A scarce early Second World War 1939 to 1940 operations Wellington Air Observer’s Distinguished Flying Medal group awarded to Sergeant later Flight Lieutebanbt A.F. Skelton, Royal Air Force, a Halton Apprentice and pre-war regular, he flew in Flying Boats with 204 Flying Boat Squadron at RAF Mountbatten and 230 Flying Boat Squadron at Pembroke Dock and out in Egypt and at Singapore during the 1930’s, and with the outbreak of the war was serving with 214 Squadron at RAF Feltwell before joining 38 Squadron at RAF Marham in Lincolnshire from Octob

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Product ID: CMA/27453
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Description:

A scarce early Second World War 1939 to 1940 operations Wellington Air Observer’s Distinguished Flying Medal group awarded to Sergeant later Flight Lieutebanbt A.F. Skelton, Royal Air Force, a Halton Apprentice and pre-war regular, he flew in Flying Boats with 204 Flying Boat Squadron at RAF Mountbatten and 230 Flying Boat Squadron at Pembroke Dock and out in Egypt and at Singapore during the 1930’s, and with the outbreak of the war was serving with 214 Squadron at RAF Feltwell before joining 38 Squadron at RAF Marham in Lincolnshire from October 1939. A fellow squadron airman’s letter discovered after the author’s death in action on 30th May 1940, was subsequently published as the now famous ‘An Airman’s Letter to His Mother’. From December 1939 Skelton had taken part in ‘one long sweep over the North Sea, one night reconnaissance over Germany and 22 operations over Heligoland, Norway, Germany, Holland, Belgium and France’. During these he had remained ‘unperturbed by intense enemy anti-aircraft fire encountered on numerous occasions’ and rendered ‘invaluable assistance as navigator to his captain of aircraft’. In addition as a Bomb Aimer he is noted for having been continually endeavouring to discover new methods of attack and ‘was one of the pioneers in evolving a successful gliding attack in order to outwit the activities of hostile searchlights’. After a tour as an instructor to No.15 Operational Training Unit at Harwell and then with 9 Air Observers School at Penrhos, he was posted to Southern Rhodesia and commissioned in January 1943, and later saw service in Catalina flying boats with both 205 Squadron and 209 Squadron at Koggala out in Ceylon and flying in operations over the Indian Ocean in support of the campaign against the Japanese in Burma, being employed on anti-submarine and air sea rescue patrols.

Group of 6: Distinguished Flying Medal, GVI 1st type bust; (564369. SGT. A.F. SKELTON. R.A.F.); 1939-1945 Star; Air Crew Europe Star; Burma Star; Defence Medal; War Medal. Mounted swing style as worn.

Condition: Good Very Fine.

Alfred Fulford Skelton was born on 15th August 1914, and enlisted into the Royal Air Force on 21st January 1930 as an Apprentice Airman and sent to RAF Halton, where he served with No.2 Wing. Appointed an Aircraftman 2nd Class (No.564369) on 6th January 1933, he was posted to 204 Flying Boat Squadron at RAF Mountbatten at Plymouth Sound, Devon, and was then promoted to Aircraftman 1st Class on 1st September 1933. Posted to Henlow on 10th December 1934, and then to 230 Flying Boat Squadron at Pembroke Dock on 31st May 1935, he was promoted to Leading Aircraftman on 1st August 1935, and then formed part of a detachment of his squadron sent out to Egypt from 23rd September 1935 to 3rd August 1936, before moving on to Seletar at Singapore on 9th January 1937. From 8th July 1936 Skelton was additionally awarded pay for Air Gunners.

From 9th May 1938 Skelton is confirmed as serving permanently with the Air Detachment at Seletar, and was then posted to the Home Establishment on 5th December 1938, and posted to No.1 Air Observers School at North Coates Fitties in Lincolnshire and on 2nd January 1939 he re-mustered as an untrained Air Observer. Promoted to Corporal on 1st February 1939, and to Acting Sergeant and Air Observer on passing the course on 15th July 1939, he was then posted to 214 Squadron at RAF Feltwell on 9th August 1939, and shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War was posted 38 Squadron at RAF Marham in Lincolnshire on 5th October 1939.

Skelton was promoted to Sergeant on 15th January 1940, and after a fairly quiet start to the war, his squadron, equipped with Wellington bombers, on 11th May 1940 began operations in support of the British Expeditionary Force over in France. On 30th May 1940 seventeen Wellington Bombers from RAF Marham took off to provide close ground support to the BEF as they withdrew from the beaches of Dunkirk. One of the men shot down, a Flying Officer Vivian Rosewarne in aircraft R3162 from 38 Squadron, was killed, however his letter to his mother, found by his commanding officer amongst Rosewarne’s locker at Marham, was anonymously published in The Times on 18th June 1940, and was subsequently published in a small book, ‘An Airman’s Letter to His Mother’, and reprinted three times. By the end of the year over 500,000 copies had been sold. King George VI wrote personally to the mother. Suggestions that the letter was fictitious and propaganda eventually led to the identification of Flying Officer Rosewarne and his death notice was eventually published on 23rd December 1940.

From May 1940 onwards No.38 Squadron continued regular night raids on the Channel ports and the Ruhr and occasionally the squadron flew farther into Germany, reaching as far as Berlin later in the year.

It was for his gallantry as an Air Observer in Wellington aircraft with 38 Squadron during 1939 to 1940 that led to Skelton’s award of the Distinguished Flying Medal, published in the London Gazette for 13th September 1940. The recommendation made on 22nd July 1940 reads as follows:

‘Sergeant Skelton has since December 1939, taken part in one long sweep over the North Sea, one night reconnaissance over Germany and 22 operations over Heligoland, Norway, Germany, Holland, Belgium and France. Unperturbed by intense enemy anti-aircraft fire encountered on numerous occasions, he never fails to display the greatest courage and calmness in rendering invaluable assistance as navigator to his captain of aircraft. His conspicuous determination, efficiency and outstanding devotion to duty over a long period and as an example.’

His Station Commander wrote: ‘This N.C.O is a Navigator and Bomb Aimer of outstanding merit who has successfully carrier out his duties with an enthusiasm and gallantry over a very long period.’

The Air Officer Commanding wrote: ‘I concur with the remarks of the Unit and Station Commanders in forwarding the above recommendation. This N.C.O has at all times displayed the utmost keenness and courage in carrying out his operations. He is a Bomb Aimer who is continually endeavouring to discover new methods of attack and was one of the pioneers in evolving a successful gliding attack in order to outwit the activities of hostile searchlights.’

Having completed his first tour of operations, Skelton was posted as an instructor to No.15 Operational Training Unit at Harwell on 17th September 1940, and was then promoted to Temporary Flight Sergeant on 1st April 1941.Promoted to Temporary Warrant Officer on 1st October 1941. Then posted to No.9 Air Observers School at Penrhos on 26th January 1942, and then out to Southern Rhodesia on 18th March 1942, and was then discharged to a commission on 15th January 1943 as a Pilot Officer (No.50599) with the General Duties Branch. Posted to No.21 Service Flying Training School at Kumalo in Southern Rhodesia on 16th January 1943, he was promoted to Flying Officer and then posted home to No.131 Operational Training Unit at Killadeas in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland on 13th July 1943. Posted to No.302 Flying Training Unit at Stranraer on 15th November 1943, he was then posted out to India, to join Headquarters of South East Asia Command at New Delhi on 29th January 1944, and then joined 205 Squadron at Koggala in Ceylon on 28th February 1944, and then saw service in operations over the Indian Ocean in support of the campaign against the Japanese in Burma. At this time his squadron was equipped with Catalina flying boats, and employed on anti-submarine and air sea rescue patrols.

Skelton was promoted to Flight Lieutenant on 16th January 1945, and was then posted to the Headquarters of South East Asia Command at Kandy on 7th June 1945. Posted to the Headquarters of 222 Group at Ratmalana near Colombo on 27th July 1945, he then joined 209 Squadron at Koggala on 1st August 1945, and after being posted to Worli on 12th September 1945, was posted home and discharged on 27th October 1945. Confirmed as his full entitlement.