Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Aviator Hero Killed

William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse [Wikimedia]

Wednesday 5th May 1915: The funeral was held in Dorset yesterday for a frequent visitor to Bedford who was a well-known figure in the town. Lieutenant William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse met a  hero’s death last week after successfully completing an aerial mission during which he was fatally wounded. In earlier years he was an enthusiastic motorist, often seen with his racing machine. Once flying became a possibility he took up aviation. In 1909-10 he took part in monoplane experiments at Huntingdon with Mr. James Radley of Bedford, and gained his pilot’s license in October 1911 after flying 1,000 in a monoplane. He frequently flew over Bedfordshire on flights from Huntingdon to his home at Spratton Grange in Northamptonshire. Flying became his favoured mode of travel and he would use his aeroplane for any journey of more than a short distance, for instance flying from Hendon to the Northants Agricultural Show at Kettering with a stop at Spratton on the way. He began a “boots by air” service, taking parcels of boots from Northampton to London by plane. He suffered innumerable mishaps but seemed to bear a charmed life as he was never injured.

In June 1912 he married Linda Beatrice Morrit, another flying enthusiast. Two months after their marriage she joined him, along with a journalist, for the first flight across the English Channel in an aeroplane with three passengers; this succeeded despite hail and rainstorms, and more than once becoming lost in cloud. Lieutenant Rhodes-Moorhouse  also flew competitively, with his best performace being third place in the Aerial Derby of 1912. At this time he was working with James Radley manufacturing aeroplanes at the Huntingdon Aerodrome, with a sideline in the production of motor bodies.

When the war began Lieutenant Rhodes-Moorhouse was joined the Royal Flying Corps Special Reserve and was soon commissioned. Five weeks ago he left for the front. On 26th April he was sent on a special mission to bomb a railway junction at Courtrai. After dropping the plane to a height of 300 feet and releasing a large bomb he became the target of a battery of rifles, machine guns, and anti-aircraft guns. Although severely wounded in the thigh he was determined to save his aeroplane at all costs and made for the British lines, descending to 100 feet in order to increase his speed. Despite being wounded for a second time, this time mortally, he managed to return 35 miles to his own base where he executed a perfect landing and filed his report. He died in hospital the next day and is to be buried at his family home, Parnham House at Beaminster in Dorset.

Source: Bedfordshire Times, 7th May 1915

[1] Lieutenant Rhodes-Moorhouse was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross “for most conscpicuous bravery”. His son William Henry Rhodes-Moorhouse, who was less than a year old when his father died, joined the RAF and was killed during the Battle of Britain after winning the Distinguished Flying Cross. For more about William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse and his background see Wikipedia.

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