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The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. W T E Rolls


William Thomas Edward Rolls was born in Lower Edmonton, Middlesex on 6th August 1914. He won a scholarship to the Latymer School in 1925. He joined the RAFVR in March 1939 as an Airman u/t Pilot and did the long course at 19 E&RFTS Gatwick, which ended on 29th June 1939.

Called up at the outbreak of war, Rolls completed his training at 3 FTS South Cerney, passing out on 14th June 1940, then joined 72 Squadron at Acklington on the 19th.


The squadron went south to Biggin Hill on 31st August. Rolls destroyed a Me110 and a Do17 on 2nd September, destroyed two Me110's on the 4th, destroyed a Do17 and probably another on the 11th, destroyed a Me109 and damaged another on the 14th, damaged a Me109 on the 15th and destroyed a Me109 on the 20th.

Rolls was awarded the DFM (gazetted 8th November 1940) and posted to 58 OTU Grangemouth in January 1941 as an instructor.

He moved to 61 OTU Heston in July. He returned to operations on 23rd October 1941, joining 122 Squadron at Scorton, he was commissioned in January 1942.

The squadron went to Hornchurch on 2nd April 1942. Rolls destroyed a Fw190 and probably a second on 17th May and probably destroyed a Fw190 and shared another on 2nd June.

In July 1942 Rolls was posted to Debden, then flew a Spitfire to Abbotsinch and embarked in HMS Furious at Greenock. He flew off in early August to Luqa, Malta, where he joined 126 Squadron. Rolls was appointed a Flight Commander.

On 13th August he destroyed a Ju88, on 19th September a Do24, on 11th October he destroyed a Re2001 and damaged another, on the 12th destroyed a Ju88 and two Mc202's, on the 13th and 16th destroyed two Ju88's and on the 26th a Me109.

Soon afterwards Rolls broke a leg and was admitted to hospital. He was flown to Gibraltar in a Hudson and then took off from there for Portsmouth in a Catalina. Strong headwinds caused its fuel to run low, necessitating a forced-landing off the Welsh coast. The flying boat was towed in by a destroyer. Rolls was taken to the Royal Naval Hospital, Swansea.

He was awarded the DFC (gazetted 4th December 1942).

In early 1943 he was posted to the Publicity Branch of the Air Ministry to lecture and talk at 'Wings for Victory' functions.

Rolls was sent to the Air Armament School at Manby in September 1943 for a six month course. Afterwards he went to HQ 12 Group as a Specialist Armament Officer.

In November 1944 Rolls was attached to the Bombing Analysis Unit and went to France with it in June 1945. He was later attached to the US Air Evaluation Board. He was released from the RAF in January 1946 as a Flight Lieutenant.

Rolls went to work for the Ministry of Works and was later with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. In 1960 he became a Senior Information Officer at the Air Ministry and took over production of RAF Training Films.

He was appointed Director of the Directorate of Training Films Requirements (RAF) in 1968.

Rolls retired in 1975 and died in July 1988.


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