Crew: Edwards

Operation: Courtrai, 20/21 July 1944
Lost without trace, all the crew are commemorated on the Runnymede memorial

Pilot: F/O Edward Hubert William Joseph Edwards, 157108, 31 years old
F/E: F/O William Hannah DFC, 155897, 24 years old
Nav: F/Lt Eric Cyril Burt DFC, 118027, 23 years old
B/A: F/Lt Jack Skingley DFC, 134721, 27 years old
2nd B/A: F/O Kenneth Stowell Harrison Barker DFM, 146946, 24 years old
W/Op:  P/O Aubrey William Alexander Burnell, 177502, 24 years old
M/u/G: F/Lt Claude Raymond Underhill, 136718, 34 years old
R/G: F/Sgt Joseph Rumney, 2209612, 20 years old


Jack Skingley, from the scrapbook of F/L Hyde
The second bomb aimer, Kenneth Barker
(photographs courtesy of Sam Little (nephew) – many thanks also to Bill Habergham)
Edwards - KEN BARKER 1
Kenneth Barker, ‘Ken’, with his sister Peggy and his mother Constance on the day that he received his DFM
Edwards - KEN BARKER 2
Kenneth Barker, far left, the man on the right appears to be Claude Raymond Underhill, the mid-upper gunner, whose nickname could easily be Ray – the same man is seen in the photograph below, top right.
Edwards - KEN BARKER 3
We are still working on identifying this crew; this photograph was with the other Ken Barker photographs and Ken himself appears at the back. It is difficult to relate the names to the men as there are no ‘left-right’ details on the photo. The man second from right at the back is clearly a pilot, and it is just possible that this is Edwards although if the name ‘Eric’ is attached to him, the reason for that is totally unclear.
Entry in 97 Squadron ORB 

PA979R  F/O H.W.J.Edwards, F/O W.Hannah, F/L E.C.Burt, F/L J.Skingley, F/O K.S.Barker (Vis A/B), P/O A.W.A.Burnell, F/L R.Underhill, F/Sgt J.Rumney.  Up 2319  4 x TI green, 10 x 1000lb MC/GP.  Aircraft missing – nothing heard of after take off.

Extract from Bomber Command Losses – 20/21.7.44
Lancaster III  PA979  OF – R.  Op Courtrai.  T/O 2319 Coningsby with orders to bomb railway yards.  Lost without trace.  All are commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial.  F/L Barker had flown previously with 61 Squadron, his DFM being published on 13 August 1943.  On this sortie he was acting as a second air bomber.  F/O Edwards was the son of Chief Stoker Hubert Harry Edwards RN who lost his life on active service on 13 November 1940.



The photographs of Jack Skingley below were sent by Ross Skingley and Jackie Maude.
jack skingley policeman
Jack Skingley as a policeman before the war
Born in 1916 at Watford.
Member of Reigate Borough Police Force which he joined in April 1936.
Enlisted in April 1941, trained in Canada, and was commissioned in November 1942.
Reported missing from operations over the Normandy battlefront 20th/21st July 1944.
Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for “the utmost fortitude, courage and devotion to duty”, with effect from July 20th 1944.


Jack also flew many ops with the Benton crew, who will be added to the website next year.
skingley hAYFIELD
Marjorie and Jack by Jackie Maude (daughter)
Marjorie, my mum, told me a couple of stories about Dad, not sure how true they are!. When he was posted with another officer to a new squadron they arrived late at night and not finding where the toilets were  they used the open window of their bedroom. The next morning the Station Commander greeted them and as a passing shot said “And don’t pee on your commanding officer from a great height”. Marjorie also told of an occasion when Dad and Guy Gibson sang a duet in the Mess. Guy sang baritone and Dad alto soprano, just because Guy was short and Dad tall. I believe Guy’s dog joined in, what harmony!! It’s a good story anyway!
My mother always called my father John, that’s how he had been introduced to her.

We lived in Reigate with my maternal grandmother Rose who owned a shop in Holmesdale Rd at that time. My mother told me that when my father was home before his last sorties he made a point of saying goodbye to every member of the family, and even kissed one he didn’t particularly like! In retrospect she felt he had a premonition of his death. She knew the exact second that he was killed. She and her mother were asleep  in the cellar of our house in Reigate, We all had beds down there. She woke up and said to her mother “John has just died”.

My mother told me that Jack was a wonderful dancer. He had a great sense of humour like his mother. They had a lot of fun despite the war. They were only married for 3 years and 8 months.
Jack Skingley by Eric Rimmington
I cannot really remember the exact date that Jack came into our crew  [this was the Benton crew] only to say that it was early ’44. He and I got on well together right from the start and when he told me that he was in the Police Force, that cemented it, as I had always thought of joining.
One op we went on was Mailly le Camp; there was a long delay in marking the target, during which the flak and fighters were having a birthday as all the Lancs were stooging around just waiting for instructions. Jack got a good mention from W/C Cheshire (who was also there) for the way he marked the target and dropped the bombs.

That was Jack, very dedicated. I remember him saying many times, how he wished the war would end, so that he could get back to his family.
He was a good crewman, knowing his job very well. I can only think that he did about 5 or 6 ops with us when suddenly he opted to go, I think to P/O Edwards crew – why, I do not really know but I think that they were good friends.

When I learned a week or so later that his crew were missing, it came as a great shock and I hoped and prayed that he and the others had managed to get out, but this was not to be.
Jack Skingley by Des Evans

[His] poem always brings a lump to my throat. F/Lt Jack Skingley was a police constable before the war. A tall ambling guy, quiet and thoughtful. A really nice man.


Correspondence between Jackie Maude and Jennie Gray, May-June 2007
Jackie Maude: I have the original handwritten poem. It was written on the notepaper of The Regent Palace Hotel, Picadilly, London. Sadly there is no date. We assume it was when he was already in the RAF probably on leave.
Jennie Gray: About the original of the poem, written on The Regent Palace Hotel, Picadilly, London, notepaper, it has always seemed to me that the poem was written to be read out to an audience, perhaps at a grand dinner or banquet, because of the way it ends clearly calling for people to stand up and drink to the memory of “Our Heroes”:
So charge your cups
And stand in prideful pose
To drink a toast to Victory and to Those
Who counted not the price….
I give you ‘Our Heroes’
I would have thought it is quite possible that it was actually written at the Regent Palace before a dinner.

Jackie Maude: The amazing thing is that my son’s office overlooks the Regent Palace Hotel in Picadilly. I have been thinking about the poem and I believe Jack could have written this as a tribute to his best friend, and my Godfather, Wg Cmdr Eric Woods DFC and bar, who was killed 16 December 1943 off the Greek coast when flying his spitfire. Jack and Eric served together in the Reigate Police Force before the war.
jack skingley RAF friends
Jennie Gray: Thank you very much for the copy of the poem which arrived at the weekend. It was very interesting to see the handwritten amendments, and the proper headed notepaper – I have come across a mention of the hotel recently in connection with another crew, so I think it must have been something of a favourite haunt of aircrew.



by Fl/Lt. Jack Skingley DFC Yonder star alive with merry light
Appears from Earth to be inanimate,
Yet think you not that in that distant sphere,
Live people much the same as here.
Do they know pain as we who suffer now,
Are their aims small as ours, which show
No wish to rise to greater heights
As Time strides on and the Recorder writes.Look there!
The sun has thrust his rays,
To cap rock’s majesty in growing blaze
While down below to mortal life it brings
A stealing glow – and things,
Which in the shadow of the eve
Gained magnitude, now die to leave
The thought that yester took but little joy from Life
When man can face the growing strife
Now prevalent in this troubled world
By honouring a Flag unfurl’d.Those soldiers who paraded in the Past
Fought war and left Death’s aftermath,
Their ghosts now stand with Youth to guide their feet,
To make it easier when the drummers beat
And Last Post sends its poignant prayer
Oh God, receive these Heroes in Thy CareOh God, I pray that it may be
That when our nation’s history
Stands recorded in Truth’s clear light
No blot appears to mar the sight
Of noble sacrifice by those who tried,
With Hope and Loyalty allied,
To stop a Monster’s greed for power
And put an end to War for ever

Their loyalty unites in tempered band
True friendship proffered with unstinting hand.
If theirs to die the clasp is strong
The greater sacrifice, the better bond.

In vision clear as to their destiny
These men will fight for Right unceasingly,
So charge your cups
And stand in prideful pose
To drink a toast to Victory and to Those
Who counted not the price for Conquest paid
Unfaltered in their purpose firmly made,
To rid the World of horror and of vice,
They gave their lives, what Greater Sacrifice!

I give you ‘Our Heroes’