One war memorial, a thousand stories

The Echo remembers

Moordown St John's Great War memorial plaque

A Voisin biplane

Pilot Aidan Liddle is lifted out of the aircraft he was knocked unconscious in

Lieutenant Roland Peck

First published in News

When Jenny Young began researching the names on the war memorial at Moordown St John’s Church she had no idea what she might find, if anything.

“My father's family originates from Holdenhurst and then Moordown where I was born. I wanted to know how many men had a direct link to Moordown,” said Jenny, Westbourne library manager and a founder member of the Moordown Local Historical Society.

“Few service records existed for the men, they were part of the ‘burnt records’ and not many of the families living in the area had any photos of their relatives.

“Many of the names were found to be ‘Winton’ men. Of 118 names on the memorial 60 were considered to be ‘Moordown’ men serving in the Hampshire and Dorset Regiments, five were seamen and one was an aviator from the RFC.”

One name on the memorial was Lieutenant Roland Peck, inset, who was an observer and then a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps.

Thetford born Peck was one of five children. After the family moved to Pokesdown, he attended Bournemouth School, then in Portchester Road, Bournemouth. He was one of the first old boys of Bournemouth School to obtain a commission to 5th Dorset Regiment in October 1914, and after getting his second ‘star’ was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps.

2nd Lieutenant Peck then joined No.7 Squadron RFC at St Omer, France in February 1915 as an observer. St Omer was the arrival point for deploying the RFC. The squadron's mess was a life far removed from the trenches, where pilots enjoyed hot water, leisurely breakfasts, London newspapers and tennis.

At the end of July, Peck, who was acting as an observer for Captain John Aidan Liddell on a four-hour reconnaissance flight around Ostend and Bruges, narrowly escaped death when their RE5 aircraft came under heavy enemy fire.

The pilot lost consciousness after sustaining a broken leg and the badly damaged plane nosedived out of control. Peck, who had earlier unstrapped himself to load his Lewis machine gun, was in danger of falling out, but managed to cling on, as his rifle, ammunition, and other items tumbled out of the plane.

Luckily, Captain Liddell regained consciousness and despite his wounds managed to land the RE5 on a friendly airfield at La Panne in Belgium. The extraordinary incident appeared in the Daily Mirror.

Sadly Liddell died after his leg was amputated a month later. He was awarded the VC for his bravery. Peck was later mentioned in Despatches for his services at St Omer. Three months later Peck qualified as a pilot at the Central Flying School in Upavon, Wiltshire. He joined the 30 Squadron RFC in the Middle East supporting the IEF and in particular supporting the Mesopotamia Campaign.

“During the siege of Kut-al-Amara between December 1915 and April 1916 he was involved in dropping supplies, such as spares for radios, and also did vital reconnaissance work”, said Jenny.

Food supplies became critically low and to maintain the hold 5000lbs were required, and so the World’s First Air Supply Operation began.

Peck was undertaking reconnaissance work when he was shot down over the Tigris by a German aircraft supporting the Turks. Peck and another officer were killed instantly. He was 24 years old.

“His medals, the Victory Medal, 1914-15 Star, and the British Medal were sent to his father in Moordown.

“Lieutenant Roland Henry Peck is remembered on the Basra Memorial in Iraq. He is one of 9,378 men of the RFC, RNAS and RAF killed or missing in World War One,” said Jenny.

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