Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1918, Warrant Officer Class II John Kendrick Skinner V.C., 1st Battalion, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, was killed in action at Vlamertinghe in Belgium.
One of eight children of a master tailor, after leaving school he worked for the engineering firm G. & J. Weir Ltd., which had been founded by two brothers, George and James Weir, and is today known as the Weir Group plc.. In October of 1899, when he was sixteen years old, WO2 Skinner was untruthful about his age and enlisted with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.
By the end of April in the following year he was serving in the South African War with the 1st Battalion. At the end of 1902 he was posted to India and served there and in Burma for a year with the 2nd Battalion, after which he was promoted to lance-corporal. By June of 1906 he had been promoted to sergeant. He unfortunately had a problem with discipline, and in 1910 was reduced in rank down to private. An officer described him as intelligent and hard-working, his only fault being an inclination to drink.
Immediately after the outbreak of the Great War he was sent to France and promoted to acting corporal. For his actions at Ciunchy in October he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He was wounded a few days later and sent home to be treated. In April of 1915, then-Corporal Skinner was wounded again during the fighting on Mauser Ridge at Ypres, and was to be wounded several times more, including at Gallipoli and later on the Somme - and mentioned in despatches three times - before his death.
For his actions during the Battle of Passchendaele in August of 1917 he was awarded the Victoria Cross, the citation for which reads: “For most conspicuous bravery and good leading. Whilst his company was attacking, machine gun fire opened on the left flank, delaying the advance. Although then-C.S.M. Skinner was wounded in the head, he collected six men, and with great courage and determination worked round the left flank of three blockhouses from which the machine gun fire was coming, and succeeded in bombing and taking the first blockhouse single-handed; then, leading his six men towards the other two blockhouses, he skilfully cleared them, taking sixty prisoners, three machine guns, and two trench mortars. The dash and gallantry displayed by this warrant officer enabled the objective to be reached and consolidated”.
After recuperating he was promoted to Warrant Officer Class II, attached to 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, and returned to the front early in 1918. At Vlamertinghe in Belgium he was crawling out into No Man’s Land to rescue a wounded man, when he was killed by a sniper. He lies buried in the Vlamertinghe New British Cemetery.
John, from Glasgow, was 34 years old and had been married to his wife Annie for only six months.