The Airmen's Stories - P/O A L Winskill
Archie Little Winskill was born in Penrith, Cumberland on 24th January 1917 and educated at Penrith and Carlisle Grammar Schools. He joined the RAFVR in April 1937 as an Airman u/t Pilot and was called to full-time service at the outbreak of war.
From September 1939 to June 1940 Winskill was a staff pilot at B&GS Catfoss. Commissioned in August, he arrived at 7 OTU Hawarden on the 25th and after converting to Spitfires joined 54 Squadron at Catterick on 16th September 1940.
He was posted to 72 Squadron at Biggin Hill on 3rd October, moving to 603 Squadron at Hornchurch on the 17th. Winskill claimed a Me109 probably destroyed on the 28th, shared a He111 on 21st November and destroyed two CR42's on the 23rd.
On 6th January 1941 Winskill was posted to 41 Squadron at Hornchurch and later became a Flight Commander. He destroyed a Me109 on 14th August but on the same day he was shot down near Calais in Spitfire Vb W3447.
He baled out and a French farmer immediately hid him in a cornfield until nightfall. The farmer's son then took him to the farmhouse where he was fed.
Winskill spent the next few days in a barn, where the farmer's son visited him with food each day. After two weeks in a safe house Winskill, dressed as a farmworker, was passed to various houses by bicycle before being put on a train for Paris. Due to the necessary secrecy he was not aware that he was being passed down the 'Pat O'Leary' Line, one of the most successful escape lines through occupied France. Two other evaders had joined him and they were taken first to Marseille and then to Aix-le-Therme at the foot of the Pyrenees.
On the night of 3rd October they were passed to an Andorran guide who took them over the mountains. After an arduous night-climb they managed to reach Andorra before travelling to Barcelona where the British Consul-General arranged to send them to Gibraltar via Madrid. Three months after being shot down, Winskill arrived back in England.
Fifty-seven years later, Winskill returned to France to meet Felix Caron, the boy who had helped him to escape, the Frenchman still had Winskill's flying helmet, discarded by him as he hid in the cornfield.
Winskill was awarded the DFC (gazetted 6th January 1942), being then credited with at least three enemy aircraft destroyed.
No longer allowed to fly over France, because of his knowledge of French escape routes, Winskill formed 165 Squadron at Ayr on 6th April 1942 and commanded it until August. He then took command of 222 Squadron at Drem until September, when he became CO of 232 Squadron at Turnhouse. Winskill took the squadron to North Africa in November.
On a sweep over the Mateur area on 18th January 1943, he was shot down, probably by Fw190's, after ditching in the sea he swam ashore.
Winskill destroyed a Ju87 and shared another on 7th April, damaged a Fw190 on the 27th, destroyed a Ju88 and a Me109 on the ground at La Sebala airfield on 7th May and damaged a Me323 on the ground on the 8th.
With his tour completed, Winskill was awarded a Bar to the DFC (gazetted 27th July 1943) and returned to the UK.
He commanded CGS Catfoss from September 1943 to December 1944. He then went to the Army Staff College, Camberley for a course, after which he was posted to a staff job at the Air Ministry in June 1945.
He was in Japan in 1947, commanding 17 Squadron, serving with the Occupation Forces.
Winskill was made a CBE (gazetted 11th June 1960) and in 1963 he became Air Attache in Paris. He retired from the RAF on 18th December 1968 as an Air Commodore.
He was Captain of the Queen's Flight from 1968 to 1972 and was created a KCVO in 1980 (CVO 1973).
In 1972 Winskill arranged for the body of the Duke of Windsor to be flown from France to Benson in Oxfordshire, where it lay in state in the station's church.
He died on 9th August 2005.