By Judith Phillips
Last month a memorial stone was laid in County Durham honouring one of the men from the county who were awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War. In all there are seven memorial stones. You can find more information on the website www.durhamatwar.org.uk for the Durham at War project at the Durham Record Office – a search under ‘commemorative paving stone’ will bring up several results.
When I read about the Victoria Cross commemorative paving stone project for County Durham, I wondered if any Teesdale men would be included. At the very beginning of the project, Frank Smith of Barnard Castle very generously allowed me to copy the folder of work he had done identifying men from Teesdale who died during the war. This copy is available for reference in the Museum’s Reading Room. From the information he gathered, Frank produced a list of Teesdale men who had received the Victoria Cross and the Military Medal during the First World War.
Four men awarded the Victoria Cross appear in Frank’s list but none seems to have been eligible for inclusion in the County Durham commemorative project. Their Teesdale connection was ‘over the river’ in what was then Yorkshire (but in the Teesdale Poor Law Union) or their association was rather tenuous.
Lieutenant William Rhodes-Moorhouse of Rokeby of the Royal Flying Corps died on 27th April 1915, aged 27, and was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously. Born William Moorhouse in 1887, he added Rhodes to his surname in accordance with his grandfather’s will. In 1912 he married Linda Beatrice Morrit of Rokeby Hall and their son was only a few months old when Rhodes-Moorhouse died. His citation said he displayed conspicuous courage by flying low over the railway station at Kortrijk in Belgium which he bombed but was then caught in enemy fire. Although badly wounded, he brought his damaged aircraft back but died the following day.
Arthur Henderson, a Captain in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, was also awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously after he was killed in action in April 1917, aged 23. His father Arthur Henderson was the Labour Member of Parliament for Barnard Castle.
Lieutenant Commander George Nicholson-Bradford of the Royal Navy, an old boy of Barnard Castle School, was awarded the Victoria Cross for ‘great gallantry’ before he was killed in a raid on Zeebrugge in 1918.
Lieutenant William Bisset, also of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, won the Victoria Cross in October 1918. Before he joined up, he had worked for the Black Prince Motor Company in Barnard Castle. Unlike the other recipients listed here, he survived the war, dying in 1971.
I am grateful to Frank Smith for put his research at the disposal of the project.