Awards to Men of the Battle of Britain

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Date of Auction: 20th September 2002

Unsold

Estimate: £1,000 - £1,200

Three: Sergeant V. H. Skillen, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, a Blenheim pilot who served on night fighter operations throughout the Battle prior to being killed in action over France in March 1941

1939-45 Star, clasp, Battle of Britain; Air Crew Europe Star; War Medal 1939-45, with original Air Ministry condolence slip and named card forwarding box, extremely fine (3) £1000-1200

Footnote

Victor Hall Skillen, who was from Belfast, Northern Ireland, enlisted in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in March 1939 and was selected for pilot training. Called up on 1 September, he completed his course and was posted to No. 5 O.T.U. at Aston Down in late May 1940, converting to Blenheims. Subsequently posted to No. 29 Squadron at Digby on 16 June, he flew operationally throughout the Battle of Britain as a night fighter pilot and, no doubt, found occasion to discuss tactics with fellow pilot, Flying Officer J.R.D. Braham, afterwards the most successful night fighter of them all - and the holder of three D.S.Os and three D.F.Cs. Undoubtedly, too, he ran into none other than Flight Lieutenant Guy Gibson, who arrived at No. 29 as commander of ‘A’ Flight in November 1940 - it was not a popular appointment, Squadron personnel having wanted one of their own to have been given the post.

The Squadron’s Operations Record Book (O.R.B.) reveals Skillen participating in an R.D.F. trial over the Humber area in the afternoon of 15 August, a burning He. 111 being spotted in a field near Bridlington, and over the next two weeks he completed at least half a dozen night sorties. September saw Skillen completing a similar number of patrols, one of them, on the evening of 21st, over the Mersey and Liverpool, ending with his Blenheim being engaged by our own A.A. fire and a collision with the airfield searchlight on his return. And on the evening of 25th, over Bircham Newton, although his Blenheim was twice coned by our own searchlights, he set-off in pursuit of two bandits using his A.I. apparatus, but unfortunately to no avail. October, the closing month of the Battle proper, offered a comparable schedule of operations, the Squadron listing numerous encounters with bandits.

A forced landing due to wireless failure was among Skillen’s more unhappy experiences that November and, immediately after Christmas Day, following several more patrols, he was posted to No. 23 Squadron at Ford. Tragically, on 11 March 1941, while piloting one of the Squadron’s Blenheims on an intruder mission over France, he and his crew were all killed following a collision with an He. 111 over Amiens-Gilsy. Aged 24 years, Skillen was interred at St. Pierre Cemetery, Amiens.

Sold with original priority Post Office telegram and envelope, the former informing the recipient’s mother that he had been reported missing on 11 March.