113 SQUADRON RAF
Sqd Ldr Michael Hill Shekleton
Michael Hill Shekleton enrolled in the RAFVR in 1936. His application for a pilot's course was turned down because he was too old so he opted to train as a navigator.
Training in navigation was a new departure for the RAF and instruction was given by ex-Naval officers. Shekleton completed the course successfully. He was mobilised on September 4th. 1939 as an LAC (Leading Aircraftman) and posted successively to Sywell, Squires Gate and Evanton (Scotland) on gunnery and bomb-aiming courses. On completion of the Evanton course of air gunnery he was posted to Uxbridge, London, for officer-training. He was gazetted as a Pilot Officer in March 1940. He was one of the first six Pilot Officer-Navigators and uniquely with the others wore the winged-O. The winged-N had not at the time been designed.
His first (and as it turned out only) posting to a combat squadron was to 113, then at Heliopolis. He flew on operations in the Western Desert with 113 until October 1940, when he was invalided back to Delta and moved successively from Heliopolis to Aboukir and Ismailia. At Aboukir, while convalescing he was engaged on instrument repair and at Ismailia on devising and teaching advanced exercises on the Link Trainer.
Early in 1941 he was posted to Headquarters, Middle East, and with a staff officer, Group-Captain Stokes was sent (having been made-up to Flight Lieutenant) on a survey of East African airfields, then occupied by the South African Air Force. Subsequently the SAAF left East Africa and HQME, after setting up 203 Group in Nairobi, established Operational Training Units at Nakuru and Nanyuki.
When asked about his meteoric rise in rank from P/O, he replied: About my rank - funny you should notice. Stokes must have felt he could not conduct the EA survey with a bloody pilot-officer in tow, or for that matter, even a Flying Officer. So he must have been responsible for P staff making me to Flight-Loot. Incidentally, I reckon I did all the work and he just socialised. But I would, wouldn't I? I certainly did all the writing. We roundly condemned the whole plan as being altogether too dangerous - inexperienced pilots landing Blenheims at 6000 ft.- using brakes, making brake drums red hot, bursting tyres, collapsing undercarts? Ridiculous! Needless to say, our rhetoric was ignored. The OTUs were duly established.
Flight-Lieutenant Shekleton was involved with manning them and later posted to No.70 OTU as Synthetic Training Officer. In 1942 he was made up to Squadron-Leader and moved to 203 Group as Group Synthetic Training Officer.
After the defeat of the German Afrika Corps in Egypt and Libya HQME moved 203 Group to the Delta and S/L Shekleton was involved in transferring the OTUs to Delta stations, and supervising the start-up of similar facilities in Palestine.
Early in 1944 he was recalled to the UK and posted by the Air Ministry to their Research and Training Publications in London.
In April of that year he was sent to the Empire Central Flying School, Hullavington, for an eight week course. On completion of this he was put on the strength of Hullavington temporarily and worked in the wind-tunnel section of this unit with Professor Kermode, then the senior lecturer there.
S/L Shekleton's final posting was to Castle Combe, Wilts. As Senior Ground Instructor. He was demobilised from there on VE Day 1945.
NOTE: See DIARY
for further information on S/Ldr Shekleton and a highly detailed account of the first Desert campaign. The diary begins on June 10th 1940, the first day of the war in the Middle East and subsequently the Squadrons entry into WW2. It ends just prior to the Squadrons recall from the desert and departure to Greece in late 1940. By some strange twist of fate this covers nearly the exact period missing from the official squadron records.