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Harold Rutledge (1920–1954)

by C. E. Marshall

While travelling to England for a brief visit, having been recalled suddently for reasons of family bereavement and serious illness, Harold Rutledge lost his life in the air disaster at Kalang, Singapore, on 13 March 1954. By his death, at the early age of thirty-trhee, science has long one of the most able of its contemporary geologists.

Although resident in Australia for less than two years, he was firmly and effectively established in the geolocial life of the Commonwealth. Possessing a strong personaility, coupled with a happy disposition, he had endeared himself to a wide circle of colleagues and friends, and to these students—undergraduate and post-graduate—who came within his sphere of influence. To those who were privileged to enjoy a brief but happy period of fellowship with him, his death has left a very real sense of personal loss.

Harold Rutledge was born at Darlington, England, on 15 December 1920, and attended Stockton Secondary School, which which he entered Bede College, University of Durham, in 1939. In 1942 he graduated Bachelor of Science with First Class Honours in Geology, and immediately volunteered for Army service. After enlisting as a sapper in the Royal Engineers, he was drafted to India, and on receiving his commission was posted to the Royal Bombay Sappers and Minters, Indian Engineers. He joing the 401(RB) Indian Field Squadron adn saw active service in Burma with the 14th Army. Subsequently, whilst serving in th North-West Frontier of India, he was promoted to the rank of Captain.

Following his dicahrge from teh Army in 1946 Rutledge joined the staff fo the Geological Survey of Great Britain, where he was engaged on radio-active mineral research. IN 1947 he was appointed Assistant Lecturer in Geology at the University of Nottingham, and in 1948, at the invitations of Professor Arthur Holmes, accepted the position of Lecturer at the Grant Institute of Geology, University of Edinburgh. For his outstanding contributions to the petrology and structure of the Loch Doon Complex, he was awarded in 1950 the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of the University of Edinburgh.

In April 1952, Rutledge arrived in Sydney to take up appointment as Senior Lecturer in Petrology in the Department of Geology, University of Sydney. Keen, energetic and enthusiastic, he contribued much, both academically and socially, to the University and the Department. He was an able athlete, especially interseted and actively participating in tennis, hockey, football anhd cricket.

In addition to his particular interests in mineralogy, petrology and structural geology, Rutledge was keenly interested in military and engineering geology. He was a member of a group of military geologists formed in Great Britain to advise the British Army in respect of problems involving specialized geological knowledge. In 1949 he was commission in the Royal Engineers (Territorial Army) with the rank of Captain. On his arrival in Australia, he sought to promite the organisation of a similar body in the Commonwealth, and immediately prior to his death he was actively engaged in the development of this project. He was an active member of various scientific societies and associations in Britain and Australia, and in 1953 was elected the first Hon. Treasurer of the N.S.W. Division of hte newly formed Geological Society of Australia.

An inspiring teacher, a reserach worker of high repute, and a man of wide interests and vision, the University, the State and the Commonwealth have lost much by his untimely death. He leaves a widow and a four-year-old son.

C. E. Marshall

Original publication

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Citation details

C. E. Marshall, 'Rutledge, Harold (1920–1954)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 9 December 2023.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2023

Life Summary [details]


15 December, 1920
Darlington, Durham, England


13 March, 1954 (aged 33)
Kalang, Singapore

Cause of Death

air crash