Tag Archives: Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom

22 November 1913

C.A.H. Longcroft, circa 1913 (R.A.F.)

22 November 1913: Captain Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft, Welsh Regiment, British Army, attached to No. 2 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, as a flight commander, flies a Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.a from Montrose, Scotland, non-stop to Farnborough, Hampshire, England. The distance covered was approximately 630 miles (1,014 kilometers).¹

Captain Longcroft, accompanied by Colonel Frederick Hugh Sykes, Commandant of the Military Wing, departed Montrose Aerodrome at 8:55 a.m., flying B.E.2.a number 218. He passed York at 11:55 a.m., then continued on to Portsmouth, and next to Farnborough, where he landed at 4:10 p.m. The total duration of the flight was 7 hours, 15 minutes, at an average speed of approximately 86.9 miles per hour (139.9 kilometers per hour).

At the time, British newspapers speculated as to whether Captain Longcroft had established a new world record (or at least, a British national record), but the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale does not recognize any records attributed to Longcroft. On 13 October 1913, Auguste Seguin of France had established an FAI world record for distance of 1021,20 kilometers (634.54 statute miles) at Korobcheevo, Russia.²

For this flight, Captain Longcroft was awarded the first Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of Great Britain.

The Britannia Trophy of the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom. (RAeC)

Number 2 Squadron is the most senior of all Royal Air Force squadrons, having been founded at Farnborough, Hampshire, England, 13 May 1912. At the time the squadron was also known as No. II (Army Co-operation) Squadron.

Montrose Aerodrome, now known as RAF Montrose, was the first of twelve planned stations for the Royal Flying Corps. It was originally located at Upper Dysart Farm in Forfarshire, on the eastern shoreline of Scotland.

Captain Longcroft’s Bristol & Colonial Aeroplane Company B.E.2.a, number 218. (Montrose Air Station Heritage Cenre)

Captain Longcroft’s B.E.2.a., number 218, was built by British & Colonial Aeroplane Company (later, Bristol) at Filton, South Goucestershire, under order number A1147. It was delivered to the R.F.C. on 2 November 2013.

The B.E.2.a was slightly modified with the addition of a windscreen and a fuel tank with a capacity of 54 Imperial gallons (245 liters), “and special oiling arrangements.”

The Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.a (which stands for Blériot Experimental, meaning that it was a tractor-type airplane, which had been developed by Louis Blériot) was designed by Geoffrey de Havilland. It was a two-place, single-engine, two-bay biplane which was used as a trainer, reconnaissance aircraft, artillery spotter or bomber. An observer occupied the forward cockpit and the pilot was aft.

The fuselage was constructed of a wooden framework, cross-braced with wires. The wings had wood spars and ribs. The airframe was covered in doped fabric. The B.E.2.a used wing-warping for roll control.This would be changed to ailerons for the B.E.2.b.

The wings of the 2.a and 2.b were straight with no dihedral. Both upper and lower wings had the same span and chord, and were not staggered. (The B.E.2.c added both dihedral and stagger.) The lower wing spars were connected through the fuselage with steel tubing. The landing gear had both wheels and tires, but also wood-covered steel tube skids extending forward to protect the propeller from contacting the ground.

The B.E.2.a–2.b was 29 feet, 6½ inches (9.004 meters) long with a wingspan of 38 feet, 7½ inches (11.773 meters). The wings’ chord was 6 feet, 4 inches (1.930 meters). It had an empty weight of 1,274 pounds (578 kilograms) and gross weight of 1,600 pounds (726 kilograms).

The B.E.2, B.E.2.a and B.E.2.b were powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 6.949 liter (424.036 cubic inch) Renault Type WB side-valve 90° V-8 engine with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.12:1. The WB was rated at 70 horsepower at 1,750 r.p.m. The engine drove a four-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden propeller at one-half crankshaft speed. The Renault WB was 3 feet, 9.5 inches (1.556 meters) long, 2 feet, 8.8 inches (0.833 meters) high and 2 feet, 5.8 inches (0.757 meters) wide. It weighed 396 pounds (180 kilograms).

The airplane had a maximum speed of 70 miles per hour (113 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and 65 miles per hour (105 kilometers per hour) at 6,500 feet (1,981 meters). It could climb to 3,000 feet (914 meters) in 9 minutes and to 7,000 feet (2,134 meters) in 35 minutes. The service ceiling was 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Maximum endurance was 3 hours.

Although designed by the Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough, only 6 B.E.2s were built there. The remainder were built by Armstong Whitworth, British and Colonial Airplane Co., Coventry Ordnance Works, Handley Page, Hewlett and Blondeau, and Vickers.

Air Vice-Marshal Sir Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft, C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C., Royal Air Force,1930. (Walter Stoneman/National Portrait Gallery NPG x186018)

Air Vice-Marshal Sir Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C., Royal Air Force, was born Llanarth, Cardiganshire, Wales, 13 May 1883. He was the third of four children of Charles Edward Longcroft and Catherine Alicia Holcombe Longcroft. Charles was educated at Charterhouse, a private boarding school (for some incomprehensible reason, known in England as a “public school”) in Goldalming, Surrey, England. He then attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

C.A.H. Longcroft was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Welsh Regiment of the British Army, 2 May 1903. From 1904 to 1906, he served in India. Returning to the United Kingdom, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, 13 December 1906. He then deployed to South Africa until 1909.

On 5 March 1912, Lieutenant Longcroft was issued an aviator’s certificate (H192) by the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom.

After volunteering, on 10 April 1912 Lieutenant Longcroft was assigned to the Air Battalion, Royal Engineers. The unit operated lighter-than-air craft. The following month, 13 May 1912, he was “seconded” (temporarily transferred for duties outside of his normal unit) to the newly established Royal Flying Corps. On 1 July 1912, Lieutenant Longcroft was appointed a Flying Officer, R.F.C. On 20 November 1912, he was assigned as a flight commander, No. 2 Squadron, at Farnborough and Montrose. On that same day, he was promoted to the temporary rank of captain. That rank became permanent 13 August 1913.

Captain Longcroft was promoted to the temporary rank of major, 1 May 1914, and assigned as the commanding officer No. 1 Squadron at Farnborough, which, after the start of World War I, served on the Western Front. His new rank became permanent two months later (22 June). On 19 October 1914, Longcroft was Mentioned in Dispatches.

Major Longcroft became the commanding officer of No. 4 Squadron 29 January 1915. On 18 August 1915 he was promoted to the temporary rank of lieutenant-colonel. He was reassigned to command the Training Wing.

The Imperial House of Romanov (the reigning house of Imperial Russia) awarded Major Longcroft the Order of St. Staninslas (Орденъ Св. Станислава), 3rd Class with Swords, 25 August 1915.

Brigadier-General Charles A. H. Longcroft, Royal Flying Corps, ca. 1917 (Wikipedia)

On 28 August 1916, Colonel Longcourt was promoted to the temporary rank of brigadier-general. He was placed in command of 2nd (Corps) Wing, R.F.C. (His permanent rank of lieutenant-colonel was effective 1 January 1917.) Next, on 18 October 1917, Longcroft was promoted to temporary major-general. He was next assigned as General Officer Commanding, Training Division.

France appointed him an Officier de la Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur in 1917.

On 1 April 1918, the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service were combined to form the Royal Air Force (R.A.F.). Major-General Longcroft was transferred from the British Army to the R.A.F. and attached to III Brigade. While retaining that temporary rank, his permanent rank of lieutenant-colonel was confirmed and he was immediately promoted to the permanent rank of colonel. On 29 April, he was advanced once again to the temporary rank of brigadier-general, and assigned as General Officer Commanding, III Brigade.

In the New Year’s Honours List, 1 January 1918, Brigadier-General Longcroft was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) for service under fire.

For his service during World War I, Brigadier-General Longcroft was awarded the Distinguished Service Order; the Air Force Cross; the 1914 Star with Clasp; the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal. He was also appointed a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George (C.M.G.) by King George V.

On 1 May 1919, Temporary Brigadier-General Longcroft was promoted to the rank of acting brigadier-general.

The new R.A.F. changed to a new system of officer ranks. On 1 August 1919, Longcroft resigned his commission in the Welsh Brigade to accept a commission in the R.A.F. Acting Brigadier-General Longcroft became Group Captain Longcroft. Four days later, 5 August, he was promoted to Air Commodore.

The first class of cadets at RAF Cranwell, 1920. (Royal Air Force)

Air Commodore Longroft became the first commandant of the newly established R.A.F. College at Cranwell. The first cadets arrived 5 February 1920. His command consisted of 56 officers, 516 airmen, 200 cadets, 1 headmaster and 8 schoolmasters.

Air Commodore Longcroft married Mrs. William Duncan Hepburn (née Marjory McKerrell-Brown) at St. Paul’s Church, Portman Square, London, 27 April 1921. The ceremony was officiated by Squadron Leader the Reverend Bernard William Keymer, O.B.E., R.A.F. Mrs. Hepburn was the widow of Captain W. D. Hepburn, Seaforth Highlanders, British Army. The Longcrofts would have a son, Charles McKerrell Longcroft, born in 1926. (Squadron Leader Keymer was one of the first chaplains at RAF Cranwell, and is credited with creating the school’s motto, Superna Petimus—”We seek things that are above.”)

King George V appointed Air Commodore Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft, C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C., Royal Air Force, to be an Ordinary Member of the Military Division of the Third Class, of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (C.B.), 2 June 1923.³

On 9 October 1923, Air-Commodore Longcroft was placed on the Half-Pay List. Shortly after, 10 December, he was appointed Director of Personal Services.

Air Commodore Longcroft was advanced to the rank of air vice-marshal, 1 July 1925.

On 1 November 1926, Air Vice-Marshal Longcroft became Air Officer Commanding, Inland Area.

Longcroft retired from the Royal Air Force at his own request, 2 November 1929.

On 15 November 1932, King George V appointed Air Vice-Marshal Longcroft, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C. (retired) to be Gentleman Usher of the Scarlet Rod of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.³ In 1948, he became Secretary and Registrar of the Order.⁴

On 9 June 1938, King George VI invested him Knight Commander of the Military Division of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (K.C.B.).

Air Vice Marshal Sir Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C., Royal Air Force, died 20 February 1958 at London. He was 74 years of age.

Air Vice Marshal Sir Charles Alexander Holcombe Longcroft, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C., Royal Air Force.

¹ Lincolnshire Echo, No. 6431, Monday, 24 November 1913, Page 3, Column 5. Some sources state the distance was 445 miles (716 kilometers) in 7 hours, 20 minutes.

² FAI Record File Number 15378

³ Supplement 32830 to the London Gazette, 2 June 1923, Page 3945

⁴ Supplement 33883 of the London Gazette, 15 November 1932 at Page 7260.

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

Victoria Cross, 2nd Lieutenant William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse, Royal Flying Corps.

Second Lieutenant Bernard Rhodes-Morehouse, Royal Flying Cross
Second-Lieutenant William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse, Royal Flying Corps (Beaminster Museum)

War Office,

                                                                                                         22nd May, 1915.

     His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve the grant of the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned Officers, Non-commissioned officer, and Men, for their conspicuous acts of bravery and devotion to duty whilst serving with the Expeditionary Force :—

2nd Lieutenant William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse, Special Reserve, Royal Flying Corps.

For most conspicuous bravery on 26th April, 1915, in flying to Courtrai and dropping bombs on the railway line near that station. On starting the return journey he was mortally wounded, but succeeded in flying for 35 miles to his destination, at a very low altitude, and reported the successful accomplishment of his object. He has since died of his wounds.

The London Gazette, Special Supplement 29170, Saturday, 22 May, 1915 at Pages 4989–4990

Chlorine gas dispersing downwind at the Second battle of Ypres, April 1915
Chlorine gas dispersing downwind at the Second Battle of Ypres, 22 April 1915.

Beginning 22 April 1915 at the Second Battle of Ypres, the military forces of the German Empire began to use lethal chlorine gas as a weapon on the battlefield. A second mass gas attack took place on 24 April.

The Royal Flying Corps was ordered to interdict the German supply lines by bombing railways. On 26 April 1915, Second-Lieutenant William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhead, Royal Flying Corps, of No. 2 Squadron at Merville, France, was assigned to attack the railway at Kortrijk, West Floandern (Courtrai, West Flanders) with his Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.b reconnaissance airplane, number 687.

Departing alone from Merville at 3:05 p.m., Lieutenant Rhodes-Moorhouse flew to his target, approximately 35 miles (56 kilometers) away. He approached the railway station from an altitude of approximately 300 feet (91 meters) to accurately drop his single 100 pound (45.4 kilogram) bomb. He was hit in a leg by a rifle bullet, and shrapnel from his bomb damaged his airplane.

As Rhodes-Moorhouse flew away from the railroad station, he descended to 200 feet (61 meters) and was wounded twice more.

Gare de Kortrijk (the Courtrai Railrod Station)
Gare de Kortrijk (the Courtrai Railroad Station)

The wounds to his hand and leg were serious, but the one to his abdomen was mortal. However, he continued the difficult return flight in his damaged airplane, and arrived back at Merville at 4:12 p.m. Rhodes-Moorhouse’ airplane had 95 holes from bullets and shrapnel. The wounded pilot insisted on making a report to his commanding officer and friend, Captain Maurice Bernal Blake, before being taken to an aid station.

It was soon apparent that Rhodes-Moorhouse would not survive. Captain Blake informed him that he had recommended that he be awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

Second-Lieutenant William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse, No. 2 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, died of wounds at 2:25 p.m., 27 April 1915.

He was awarded the Victoria Cross, the United Kingdom’s highest award for valor, on 22 May 1915. Lieutenant Rhodes-Moorhouse was the first airman of the British Empire to be so decorated.

His medal is part of the Lord Ashcroft Victoria Cross Collection, displayed in the Aschcroft Gallery of the Imperial War Museum. He also was awarded the 1914–1915 Star, The British War Medal 1914–1918, and the Allied Victory Medal.

Field Marshal John Denton Pinkstone French, 1st Earl of Ypres, K.P., G.C.B., O.M., G.C.V.O., K.C.M.G., A.D.C., P.C., commanding general of the British Expeditionary Force, later said that Lieutenant Rhodes-Moorhouse had been responsible for “the most important bomb dropped during the war so far.”

Rhodes-Morehouse’ remains were buried at the family home at Parnham Park,¹ Beaminster, Dorset. After his son, Flight Lieutenant William Henry Rhodes-Morehouse, D.F.C., No. 601 Squadron, was killed when his Hawker Hurricane was shot down during the Battle of Britain, his ashes were placed alongside his father.

William Bernard Rhodes-Moorhouse

William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse was born into a wealthy family at 15 Princes Gate, London, England, 26 September 1887. He was one of four children of Edward Moorhouse, “a gentleman of independent means,” and Mary Ann Rhodes, the wealthiest woman in New Zealand. Moorhouse was educated Harrow School in northwest London, and Trinity College, Cambridge.

Radley monoplane on Portholme meadow. Constructed in 1911 in the Old Iron Foundry, St.John’s Street, H’don. Copyright – Huntingdon Record Office

Moorhouse developed an early interest in aviation and was soon an expert airman of international renown. Working with James Radley at Huntingdon, he developed the Radley-Moorhouse Monoplane. In 1910, Radley and Moorhouse traveled to the United States  to demonstrate their airplane. Moorhouse is reportedly the first person to have flown through San Francisco’s Golden Gate. He was granted pilot’s certificate No. 147 by the Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom, 17 October 1911.

In 1912, Moorhouse legally changed his surname to Rhodes-Moorhouse (and thereby replaced his second middle name, or maternal surname, Rhodes), because of the terms of his grandfather’s will. A Royal Licence authorizing the change was granted 11 January 1913, and published in The London Gazette ten days later.²

Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes-Moorhouse, 25 June 1912. (The Bowes Museum’s Blog)

Rhodes-Moorhouse married Miss Linda Beatrice Morrit at St. Paul’s, Knightsbridge, 25 June 1912, . They had one son, William Henry Rhodes-Moorhouse, born in 1914.

Mr. and Mrs. Rhodes-Moorhouse, along with John Henry Ledeboer, crossed the English Channel on 4 August 1912 in a three-place Société des Ateliers d’Aviation Louis Breguet 3-place biplane, flying from Douai, in northern France, where the airplane was built, to Ashwood, Staffordshire, England. The airplane was destroyed in a crash landing, but no one was hurt.

A Breguet 3-place biplane, 1912. (FLIGHT)

With England drawn into World War I, Rhodes-Moorhouse joined the Royal Flying Corps, 24 August 1914, and was assigned to the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough. He was transferred to No. 2 Squadron, joining the unit at Merrville on 21 March 1915. He died just over one month later.

Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2

The Royal Aircraft Factory B.E. (which stands for Blériot Experimental, meaning that it was a tractor-type airplane, which had been developed by Louis Blériot) was designed by Geoffrey de Havilland. It was a two-place, single-engine, two-bay biplane which was used as a trainer, reconnaissance aircraft, artillery spotter or bomber. An observer occupied the forward cockpit and the pilot was aft.

The B.E.2.b was essentially the same as the B.E.2.a, except the cockpit sides were higher. The elevator control cables were external from the pilot’s cockpit, aft. Probably the most significant change was the use of ailerons for the B.E.2.b, where the previous versions had used wing-warping like the original 1903 Wright Flyer.

The fuselage was constructed of a wooden framework, cross-braced with wires. The wings had wood spars and ribs. The airframe was covered in doped fabric.

The wings of the 2.a and 2.b were straight with no dihedral. Both upper and lower wings had the same span and there was no stagger. The lower wing spars were connected through the fuselage with steel tubing. The landing gear had both wheels and tires, but also wood-covered steel tube skids extending forward to protect the propeller from contacting the ground.

This Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.a, No. 347, of No. 2 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, at Lythe, near Whitby, June 1914. Its pilot, Lieutenant Hubert Dunsterville Harvey-Kelly, Royal Irish Regiment, is at the lower right of the photograph. (Imperial War Museum Image number Q 54985)
This Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.a, No. 347, of No. 2 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, at Lythe, near Whitby, North Yorkshire, June 1914. Its pilot, Lieutenant Hubert Dunsterville Harvey-Kelly, Royal Irish Regiment, is at the lower right of the photograph. (Imperial War Museum Image number Q 54985)

The B.E.2.a–2.b was 29 feet, 6½ inches (9.004 meters) long with a wingspan of 38 feet, 7½ inches (11.773 meters). It had an empty weight of 1,274 pounds (578 kilograms) and gross weight of 1,650 pounds (748 kilograms).

The B.E.2, B.E.2.a and B.E.2.b were powered by an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 6.949 liter (424.036 cubic inch) Renault Type WB side-valve 90° V-8 engine with two valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.12:1. The WB was rated at 70 horsepower at 1,750 r.p.m. The engine drove a four-bladed, fixed-pitch wooden propeller at one-half crankshaft speed. The Renault WB was 3 feet, 9.5 inches (1.556 meters) long, 2 feet, 8.8 inches (0.833 meters) high and 2 feet, 5.8 inches (0.757 meters) wide. It weighed 396 pounds (180 kilograms).

Armstrong Whitworth B.E.2.c, s/n 1799. Compare the staggered wings to those of the the B.E.2.a. in the photograph above.

The airplane had a maximum speed of 70 miles per hour (113 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level and 65 miles per hour (105 kilometers per hour) at 6,500 feet (1,981 meters). It could climb to 3,000 feet (914 meters) in 9 minutes and 7,000 feet (2,134 meters) in 35 minutes. The service ceiling was 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Maximum endurance was 3 hours.

The B.E.2.b was unarmed. The crew could only defend themselves with their personal weapons. The type was easy prey for German fighters. It could carry a small bomb.

Although designed by the Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnbourough, only 6 B.E.2s were built there. The remainder were built by Armstong Whitworth, British and Colonial Airplane Co., Coventry Ordnance Works, Handley Page, Hewlett and Blondeau, and Vickers. Eighty-five of the B.E.2.b variant were produced, with most being used as trainers. Nineteen were sent to the Expeditionary Force in France, and one to the Middle East Brigade. By late 1915, the type had been almost completely replaced by the improved B.E.2.c.

A reproduction of the Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.b flown by Lieutenant Rhodes-Moorhouse is in the collection of the Royal Air Force Museum. In a 2015 interview with Richard Moss for “Culture 24,” Ian Thirsk, Head of Collections, said, “It’s another gem of the collection, and was built from scratch by a designer called John McKenzie to the original drawings at the former RAF Museum facility at Cardington between 1983 and 1988.”

 Replica of 2nd Lieutenant W.B. Rhodes-Moorhouse' Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.b, No. 687.
Reproduction of 2nd Lieutenant W.B. Rhodes-Moorhouse’ Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2.b, No. 687, at the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon. (British Aviation Preservation Council)

¹ Interestingly, Parnham House is believed to have been the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Baskerville Hall” in his famous novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902).

Parnham House, East Front. William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse’ home in Dorset, England. (Country Life Magazine, 29 August 1908)

² The London Gazette, Number 28683, Tuesday, 21 January 1913, at Page 494, Column 1

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes