from Germany, John called a meeting in his constituency to announce that he was joining the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.

Second World War

He was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply from July to September 1939, when World War II broke out. A flight lieutenant and fighter pilot with the Royal Air Force, he was killed shortly after the Battle of Britain, on 10 September 1940. He was buried at Schoonselhof cemetery, Antwerp, Belgium.[5]

In his obituary in The Times noted -[6]


No one could possibly suggest that John Rathbone was a man of war. He hated it. His readiness to serve his country and before war came to prepare himself is typical of his high sense of duty; and the example he set among those with whom he came in contact remains a truly noble inspiration.

Other family members

His son, also called John Rankin Rathbone, but known as Tim Rathbone, was the Conservative MP for Lewes from 1974 to 1997.

John's younger brother, Henry Stephen Nicholas Rathbone, served as a Captain in the Scots Guards and fell at Monte Cassino on 9 November 1943.[7]



References