24 November 2022
Medals awarded to Lancaster rear gunner who participated in almost 100 sorties as one of the elite and daring Pathfinder force to be sold at Noonans on 7 December.
Lancaster Rear Gunner Warrant Officer Victor Arthur Roe who was born at Old Barge Yard, Norwich in May 1923, was killed in action on a raid to Chemnitz, carrying out his 98th operational sortie on 5-6 March 1945. He was just 21 years old. His outstanding and rare Second War CGM (Conspicuous Gallantry Medal) and Immediate DFM (Distinguished Flying Medal) group of five will be offered by Noonans in its sale of Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria on Wednesday, 7 December 2022. They are being sold by Roe’s family and are estimated at £30,000-£40,000.
Roe was in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve and flew in 14 operational sorties in Wellingtons and Halifaxes with 466 Squadron, prior to flying the remainder of his operational service with 35 Squadron. This amounted to a remarkable 84 operational sorties with the Squadron, 50 of which were with Flying Officer John Forde as his pilot, and out of the total of 84, 11 were as Master Bomber crew and seven as Deputy Master Bomber crew, all with Pathfinder Force.
As PW Bodle mentions in his book Zero To Hero, From a Boy’s Home to R.A.F. Hero: ‘One of nine children born to two impoverished alcoholics - all of whom were removed by the courts from their parent’s custody by the age of two - is hardly the start that would be attributed to a hero of the R.A.F., but that was how Victor started.’
While Mark Quayle, Specialist (Associate Director) Noonans commented, "This is a remarkably poignant story attached to a rare group of medals. From humble origins, and the most difficult of starts in the life, Victor Roe rose above his difficult beginning to distinguish himself amongst the elite of the elite - the Pathfinder Force. A talented ’Tail-End Charlie’, he regularly engaged and successfully fought off enemy aircraft from the rear turret of his Lancaster Bomber. Having crammed so much into his short life, he was killed in action on the raid to Cheminitz, 5/6 March 1945, aged just 21. It was his 98th operational sortie, just 2 shy of the elusive 100 club."
Roe successfully fought off an Me. 110 during the raid on Haine-St- Pierre, 8-9 May 1944, which was described as follows: ‘… which made four successive attacks using cannon and machine-gunfire. Roe returned fire and on each occasion although his turret had been hit and become unserviceable, resulting in Sergeant Roe being covered with oil. When the Me. 110 made the fourth attack, it was seen to have caught fire in one engine and it is claimed as probably destroyed. Throughout the combat, Sergeant Roe handled his guns with cool determination, clearing stoppages in between attacks although he had received a slight injury in his right arm from a cannon splinter early in the encounter.’
Warrant Officer Roe is commemorated, along with the rest of his crew, on the Runnymede Memorial. The medals will be sold with a Pathfinder Force Badge Award Certificate, dated 5 March 1945, a Telegram addressed to recipient's sister informing him that he is ‘Missing in Action’, dated 6 March 1945; plus letters, photographs, a bible, other ephemera and copied research.
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