Wing Commander Roderick Alastair Brook Learoyd , [VC] (5 February 1913 – 24 January 1996) was a [Royal Air Force bomber pilot and recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
On 12 August 1940 eleven Hampdens — six from No. 49 Squadron, five from No. 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 [Leading Aircraftman William Rich (ventral gunner)
Of the other Hampdens that 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, taken off operations and promoted to substantive flight lieutenant, was acting temporarily as personal assistant to Air Chief Marshal Sir Robert Brooke-Popham.