Today (12th August) marks the anniversary of the action in 1940 for which Old Wellingtonian Roderick Learoyd was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Roderick was in the Lynedoch from 1926 to 1929, but was undistinguished academically and left at sixteen. After working on his uncle’s fruit farm in Argentina, he joined the RAF in 1936. His Squadron, No. 49, was the first to be equipped with the Handley-Page Hampden bomber aircraft. In 1929-40 he flew 24 bombing missions over Europe.
The citation for his VC reads as follows:
This officer, as first pilot of a Hampden aircraft, has repeatedly shown the highest conception of his duty and complete indifference to personal danger in making attacks at the lowest altitudes regardless of opposition. On the night of 12th August 1940, he was detailed to attack a special objective on the Dortmund Ems Canal. He had attacked this objective on a previous occasion and was well aware of the risks entailed. To achieve success it was necessary to approach from a direction well known to the enemy, through a lane of especially disposed anti-aircraft defences, and in the face of the most intense point-blank fire from guns of all calibres. The reception of the preceding aircraft might well have deterred the stoutest heart, all being hit and two lost. Flight Lieutenant Learoyd nevertheless made his attack at 150 feet, his aircraft being repeatedly hit and large pieces of the main plane torn away. He was almost blinded by the glare of many searchlights at close range, but pressed home this attack with the greatest resolution and skill. He subsequently brought his wrecked aircraft home and, as the landing flaps were inoperative and the undercarriage indicators out of action, waited for dawn in the vicinity of his aerodrome before landing, which he accomplished without causing injury to his crew or further damage to the aircraft. The high courage, skill and determination, which this officer has invariably displayed on many occasions in the face of the enemy sets an example which is unsurpassed.
The two photographs show Roderick as a pilot, and as a student at Wellington in 1928.