Canterbury Ties With England’s First Maori Fighter Pilot – 1915

Seventy seven years after Captain William Barnard Rhodes stocked Canterbury with its first hoof stock and fifty eight years after William Sefton Moorhouse became Canterbury’s second Superintendent; their fighter pilot grandson and nephew was flying wounded during WWI. He had just bombed a Belgium railway junction but had been badly wounded by ground gunfire. He was the first Royal Flying Corps pilot with Maori heritage and was the first airman awarded the Victoria Cross.

Born in North Yorkshire in 1887, William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse was a bit of a rascal from the start. Over-protected by his wealthy parents, Rhodes-Moorhouse was seldom called to face the consequences of his actions. Infamous for his playboy ways and his love of cars and speed, he unfortunately drew others fatality into his adventures. Again, money seemed to make these unpleasant issues disappear.  With his need for speed and danger, Rhodes-Moorhouse began to take private flying lessons – eventually competing in aviation races. He was the first pilot to cross the English Channel.

Considered calmer and the most ‘grown up’ he had ever been, he enlisted into the Royal Flying Corps at the outbreak of WWI. Surprisingly, the first squadron of these Corps was founded by American Wild West sharp shooter, Samuel Cody, who was England’s first aviator and designed many planes himself.

Flying a B.E.2, a single engine, two seated biplane – used along the front lines and for light bombing missions, Rhodes-Moorhouse managed to land his damaged plane back at his base. Although badly wounded, he calmly insisted on making his official report before going to the hospital. He did just that, dying the next day on 27th May 1915. He was awarded the Victoria Cross.

His father was Edward Moorhouse, the younger brother of William Sefton Moorhouse and scandalously the step-uncle of his mother, Mary Ann Rhodes, the Maori daughter of the ‘Millionaire of Wellington’, Captain William Barnard Rhodes. Rhodes and his brothers were great land owners not only in the North Island but also in Canterbury. George Rhodes founded South Canterbury’s first sheep station, the ‘Levels’ – his first homestead now the oldest building in the area, dating back to 1853.

*Image courtesy of William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse VC – http://rhodes-moorhousespratton.blogspot.co.nz/*

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