War hero honoured with development name in Huntingdon

A new Churchill Retirement Living development in Huntingdon has been named in honour of the first aviator to receive the Victoria Cross.

Moorhouse Lodge, on Edison Bell Way, has been named after William Rhodes-Moorhouse, who received Britain’s highest gallantry honour during the First World War.

The new Lodge name was suggested by winner Mrs Cooke as part of a competition run by Churchill Retirement Living to name its new development. Mrs Cooke who has lived in the area for 58 years, was presented with a cheque for £100 at a special naming ceremony.

William Rhodes-Moorhouse was born in London in 1887 and educated at Harrow and Trinity College in Cambridge, where his fascination with aviation and love of engineering took hold. Along with his friend and aero pioneer James Radley, he built an aircraft factory in St John’s Street in Huntingdon where they developed their own monoplane. William flew the aircraft aged 24 to gain his Royal Aero Club Pilot’s Certificate. The pair regularly drew crowds as they flew their aircraft from Portholme, a meadow between Huntingdon and Godmanchester, which was the site of Huntingdon Racecourse until 1896.

Mrs Cooke said: “When I saw the competition advertised, I wanted to pick a name that was strongly connected to Huntingdon, with a great historical story behind it. William’s love of engineering began when he was living here in Cambridgeshire; his studies at Harrow and Trinity College came second as he much preferred to race around the streets of Cambridge in fast motorcycles and cars.”

When the First World War began in 1914, William joined the Royal Flying Corps as a Second Lieutenant. Despite his great experience as a flyer, he wasn’t allowed an aircraft and instead, was given the job of checking aero-engines. By March 1915, a shortage in war pilots saw William moved to France to join the No.2 Squadron Royal Flying Corps in Merville, near Calais.

During March and April of 1915, he made many flights over the Western Front to photograph enemy troops’ movements. On 26th April 1915, the Royal Flying Corps were ordered to bomb the Germans’ railway network to prevent reinforcements reaching the front lines. William was instructed to attack a railway junction at Courtrai in Belgium. Heading out on his solo mission, he was told to release his bomb from just below cloud-level, however to ensure a direct hit, William chose to fly down to a mere 300 feet over the city. A torrent of rifle and machine-gun fire badly damaged the aircraft and injured William, but he completed the mission successfully.

Despite his injuries, William made it back to base and refused medical attention until he’d reported the results of his mission. He passed away later that day aged just 27. For his flight, William was acclaimed a hero and in May 1915 he was awarded the Victoria Cross for ‘most conspicuous bravery’ – the first to be awarded to an airman. He was subsequently promoted posthumously to Lieutenant.

Mrs Cooke added: “William was one of the pioneering pilots of his time, when flying aeroplanes for recreation was highly dangerous. Field Marshal Sir John French, the British commander, said that Rhodes-Moorhouse had been responsible for “the most important bomb dropped during the war so far”. His story shows exceptional courage and I’m pleased that his sacrifice can be honoured in this way.”

Yvette Christy, regional marketing executive at Churchill Retirement Living, said: “Churchill Retirement Living likes to involve the local community in choosing the names for its development and often does so by running a competition asking for suggestions. We received a vast number of entries for the Huntingdon development, but we particularly liked the history that Mrs Cooke’s entry had and look forward to launching Moorhouse Lodge later this year.”

The new development, which is currently under construction, will comprise 47 private, self-contained apartments that are specially designed for the over 60s with features such as a video-entry system, lift to all floors, a 24 hour care and support system and a Lodge Manager. Communal facilities will include an Owners’ Lounge, Guest Suite and landscaped gardens.

It is conveniently located close to the local shops and amenities on offer in the traditional market town, as well as being well served by public transport.

For more information on Churchill Retirement Living and this development, please call 0800 458 1856 or click here