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New development in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire named after war hero

Moorhouse Lodge, Huntingdon
Moorhouse Lodge, Huntingdon

Retirement apartments named after first airman to receive Victoria Cross.

William Rhodes-Moorhouse
William Rhodes-Moorhouse

A new development of 47 apartments for retired people being built in Huntingdon has been named after the first airman to be awarded the Victoria Cross (VC), Britain’s highest honour for gallantry.

William Rhodes-Moorhouse, who briefly attended Trinity College at the University of Cambridge, was 27 when he died in April 1915 – the day after being shot while bombing a railway junction in Belgium during the First World War.

The name, Moorhouse Lodge, for the one and two-bed apartments on Edison Bell Way was suggested by a Mrs Cooke, who won 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 £100 cheque at a special naming ceremony.

Rhodes-Moorhouse was born in London in September 1887 and was educated at Harrow School and Trinity, where he developed a fascination with aviation and engineering.

With his friend, James Radley, who was one of the first British aviators, he built an aircraft factory in St John’s Street, Huntingdon, where they developed their own monoplane. At the age of 24, Rhodes-Moorhouse flew the aircraft 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 until 1896 was the site of Huntingdon races.

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 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, Rhodes-Moorhouse joined the Royal Flying Corps as a second lieutenant. Despite his experience as a flyer, he was not allowed an aircraft and instead was given the job of checking aero-engines. By March 1915, a shortage of pilots resulted in him being moved to France to join No 2 Squadron in Merville, near Calais, flying the B.E.2 aircraft.

On April 26, the RFC was ordered to bomb the Germans’ railway network to prevent reinforcements reaching the front lines. Rhodes-Moorhouse was instructed to attack a railway junction at Kortrijk 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, he flew down to just 300 feet over the city.

A barrage of rifle and machine-gun fire badly damaged the aircraft and injured William in his thigh. Returning to the Allied lines, he again ran into heavy fire from the ground and was wounded twice more. Despite his injuries, he made it back and refused medical attention until he had made his mission report. He died the next day, April 27.

Rhodes-Moorhouse was acclaimed a hero and in May 1915 was awarded the VC for ‘most conspicuous bravery’ – the first to be awarded to an airman. He was promoted to lieutenant posthumously.

Mrs Cooke said: “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 developments 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 development, which is due to open in the autumn, will comprise 47 self-contained apartments that are designed especially for the over-60s, with features such as 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 located near shops and amenities and well served by public transport.

For more information, call 0800 4581856 or visit the website at churchillretirement.co.uk.


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