Pilot Officer (Pilot) Allister McClean Skinner
On 17th January, 1943, No.402 Squadron, RCAF, paid a terrible price when they headed across the Channel on a fighter sweep, (Rodeo 151), with No.401 and No.412 squadrons – three pilots missing, among them Pilot Officer Allister McClean Skinner.
In return Kenley’s Canadian Wing damaged five locomotives, destroyed 1 FW190, probably destroyed another and probably damaged five more.
Allister McClean Skinner was born in Stellarton, Nova Scotia on 4th October, 1918, the seventh of the nine children who survived infancy born to Sinclair McClean Skinner (a retired railway engineer) and Christine Isabel Skinner (nee. Patterson).
Allister was educated at Stellarton Public School and High School, before attending New Glasgow High School for one year. From 1937 to 1940, he worked as an apprentice machinist for Canadian National Railways Shops, at Moncton, New Brunswick. Prior to enlisting in the RCAF, on 21st October, 1940, Allister’s only military experience was with the cadets when he was at High School. However, like most new recruits, his heart was set on becoming a pilot and his education, “good physique” and “pleasant” manner secured him a place at No.1 Initial Training School, Toronto, in February 1941. He commenced flying training at No.11 Elementary Flying Training School, Cap De La Madelaine, the following month and went to No.9 Service Flying Training School on 16th May.
On 10th August, 1941, Skinner was promoted to Sergeant and posted overseas to England. He left Canada on 15th September and arrived towards the end of the month. After a couple of weeks at No.3 Personnel Reception Centre, Bournemouth, he went to No.55 Operational Training Unit to complete his training and then joined his first and only squadron, No.402, on 9th December.
In April, 1942, Allister was posted to No.52 Operational Training Unit, at Aston Down, for a refresher course. On 12th October, he was appointed to a commission, as a Pilot Officer.
At 2.15pm on 17th January, 1943, 402 Squadron took off from Kenley on Rodeo 151, a low-level attack in communication lines in France, by 24 Spitfire IX’s of 401 and 402 Squadrons, plus the 15 Spitfire Vb’s of 412 Squadron. They crossed into France, west of Dieppe, led by Wing Commander Fee DFC, with Sunstrum flying as his No.2 on Red Section, and Pilot Officer Allister Skinner as Red 4, flying Spitfire IX, BS130. Sections splitting off from the main formation to attack ground targets were covered by the Wing Commander’s section. They had been over France for 15 minutes when enemy fighters were sighted. W/C Fee’s section turned to meet 9 FW190’s head-on and a dogfight developed which eventually involved 20 FW190’s. Red 3 and 4 broke away out of melee and Red 3 destroyed 1 FW190 but then found Red 4, F/O Skinner was not with him. Red 3 was the only aircraft from that section to survive the engagement. Red 1 – Wing Commander Fee, DFC and Bar, Red 2 – Flying Officer Sunstrum and Red 4 – Pilot Officer Skinner were all killed in action.
He was 25 years old when he was killed in action.
Rest in peace Sir and thank you for your service.