23rd March 1917

32-year-old Second Lieutenant William Moorwood Staniforth, Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was killed in a flying accident in Coventry on 23rd March 1917. Born in Hackenthorpe, near Sheffield, on 25th October 1884, he was the youngest child and second son of parents William and Sarah Hannah (née Moorwood), having three older sisters – Gertrude Mary (born 1872), Margaret Emily (born 1874) and Harriette Elaine (born 1875) – as well as an older brother (Thomas, born 1877).

William (senior) was a scythe and sickle manufacturer at Messrs Staniforth and Sons, Hackenthorpe, established in the mid-18th century and one of the largest scythe and sickle manufacturers in England. The 1881 census notes that William Staniforth employed 100 hands at his works, although he subsequently appeared in the Bankruptcy Court in 1893, with stated liabilities of £1,425 1s 3d and assets of £258 19s 4d.  He was described at the time as a retired scythe and sickle maker of The Terrace, Beighton.

William (junior) joined the Queen’s Own Yorkshire Dragoons before the war, and was a Sergeant in the Sheffield troop, receiving the Territorial Long Service decoration. He went out to the Front in 1915, and was gazetted Second Lieutenant in December 1915.  In June 1916, he married Miss Gladys Burrows of Beaconsfield (previously of Sheffield).

Intensely interested in flying, Second Lieutenant Staniforth volunteered in October 1916 for the Royal Flying Corps, passing his aviation certificate in a Maurice Farman biplane at the Military School, Ruislip on 11th December 1916. At the time, his address was given as Rivelm, Beaconsfield, Bucks. It appears that he was subsequently posted to the 28th Reserve Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, Castle Bromwich. On 23rd March 1917, he lunched with his wife only a few hours before his fatal flying accident:

Coventry Standard 30th March 1917
An inquest was held in Warwickshire, on Monday, concerning the death, whilst flying, of Sec.-Lieut. Wm. Moorwood Staniforth. The deceased was a married man, and was a competent aviator as well as being skilled in the mechanical part of the machine. He had been flying a straight course, and when turning the machine made a spinning nose dive to the ground. On reaching the ground the petrol tank burst, and a fire broke out. The man died twenty minutes after the accident, the doctor stating that death was due to shock and burns. The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death,” and made certain recommendations to the authorities with a view to the avoidance of similar accidents.

Probate records give his address as The Forge, Castle Bromwich, and state that his death took place at Stoney Stanton Road, Coventry. He is buried in St Mary and St Margaret’s churchyard, Castle Bromwich, with a family headstone describing him as “Dear Billie”.

If you have any further information, please let us know.

Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

tel.: 0121 704 6977
email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk




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