Service number 72451
Born: February 5th 1910
Died: December 10th 1940
John was the second of the three sons of William Rathbone, a marine architect, and his wife, Agnes Dorothea Rankin. She was the only daughter of John Rankin of St Michael's Mount, Liverpool, a member of a ship owning family.
The Rathbone family were general merchants in Liverpool for several generations. John’s grandfather, William Rathbone VI (1819 -1902) was noted for his public and philanthropic work. A Liberal politician, he was a Member of Parliament on several occasions between 1868 and 1895. John’s aunt, Eleanor Rathbone, was the Independent Member of Parliament for the Combined English Universities between 1929 and 1946, and a staunch campaigner for women's rights.
John was educated at West Downs and Eton and Matriculated in 1928.
Whilst up at Christ Church, he met an American, Beatrice Frederika Clough who had come to study in Oxford. They married in 1932 and had a son and a daughter.
He entered Parliament as the Conservative Member for Bodmin in 1935 and lived in the constituency at Elmsleigh, Par. He served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Supply in 1939.
John and “Babs” visited the United States in the summer of 1934, returning to England in October on the Aquitania, and again in 1936, returning on the Queen Mary in October.
His wife had accompanied him when he visited Germany as part of a parliamentary delegation. He spoke fluent German, and was appalled by what he saw. After his return home, he called a meeting in his constituency and announced that he was joining the RAFVR. He had learnt to fly with the Old Etonian Flying Club and got his Avro Club membership on May 19th 1938.
At the outbreak of war, “Babs” and John Rathbone decided to send their son and daughter to her parents in Boston. They also paid for two children whose families could not afford their passage.
He was serving as a Flight Lieutenant with 82 Squadron when he was killed piloting a plane on December 10th 1940.
He is buried in the Schoonselhof Cemetry, Antwerp Plot II. H. 30
He is commemorated on the West Downs Roll of Honour.
His younger brother Henry Stephen Nicholas Rathbone born in 1913, a Captain in the Scots Guards was killed at Cassino on November 9th 1943.
Their elder brother William Rathbone 1X, who was, also, up at Christ Church, donated a silver alms dish to Liverpool Cathedral in their memory. Designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott with dedication to John Rankin Rathbone and Henry Stephen Nicholas Rathbone, it was stolen. William donated a replacement almsdish in 1979, and donated a ciborium, also dedicated to John and Nicholas Rathbone in 1983. The original alms dish was dedicated at a service for the Festival of Cathedral Builders in July 1950.
Rathbone papers RP XXV were deposited in the Liverpool University Library in December 1993 by William Rathbone X and represent the papers of his father, William Rathbone IX (also incorporating papers of the families of William Rathbone IX's own father (WR VIII) and grandfather (William Gair Rathbone VII). The papers date from c. 1800-1992
After John was killed, his wife was elected, unopposed, as his successor in March 1941 and sat in the Commons for the rest of the war.
Beatrice Frederika Clough was born at New Haven, Connecticut, on June 17th 1910. Her father was an American banker who worked abroad, and she spent much of her youth in Vladivostock, Tokyo and Peking. On returning home, she went to Radcliffe, the women's college of Harvard University and, then, came to England to study at Oxford.
In 1942, she married Paul Hervé Giraud Wright, who became a distinguished diplomat and was knighted in 1975. She was the first sitting MP to give birth to a child, a daughter.
She had lost her American citizenship by taking the Oath of Allegiance, but agreed to make a speaking tour to encourage the United States to enter the war. At the same time she would be able to see her two children, who had been evacuated to her family in Boston. The trip was abandoned after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour. But she did manage to visit her children and saw Winston Churchill address the American Senate.
Her son, also called John Rankin Rathbone, known as Tim was born in 1933. He was educated at Greenvale School, Long Island, and King's Mead, Seaford and followed his father to Eton and Christ Church. He was the Conservative MP for Lewes from 1974 to 1997 and died in 2002. Beatrice died on March 17th 2003.
Image: RATHBONE Location: House of Commons Chamber