ONCHAN woman Jill Skeet has received a personal commendation from the RAF for her dedication to two Australian squadrons.
Mrs Skeet, of Belgravia Road, was presented with RAF Waddington’s Good Show Award by station commander Group Captain Chris Jones.
Mrs Skeet has had a lifelong interest in the activities of the Lancaster aircraft and of Bomber Command, but particularly 467 and 463 Squadrons of the Royal Australian Air Force, who both used to be based at Waddington.
Her family’s connection to the Lancaster aircraft began before she was born, when some relatives emigrated to Australia.
Mrs Skeet’s uncle was part of the Australian Air Force – a rear gunner on the 467 Squadron, and was assigned to fly from Waddington.
Unfortunately, he was killed in action on a bombing mission to Kassel.
Since then, she has spent her time devoted to the memories of the airmen lost from 467 and 463 Squadrons and has been the secretary of their Association since 1997.
Mrs Skeet has organised major reunions for both Remembrance Sunday and ANZAC Day in that role.
‘It’s quite an honour,’ said Mrs Skeet of her award.
The presentation was made at RAF Waddington, during one of the twice- yearly squadron meetings Mrs Skeet attends there.
‘It was wonderful because receiving it was such a surprise, I had no idea.
‘It really took me by surprise because I thought he [Group Captain Chris Jones] was going to talk about ANZAC Day and then he suddenly said he wasn’t going to talk about that, he was going to talk about me.’
Presenting Mrs Skeet with the commendation, Group Captain Jones pointed out it was the first time the award had been made to anyone from outside RAF Waddington.
It is only presented to people who, by their unselfish efforts, have made the lives of other people better.
She was told that without her efforts, it is likely that the sacrifices of the men from 467 and 463 Squadrons would have been forgotten.
Mrs Skeet has lived in the island for 11 years. She is married to Terry and the couple have two daughters and three grandsons. Her involvement with the squadrons is still going strong.
‘It’s my life, really,’ she said.
‘Although we are losing the veterans now because they are in their late 80s and 90s, new families are coming in.
‘I want to keep it going as long as I possibly can.
‘My family are all in on it with me. I’m very proud of it.’
Number 467 Squadron was formed at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire, under the Empire Air Training Scheme on November 7, 1942, and was equipped with Avro Lancaster heavy bombers. Soon after becoming operational the squadron moved to RAF Bottesford, Leicestershire, where it remained for a year before moving back to Lincolnshire, at RAF Waddington, where it was based for the rest of the Second World War. The squadron formed part of No. 5 Group, RAF Bomber Command and conducted raids on Germany, France and Italy from 1943 until 1945.
Number 463 Squadron was formed on November 25, 1943, from personnel and aircraft allocated from No. 467 Squadron.
The squadron was also equipped with Avro Lancaster bombers and flew its first raids on Germany immediately after being formed. Operating as part of RAF Bomber Command, No. 463 Squadron conducted raids against cities, industrial facilities and military targets in Germany and France throughout 1944 and until the end of the war in May 1945.