26 April 1915 – Rhodes-Moorehouse

The First Wing were called on to help and sent out four aeroplanes, but only two reached their objectives at Roubaix, Tourcoing, and Courtrai.

The bombing of Courtrai was carried out by Second Lieutenant W. B. Rhodes-Moorhouse, of 2 Squadron, who dropped a 100lb. bomb on the line west of the station. He came down to 300 feet where he was met with rifle and machine-gun fire, particularly from the belfry of Courtrai church, almost on his level. After hitting his objective, he was wounded in the abdomen by a bullet; on his homeward journey he was again wounded in the thigh and in the hand, but he flew his aeroplane back to his own aerodrome at Merville, although there were nearer ones in his reach. He insisted on making his report before being taken to the Casualty Clearing Station.

[He died of his wounds the next day and was later awarded the Victoria Cross – the first airman to do so.]

William Rhodes-Moorehouse

William Rhodes-Moorhouse was born at Rokeby, North Yorkshire. His mother Mary Ann Rhodes (born c 1850) was the daughter of William Barnard Rhodes and Otahi, a member of the Taranaki (Tuturu), Ngati Tama, Ngati Ruanui and Te Āti Awa Māori iwi in the Wellington area of New Zealand. When Rhodes married Sarah King, the very young child Mary Anne was “gifted” (Whaangai) to the newlyweds. After his first wife died, Rhodes married Sarah Ann Moorhouse, the sister of William Sefton Moorhouse, a prominent Canterbury politician and settler. She adopted Mary Ann Rhodes. Mary Anne’s father had been a whaling captain who became a prominent Wellington settler, businessman and politician. On his death, Mary Anne Rhodes received a legacy which made her the richest woman in New Zealand. She married her second stepmother’s younger brother, Edward Moorhouse, in Wellington in 1883. They moved to England and raised four children, including Rhodes-Moorhouse who went to Harrow School and (briefly) Trinity Hall, Cambridge which he left in 1909.

At that time William became captivated with the infant art of ‘aerial navigation’, teaming up with aero pioneer James Radley. The men developed their Radley-Moorehouse 50-hp monoplane, and on 17 October 1911 William flew the flimsy aircraft to gain his Royal Aero Club Pilot’s Certificate, No.147.

Radley-Moorehouse Monoplane

William and Radley travelled to America where they bought a Blériot aeroplane, similar to that piloted by Louis Blériot during his famed cross-Channel flight. They entered many air races and won several prizes, including £1,000 in San Francisco.

In August 1914, the Royal Flying Corps as a 2nd Lieutenant. Despite his great experience as a flyer though, at first he wasn’t allowed an aircraft; owing to past aerial mishaps William had false teeth, and the RFC’s lofty rules forbade flying with them. William was given a job checking aero-engines, but began to fly on the quiet. By March 1915, such was the need for war pilots that he was moved to France, joining 2 Squadron RFC at Merville near Calais.


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