b. 05/02/1913 Folkestone, Kent. d. 24/01/1996 Rustington, West Sussex.
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. After two years in Argentina as a farmer, 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 J Lewis (Observer), Sergeant J Ellis (wireless operator-gunner) and LAG 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.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON
BURIAL PLACE: WORTHING CREMATORIUM, WEST SUSSEX. ASHES INTERRED PLOT 35/34.
Roderick Learoyd's medals including VC on display at Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London (August 2014).
Eric Kennington Portrait
St Clements Danes Memorial, Aldwych
Yorkshire Air Museum (Stewart May)
Newspaper cuttings courtesy of Brian Drummond