49 Squadron Awards

12/13 August, 1940; DORTMUND-EMS CANAL

Under intense enemy fire, F/Lt Pitcairn-Hill and crew of 83 Squadron went in first and although very badly shot up, they managed to put their bombs in the right spot. The second and third attacks were made by 83 Squadron crews; both were shot out of the sky, crashing near the target. The fourth attacker was P/O Matthews and crew of 49 Squadron; they ploughed their way through the light flak being hit repeatedly. With one engine out of action, a successful attack was made. P/O Matthews and crew now had the task of nursing their battered aeroplane back to Scampton on the one remaining good engine.

F/Lt Learoyd and crew of 49 Squadron, having seen the previous attacks, now confronted the full force of the German defences head-on. With searchlights almost blinding him, the pilot brought his Hampden down to 150ft above the canal. Ignoring the ferocity of the deadly cannon shells, both pilot and bomb aimer concentrated intensely on the task at hand. The bombs were placed spot on target and their mission was accomplished with complete success! But now they too, like the Mathews crew, faced the return journey with a badly damaged aircraft. Both engines were still going strong, but there was a problem with the hydraulic system.
Not wishing to endanger his crew any further, F/Lt Learoyd circled Scampton until it became daylight before bringing M-Mother in for a trouble free perfect landing.
Air Ministry Orders No 256/1940: It was announced today, that in recognition of most conspicuous bravery, during the Dortmund-Ems raid, A/F/Lt R.A.B. Learoyd has been awarded the Victoria Cross.

This was indeed a most popular award; 'Babe' Learoyd was extremely well liked and a much respected member of the squadron. All ranks shared with pride, the honour of his award.

Other aircrew members who took part in the raid also received awards: P/O Matthews, for gallantry in operations against the enemy received the DFC, whilst two leading aircraftmen, LAC W.R. Rich and LAC Robert S. Allwood had the distinction of being the first LACs to receive the DFM.

LAC Rich was the gunner in the aircraft of F/Lt Learoyd VC; LAC Allwood had flown with P/O Matthews DFC.


For more details of this and other raids on the German canal system visit