b. 05/02/1883 Glasgow, Scotland. d. 17/03/1918 Vlamertinghe, Belgium.
John Kendrick Skinner (1883-1918) was born at 76 Henderson Street, Glasgow, Scotland on 5th February 1883. His father, Walter Cumming Skinner, was a master tailor and clothier. He married Mary Kendrick in Glasgow in 1874. In addition to John, they had three other children – Peter (born 1877), Elizabeth (born 1879, died aged 12 in 1891) and Walter Cumming (born 1881). His mother died of consumption on 21st September 1889 when John was six, and his father married Barbara Grieve in 1892 in Glasgow, and they went on to have four children.
John was educated at Queen’s Park and Melville Street Schools in Pollokshields and Allan Glen’s School in Glasgow. He was employed by GJ Weir, pump and valve makers. He enlisted in the West of Scotland Artillery Militia on 22nd October 1899, aged 16. On Boxing Day, 1899, he enlisted with King’s Own Scottish Borderers, giving his age as 18 and three months.
John was posted to the 1st Battalion on 11th April 1900 and served in the South African War from 30th April. He was awarded 14 days detention and fined to scale for being drunk in camp at Eerste Fabrieken, Pretoria on 22nd January 1901. He was posted to India on 13th December 1902 and transferred to the 2nd Battalion at Allahabad, India the following day, where he served from 13th January to 29th December 1903, including in Burma. He was appointed Lance Corporal on 24th January 1903, was awarded Good Conduct Pay from 6th March and attained 3rd Class Education. He extended his service to complete 8 years in 1904. He was promoted to Corporal and then in June 1906, Sergeant. He then extended his service again to 12 years in Septembr 1906.
He was regularly in trouble with the authorities and in January 1910 faced a regimental court martial for drunkenness on the line of a march in Glasgow. He was reduced in rank, and he was reduced down to Private in October 1910 for being drunk again on parade. He was then confined to barracks for 8 days, and fined for being drunk and urinating in the road on 7th April 1911. Despite his disciplinary problems, he was allowed to extend his service to 21 years on 15th September 1911.
His disciplinary issues continued until the outbreak of war. He went to France with the Battalion on 10th August 1914 and was promoted to Acting Corporal and Acting Lance Sergeant on 4th October. He was then awarded the DCM for his actions at Ciunchy on 12th October 1914 after a heavy engagement he made a reconnaissance in a wood with a patrol under very difficult circumstances. He later received a gunshot wound to a finger on 14th October and was admitted to 13th Field Ambulance before being evacuated to England on 18th October, where he was treated in Edinburgh.
He returned to France as Acting Corporal in March 1915 and was promoted to Corporal the following month. He was wounded again (gunshot to foot) on Mauser Ridge, Ypres and admitted to 32nd Stationary Hospital, Wimereux on 25th April. Whilst back in Britain recuperating, he was awarded the DCM by King George V at Glasgow Green on 18th May. During that investiture two VCs were presented to William Kenny and Ross Tollerton.
John was appointed Acting Sergeant on 30th June and went with a draft to the 1st Battalion at Gallipoli, serving there from 3rd July. He was promoted to Sergeant and two days later was hit in the right shoulder. He was evacuated to Cairo on 4th August and was out of action until March 1916. He then returned to France with 1st Battalion on 9th March and was shot in the right hip on 1st July on the Somme. He was evacuated to Britain on 6th July and taken on strength of the Depot next day. He didn’t rejoin the Battalion until October 1916.
On 2nd June 1917 he was appointed Acting Company Sergeant Major of A Company. On 18th August 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele at Wijdendrift, Belgium, his company was attacking, when machine gun fire opened on the left flank, delaying the advance. Although 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.
His wounds saw him out of action until August 23rd, and he was promoted to Warrant Officer Class II on 17th September. He was then granted leave and received his VC from King George V at Buckingham Palace on 26th September 1917. He married Annie Elizabeth Young nee Lee on 29th September 1917 at 2 St John’s Road, Glasgow. They had no children. Despite being attached to 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, he managed to use a return leave warrant to try and return to France. He was stopped but eventually returned in early 1918.
On 16th March 1918 he crawled out into no man’s land in Vlamertinghe, Belgium to recover personal belongings and identification from three bodies. The following day he went out into no man’s land to recover a wounded man who had been lost in a night patrol and was heard crying out. John was shot by a sniper and killed. His body was recovered and buried on Vlamertinghe New British Cemetery. Several VCs are said to have been in attendance at his funeral. In addition to his VC and DCM, he was also awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal 1899-1902 with three clasps, King’s South Africa Medal 1901-1902 with two clasps, 1914 Star with “Mons” clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 and French Croix de Guerre with Bronze Palm. His medals were presented to the Regiment by his step-mother and are held by the King’s Own Scottish Borderers Museum, Berwick-upon-Tweed.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: KINGS OWN SCOTTISH BORDERERS, BERWICK ON TWEED.
BURIAL PLACE: VLAMERTINGHE NEW MILITARY CEMETERY, BELGIUM.
PLOT XVI, ROW H, GRAVE 15.
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map.
Thomas Stewart – Image of the Skinner VC Medal Group at the KOSB Museum, Berwick.
Tony Hogg – Image of the Skinner VC Stone in Glasgow.