Thursday, November 17, 2011
George Skelton joined Boulton Paul Aircraft as a test pilot in 1937,flying Defiant's and Rocs. He was recalled to the RAF in 1939 jonig No 264 Sqn, the first Defiant unit.
Taking off at 04.15 hrs o Monday 13th Ma 1940 from Martlesham along with 5 other Boulton Paul Defiant's and 6 Spitfires from 66 Squadron. F/Lt George Skelton and Air Gnr Jack Hafield were flying Defiant L6969. The object being to patrol the Dutch coast between Ijmuiden and the Hague to attack German troop transport.They flew across the North Sea, making landfall about ten miles north of The Hague at 0515, after which all aircraft turned north. Over IJmuiden they were fired on by Dutch anti-aircraft guns located on the south side of the harbour. The guns were firing accurately but they ceased fire immediately the British signalled the Dutch letter of the day. All aircraft turned about and flew south along the coast. More fire, this time German, was met over Maassluis which caused sections to take evasive action. Shortly after, the No. 66 Squadron Spitfires turned east towards Rotterdam where there were fires raging in various places while the Defiant's followed a more southerly route. Approaching Rotterdam, the crews of both flights saw about seven German Ju 87 Stukas (belonging to 12. Staffel of Lehrgeschwader 1) dive-bombing a target to the south-east. The Defiant's went in to the attack and a ferocious air battle developed. Shortly after, Bf 109's from 5. Staffel of Jagdgeschwader 26 joined the battle, which then developed into a series of individual dogfights. Hit by German fighters, the pilot of Blue 1, Flight Lieutenant George Skelton, lost consciousness and the aircraft went into a spiral dive. His gunner, Pilot Officer Jack Hatfield, tried in vain to contact his pilot and finally abandoned the plane.After Hatfield had left the aircraft by parachute, Skelton regained consciousness and, being wounded and possibly to low to bail out, tried to save himself by gliding down to a strip of reeds to break his impact. He made a perfect emergency landing at the edge of the Donge River south of the town of Geertruidenberg where the wrecked aircraft would remain for a considerable time. The seriously injured pilot was brought to the St Theresia Hospital at Raamsdonksveer, where Dr. Charles Lips treated him. Initially the hospital staff hid Skelton but eventually the Germans found him and he was transferred to Germany where he remained in various camp hospitals until, due to his injuries, he was eventually repatriated to Britain via Sweden in 1943.
Thanks to the treatment he received from German doctors, Skelton was later able to fly again. In late 1944, after France had been liberated, he spent some time in Cannes with his wife and family to speed up his recovery. He later carried out administrative and technical duties in the RAF and in 1945 he was promoted to Squadron Leader. Two years later he was further promoted to Wing Commander and, from December 1948 to December 1950, served as Air Attaché in Prague. In 1952, now a Group Captain, he took a course at No. 101 Flying Training School to maintain his flying skills and later took a further course at No. 215 Advanced Flying Training School at Finningly. In 1954 he was posted to 2nd Tactical Air Force in Germany and in April 1956 promoted to Air Commodore. In 1959 he was appointed Chief of Air Staff but he left the service on his retirement later that year and returned to the south of France with his wife. His health deteriorated in 1979 and he returned to England for treatment. He died in King Edward Hospital in London on October 18, 1985, aged 76