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Thread: No. 142 Squadron Blida January 1943 "mystery airman Skingsley"

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    Default No. 142 Squadron Blida January 1943 "mystery airman Skingsley"

    I hope someone can help with this one. I have been looking at some awards to No.142 Squadron at Blida in 1943.

    The Gazette says this:

    "Distinguished Flying Cross.
    Squadron Leader James Frederick Henry BOOTH (37958), No 142 Squadron
    Distinguished Flying Medal
    1317475 Sergeant Jack EDWARDS, No. 142 'Squadron
    911963 Leading Aircraftman James Arthur SKINGSLEY, No 142 Squadron.
    One night in January 1943, Squadron Leader Booth, Sergeant Edwards and Leading Aircraftman Skingsley were captain, bomb aimer and acting flight engineer respectively of an aircraft which attacked the docks at Bizerta. Shortly after its bombs were released the aircraft was subjected to a series of attacks by an enemy fighter, sustaining much damage before the attacker was driven off. The starboard engine was hit and burst into flames, the hydraulic system rendered useless -and the rear turret and other equipment damaged; in addition a portable oxygen bottle was set on fire. The aircraft began to lose height and the situation appeared hopeless. The captain ordered his crew to prepare to abandon aircraft. Leading Aircraftman Skingsley, ignoring his parachute pack, however, attempted to extinguish the flames from the oxygen bottle. Sergeant Edwards came to his assistance and together they grasped the blazing bottle with their bare hands; carried it to the escape hatch and hurled it out. The fire in the engine and in the main plane. subsided and Squadron Leader Booth decided to attempt to fly the bomber home. All moveable equipment, including guns and ammunition, was jettisoned in an effort, to maintain height. Although the aircraft was difficult to control. Squadron Leader Booth succeeded in flying it to base where he made a successful crash-landing in the face of extremely harassing circumstances these members of aircraft crew displayed courage and devotion to duty in keeping with the highest traditions of the Royal Air Force." This is Gazette Number 35946 of 16th March 1943, pages 1309-1310. Now having looked at the ORB for that mission I cannot find the airman Kingsley. Multiple and varied searches on the Gazette for the number and name of Skingsley bring up no hits other than for the page above. So is this an error?

    The crew that night was made up from a regular crew of men who flew together as a unit piloted by Squadron Leader Booth, Navigator was Pilot Officer Whitewood, Wireless Operator was Sergeant E. Salmon, Bomb-aimer was Sergeant Edwards, and the Rear Gunner was Sergeant Waldie. The name Skingsley does not appear.

    The London Gazette records quite clearly that 911963 James Arthur Skingsley was the other aircraftman who helped Jack Edwards dispose of the bottle, his name was not on any of the flight crew of the Operating Record Book for No. 142 Squadron on that mission. Neither does his name occur within the relevant pages of the Operating Record Book for No. 142 Squadron at all, and a further Gazette search for versions of “911963 James Arthur Skingsley”, does not come up with any notice correcting this original Gazette notice.
    The newspapers of the day repeat the story verbatim and one indicates he was a former Post Office sorter from West Wickham, Kent. I am stumped. What am I missing here?. Surely an aircraft would not take off without all the crew names being recorded correctly? If anyone can help I would be appreciative.

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    Default Re: No. 142 Squadron Blida January 1943 "mystery airman Skingsley"

    Peter

    It's definitely Skingsley. Born March 12th 1917 at Lewisham, died 1999 at Bexley. On the 1939 Register he's a patient at Lewisham Hospital, but his occupation is given as Post Office Sorter, as the newspapers record.

    Maybe as a Leading Aircraftman, he was 'unofficially' on board...?

    Regards

    Simon
    Researching R.A.F. personnel from the North East of England

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    Peter Garwood (3rd March 2021)

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    Default Re: No. 142 Squadron Blida January 1943 "mystery airman Skingsley"

    Hi Peter, in answer to your - surely an aircraft couldnt take off without the crew being correctly recorded.

    It did happen, the F541 in AIR 27 cannot be relied on 100%. As an example I have multiple errors in the records for 630 Squadron, all exposed and confirmed in logbooks. Chaps who flew with crews to fill in gaps due to an illness occasionally were not recorded at all, the usual crew members being shown. I have a complete crew shown flying a sortie in Aug 1944, the F541 even has times of take off and landing, but they never left the ground. I have one crew who are completely omitted from the F541 for three of their Ops, all confirmed by the logbooks of the crew and other contemporary paperwork.

    I don't believe that 630 Squadron records were substantially worse than average. Their F540 is also poor, crews could be posted in but never be recorded, crews could be posted out but never be recorded and so could individual bods, forget a man's initials, if her was JG but known as Sandy them quite often he'd appear as S. Aircraft serials were right somewhere approaching 75% of the time. I guess we have to remember that a war was being fought and the records were not written for us.

    cheers PeteS
    https://630squadron.wordpress.com/
    Last edited by PeteS; 3rd March 2021 at 17:10.

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    Peter Garwood (3rd March 2021)

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    Default Re: No. 142 Squadron Blida January 1943 "mystery airman Skingsley"

    Hi Peter

    From the WW2 Talk forum 2015

    http://ww2talk.com/index.php?threads...ingsley.58440/


    From the Distinguished Flying Medal Register Vol.2 by Ian Tavender

    911963 Leading Aircraftman James Arthur Skingsley No. 142 Squadron, RAF

    Flight Mechanic (Engines)

    LAC Skingsley was acting Flight Engineer of the Wellington crew detailed to attack the Bizerta docks on 18th January 1943. After dropping it's bombs, the Wellington was attacked by a Ju. 88 Night Fighter. After the fourth attack, the starboard centre section was on fire, the rear turret knocked out, the hydraulics, air speed indicator and flaps unserviceable, also the portable oxygen bottle was on fire amidships. When the fighter had broken off his attack, the Captain had ordered the crew to come forward to prepare to bail out, but LAC Skingsley, with great gallantry and complete disregard for his own safety, ignored his parachute pack and attacked the blazing oxygen bottle. Being unable to put the fire out, he picked up the blazing bottle with his bare hands, carried it to the escape hatch and threw it out. He then proceeded to assist in lightening the machine by jettisoning all the removable equipment. LAC Skingsley's conduct throughout the attack was one of the highest order. By his prompt action in picking up the blazing bottle, he undoubtedly helped the Captain save the crew and aircraft. Very strongly recommended for the immediate award of the Distinguished flying Medal.

    20th January 1943.

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    Peter Garwood (3rd March 2021)

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    Default Re: No. 142 Squadron Blida January 1943 "mystery airman Skingsley"

    I think that it was a case as others have pointed out of sloppy record keeping. I know that othr ORB's have errors and omissions. Thanks to all for their opinion on this.

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