Sergeant Orville Kenneth Skelton
Orville Kenneth Skelton was born on June 18th, 1912 in Carman, Manitoba to his parents Alexander Henry Skelton and Alice Florence (Terry) Skelton, who were of Irish descent. He was one of five children, raised in a busy home. His oldest brother, Lenard Harold Skelton served in the military during WW1. Orville spent most of his childhood and adolescence in Carman, where he attended the local school and completed grade 10 at the age of 17. During his teen years, he enjoyed playing hockey; he often played goalie for the provincial Royal Bank Hockey Team. After he graduated from high school, Orville secured a job with the Royal Bank for the next 10 years (1930 – 1940).
World War II was in motion and Orville decided to answer the call to join the military. He enlisted on September 9th, 1940, and then went on to complete his basic training. Given his bank experience, he qualified as a clerk and was able to receive trades pay. A woman by the name of Jean Gertrude McLellan caught the eye of Orville, and their courtship began. On December 10th, 1940, Orville was granted permission to marry Jean. Orville was promoted to Corporal on December 18th, 1940. He and Jean exchanged vows in early 1941. They wasted no time and immediately started a family. They welcomed their first child, a daughter they named Judith in late 1941. Orville was promoted again on June 15, 1942 to the rank of Sergeant and promoted again shortly after to Staff Sergeant.
In 1942, Orville learned about a new special unit being formed called the Paratroopers, which were only looking for the fittest and most competent candidates. At 5 foot, 3½ inches, and 135 pounds, he was fit and very motivated to take on new challenges and volunteered to join. He completed the fitness test and aptitude assessments with ease and was deemed suitable to attend Parachute training. Orville attended Ringway Parachute School in England and proudly graduated on October 18th 1943. He joined the ranks of the elite 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion and started training with them in preparation for their next mission. As it was customary to take a reduction in rank in order to join the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, upon his transfer, Orville was bumped down in rank to Sergeant.
Orville travelled with the Battalion by sea to Ostend, Belgium, and then by truck to the Ardennes to participate in what was known as the Battle of the Bulge. He then returned to England to continue training with the Battalion. On May 8, 1945, the war ended and the Battalion made its way back to England, then Canada. On August 18th, 1945, Orville was honourably discharged from the military and returned to civilian life. He had served five months in action, landing in Belgium twice. His time in service earned him the following medals: France and Germany Star, The Defence Medal, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with clasp, and the War Medal (1939 – 1945).
After the war, Orville returned to work for the Royal Bank and was promoted to assistant accountant. He would later become the manager at the Stock Yards branch in St. Boniface. Orville took his savings and a loan from the Veterans Land Act (VLA), and he was able to purchase a home for his family in St. Boniface. Orville and Jean welcomed two more children: Richard, born in 1950, and Gary, born in 1956. Orville retired to a cabin on the Brokenhead River, near Beausejour, Manitoba. He wanted to stay connected to his military roots in the veteran community; so he became a member of the Legion Branch in Beausejour, Manitoba. He enjoyed fishing and being a good neighbor in his community, making many close friends, and spending time with his 10 grandchildren. Orville would live out the remainder of his days at his cabin, until he passed away on March 8th, 1990 of natural causes at the age of 77. If you have taken the time to read about Sergeant Orville Kenneth Skelton, then you have kept his memory alive.
Information and artifacts courtesy of Richard Paul Skelton and Gary Skelton.