Roderick Alastair Brook Learoyd bigraphy, stories - Recipient of the Victoria Cross

Roderick Alastair Brook Learoyd : biography

5 February 1913 - 24 January 1996

Wing Commander Roderick Alastair Brook Learoyd VC (5 February 1913 – 24 January 1996) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Victoria Cross citation

The announcement and accompanying citation for the decoration was published in supplement to the London Gazette on 20 August 1940, reading

Early life

Born in Folkestone in February 1913. Educated at Hydreye House Preparatory School, Baldstow, Sussex, and Wellington College, Berkshire, Learoyd then attended the Chelsea College of Aeronautical and Automobile Engineering. Learoyd then lived in Argentina for two years as a farmer.

Military Service

Learoyd decided to join the RAF and was accepted in March 1936. Learoyd took a short service commission and was posted to 49 Squadron, Bomber Command equipped with Hawker Hinds at RAF Worthy Down. In March 1938, 49 Squadron moved to Scampton and became the first RAF squadron to re-equip with the new Handley Page Hampden bomber. Operational from the outbreak of war, on 3 September six Hampdens from 83 Squadron and three from 49 Squadron (including Learoyd) left Scampton on an 'armed reconnaissance' over the North Sea.

During the next ten months Learoyd participated in 23 more bombing sorties, and was a Flight Lieutenant when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC, gazetted on 20 August 1940.

On 12 August 1940 eleven Hampdens — six from 49 Squadron, five from 83 Squadron — were detailed to destroy the old aqueduct carrying the canal over the river Ems, north of Münster. Flight Lieutenant Learoyd was one of the pilots briefed to bomb.Learoyd was detailed as pilot of Hampden P4403, "EA-M", and his crew comprised Pilot Officer John Lewis (Observer), Sergeant Walter Ellis (wireless operator-gunner) and LAC William Rich (ventral gunner).

Of the other Hampdens which made the attack that night, two were destroyed and two more were badly hit. Flight Lieutenant Learoyd took his plane into the target at only 150 feet, in the full glare of the searchlights and flak barrage all round him. After commencing its bombing run Learoyd's aircraft was badly damaged, including a ruptured hydraulic system, resulting in inoperable wing flaps and a useless undercarriage. Wing damage, though serious, had fortunately missed the wing petrol tanks. Despite this damage the bombs were duly dropped and Learoyd managed to get his crippled plane back to England where he decided that a night landing would be too dangerous for his crippled aircraft and so circled base until first light, finally safely landing without causing injury to his crew or further damage to his aircraft.

The Victoria Cross was awarded at an investiture on 9 September 1940, by which time Learoyd had been taken off operations and promoted to Squadron Leader, and was acting temporarily as personal assistant to Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham.

Further information

He later achieved the rank of Wing Commander and served in No. 44 Squadron.

After surviving the war Learoyd retired to civilian life, first as a VIP pilot and later as an export sales manager in the motor industry. His VC is on display in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery at the Imperial War Museum, London.

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