Crew Steven

Additional crew information since “Fire By Night” was published.

JACK SKINNER

Information from his daughter Vicki Clark
Dad served in the 109, 162, & 97 Squadrons – he was in the Middle East from January 1942 to January 1943.
He was an Instructor at an OTU for a while and I think his first op with 97 Squadron was September 22 1943 (marked in his logbook as his 34th op). He flew 19 operations altogether with the Pathfinders – all as a mid-upper gunner. He was on borrowed time, though. His last operation was his 53rd. He had completed his required number of operations but volunteered to carry on. Given the statistics, the numbers were very much against survival.
I was born July 1st 1944 – so he must have known Mum was pregnant – just.
They wanted a baby so much as Mum had already lost one earlier, a boy they were going to name Peter.
Strangely enough I was named after Vicki Baum – a German author. Mum worked in a library – which I also qualified as funnily enough.
I have always looked so much like my Dad and so does my only daughter – funny how genetics work, isn’t it?

Reading through his letters
One incident made me smile – they were cleaning the bed of someone called Graham – with turps. Dad was sure it would not burn – tried it  – and after a couple of seconds the whole thing went up – so they had to quickly get it outside before the entire tent burned down.
Another time he was teaching flying crews. Exams were next day and he had the papers on his desk. He had to leave the room briefly  – and when he returned his students were still dutifully studying. However, he had made a mark on the edges of the papers he had left and knew instantly that they had been looking at the answers.
One comment to Mum was the calibre of men he had to teach and the short time that was allowed.
He wanted them to achieve high passes because – as he said – their lives will depend on it.
Once while walking in the woods, him and a mate came across some Italian prisoners in a working party. They started to speak Arabic (presumably picked up in the Middle East) between them which sparked an interest from the Italians. So with “pidgin Italian” they had a conversation and were able to tell them how the war was going in Italy.
(
Note from Jennie Gray: there was an Italian PoW camp near Toft, very close to Bourn, so this may very well have been where this little incident took place.)
My Dad had beautiful hand-writing. He was a prolific letter-writer and put funny little drawings and comments at the bottom.
I think he was a very likeable, loyal guy – with high morals – who kept his word. Quite kind, gentle and caring – usually enquiring about Mum’s parents and family and sending them his love. I don’t think he “went out with the lads” very much, preferring to see a film and have an early night.
One thing I do know is that his parents did not know he was flying. Apparently each time they visited his family, Mum would cut off his “wings” and sew them on again after the visit. He wanted to save them the worry – but it must have been a huge shock to them when he was killed.

CAPTAIN: Steven

LANCASTER ND421 OF-S
14 January 1944, shot down over Texel.

CREW
Pilot: F/L Kenneth Munro Steven
Killed, buried in Den Burg Cemetery
Flight Engineer: F/S Albert C East
PoW
Navigator: F/S Samuel Stevenson
Killed, buried in Den Burg Cemetery
Bomb Aimer: P/O Ridley Brown
PoW
W/Op: F/S William Gadsby
Killed, buried in Den Burg Cemetery
Mid-Upper Gunner: W/O Clifford John, known as Jack, Skinner
Killed, buried in Den Burg Cemetery
Rear Gunner: Sgt Leslie Norman John Laver
Killed, buried in Den Burg Cemetery

Left to right: Ace and Rid (who survived), Paddy (who died), Ken Newman whose place Leslie took

Crew: Kenneth Munro Steven, Albert C East, Samuel Stevenson, Ridley Brown, William Gadsby, Clifford John Skinner, Leslie Norman John Laver
Below: Jack in his flying suit, and his marriage to Edith
December 16/17 1943 & The Battle of Berlin

LOVE, FELLOWSHIP, AND LOSS: RAF Bomber Command Aircrew, Their Families, and Their Friends