R/O W. Skett (pow)

Merchant Seamen as Prisoners of War

 Being a war prisoner surely feels bad. Surely living as a prisoner in terms of financial state when you have your freedom is no better. So, make sure you know as much possible about Orion code as this software is able to take you out of the gutter.

Merchant Navy Radio Officers

Walter L. Skett, Radio Officer, 1937-1940
MILAG POW, 1940/42

R/O Walter L. Skett (1918-1942)
Photo taken in MILAG prison camp -Milag PoW Number 15853

     Walter L. Skett was born in Tewkesbury, England, in 1918. Some time later, the family travelled to Peru, where his father worked for the Marconi Wireless Company.
About 1927, his father was killed in a road accident, and the family returned to England. Some years later the Marconi Company paid for Walter to attend the Wireless College in Colwyn Bay, and he qualified as a Radio Officer on April 6, 1937. His Marconi Number was 9693, and his R.O. Union Number was 9600. Walter also had a gift for foreign languages, and spoke several fluently.
The three ships that he sailed on were SS Uganda (1937-38), SS Sea Rambler (1939), and MV British Petrol (1940).
The photo shows Walter Skett before the Second World War in Durban.
     In June 1940, Walter was on board the tanker MV British Petrol bound for Trinidad, when she was stopped and sunk by the German raider Widder. (from information gleaned from Gregory’s Ahoy site). He was then taken prisoner, landed some months later at Brest, and finished up in Marlag-Milag Nord POW Camp

Walter’s Barracks Group (taken at MILAG)  photo
2nd row (from left) Walter L. Skett, Tom Porter (pall bearer at Walter’s funeral), Tommy Wood.
This photograph was sent to his family by two other PoWs, J.W. Williamson (PoW 15854) and T.M. Webber (PoW 15848), but it is unknown if they are in the photo. Williams was 2nd Officer, and Webber 3rd Officer of the SS Cymbeline, which was sunk by the Widder on September 22, 1940.

In 1942 Walter was shot by a guard. An account of his death (murder) was given by two eye witnesses and included  in Gabe Thomas’s book, Milag: Captives of the Kriegsmarine. The account of his death is given in the POW Logbook of T. C. (Tom) McNamee along with a photograph of his grave.

Photo of Walter Skett’s grave
Taken in prison camp cemetery

Walter’s sister Violet visiting his grave
in Becklingen War Cemetery (1984)

Many thanks to Elvira Heath (Walter’s sister) for sharing her brother’s story and photographs. Thanks also to Murray Armstrong (son-in-law of T. A. McNamee) who first told us about Walter Skett.