Wing Commander Ernest E (Rod) Rodley, DSO, DFC, AFC, AE
Ernest Rodley initially joined the RAFVR in 1937 and was commissioned and posted to Bomber Command in 1941. Joining 97 Sqdn flying Manchester‘s he was involved in the attack on the Scharnhorst, Prinz Eugen and Gneisenau whilst in Brest harbour and in the famous Augsburg daylight raid for which he received a DFC.
L7573 OF-K, 97 Squadron
S/Ldr J S “Flap” Sherwood, DFC
F/O Ernest E Rodley (Later DSO, DFC)
F/Lt Brian R W “Darkie” Hallows, DFC
F/Lt David Penman, DFC (DSO)
F./O. Ernest A. Deverill, (D.F.C.)
DAYLIGHT RAID ON AUGSBURG
On 17th April 1942, a low-level bombing raid was mounted by Bomber Command by Squadrons based at RAF Waddington and RAF Woodhall Spa. Aircrews were informed of their target, the MAN Diesel Factory in Augsburg, at a briefing at 1100 hours. Ernest Rodley was one of the 6 pilots from 97 Squadron to leave RAF Woodhall Spa in a Mk1 Lancaster bomber, to embark on one of the most daring raids of WW2. When the curtain drew back at the briefing there was a roar of laughter instead of a gasp of horror. No one believed that the RAF would be so senseless as to send 12 of its newest 4-engine bombers all that distance inside Germany in daylight. The route took us low, at about 100 feet, down to the south coast, across the Channel. We were to join Waddington’s 44 Squadron at the south coast, 6 aircraft from each squadron, and we were to go as a formation of 12 the rest of the way. I could see the sandbanks of France coming up ahead of us. We had no opposition at all crossing the defended coast. We proceeded south of Paris where I saw the 2nd Enemy Aircraft I saw during the whole War. It approached and, recognising us, did a 90° bank turn back towards Paris. Occasionally you would see some Frenchmen take a 2nd look and wave their berets or their shovels. Our route took us from the north end of Lake Constanz across another lake, where we turned north towards the target. I dropped the bombs along the side wall. We flashed across the Target and down the other side to about 50 feet, because flak was quite heavy. As we went away I could see light flak shells overtaking us, green balls flowing away on our right and hitting the ground ahead of us. Leaving the Target I looked down at our Leader’s Aircraft and saw that there was a little wisp of steam trailing back from it. The white steam turned to black smoke, with fire in the Wing. I was slightly above him. He dropped back and I asked our Gunner to keep an eye on him. Suddenly he said, “Oh God, Skip, he’s gone. He looks like a chrysanthemum of fire.” One other of our Aircraft caught fire just short of the Target, but kept on, dropped the bombs and then crashed. The raid was suicidal. Four from 97 Squadron got back, but only 1 from 44 Squadron. Five out of 12. – Wing Commander Ernest Rodley DSO DAC AFC AE
Air Efficiency Award (AE)
The Air Efficiency Award, was to be given for 10 years’ efficient service in the Reserve Air Forces of the United Kingdom, Commonwealth and Empire services. Unlike other long service and meritorious conduct awards, both Officers and Enlisted men were eligible. It was established on August 17th, 1942. Only officers were allowed to use of the post-nominal AE. For those servicemen who’s service commenced before September 3rd, 1939, in the Territorial Service of the Air Force Reserve, the time was counted as time and a half. Service with the RAF or any other Commonwealth Air Force during the WW2 between September 3rd, 1939 and September 2nd, 1945, was counted treble time. Service, other than in Flying duties in the Territorial Air Force or the Air Force Reserve was normally counted as single time, but when embodied within the RAF or any Commonwealth Air Force during WW2, this was counted as double time. Any other service within the RAF or any Commonwealth Air Force during WW2 was counted as single time. Servicemen that also served within WW1 in regular force was counted as single time and during that period service in non-regular forces was counted as double time. Service in non-regular forces after World War One prior to September 3rd, 1939 was also counted as single time. Time that was counted for which the serviceman already received another Long Service or Good Conduct Medal, could not be counted for receiving the Air Efficiency Award. The qualifying period had to be continuously, with the exception of service during WW2. A break of 6 months in the period after WW2 was excepted under conditions.
A 2nd awarding to those who served another period of 10 years, was done in the form of a clasp to be worn on the ribbon of the first AE.
The award was discontinued on 1 April 1999, and replaced by the Volunteer Reserves Service Medal.
Rodley’s Crew of Manchester Bomber
At the end of 1942, he joined RAF Scampton helping to convert to Lancaster Bombers before rejoining 97 Sqdn at Bourn as a Pathfinder. After a spell at RAF Warboys as an Instructor, he took command of 128 Sqdn at Wyton, flying Mosquitoes as part of the Light Night Strike Force and involved in doing 7 trips to Berlin. Staying with this unit he finished the war having completed 87 operations.
In 1946 Ernest Rodley joined British South American Airways flying Lancastrians across the Atlantic from a tented Heathrow. On 13th April 1950, he was checked out on the new Comet jet airliner by John Cunningham and became the worlds 1st jet endorsed Airline Transport Pilots Licence holder. Ernest Rodley retired from BOAC in 1968 as a Boeing 707 Captain, joining Olympic Airways a few days later. He amassed an amazing 28,000 flying hours.