Profile: George Skipper
20th August 2018
Name: George Skipper
Regiment: Royal Army Service Corps
A cockney born and bred, George Skipper grew up in the tough surroundings of 1920s East End London. With a family of four occupying a cramped one bed flat, and a father whose drink and gambling problems would often lead to violent outbursts, George had to learn to fend for himself from a very young age.
George was a keen and talented amateur boxer in his youth – then a popular pastime for working class boys in the East End. At 12 years old, he won the West Ham boys championship and as a young adult, he would share the boxing rings in Bethnal Green with infamous East End gangsters – the Kray twins.
Called up for Army service in 1941, George was quickly identified as a highly skilled gunner and was deployed to the Middle East with a special elite unit of 11 men who were part of the 7th Armoured Division, later nicknamed the ‘Desert Rats.’
After 14 months as a desert rat, and a short stint in England as a driver for the Colonels and Brigadiers that were assisting Churchill, Eisenhower and Montgomery to organise and prepare for the historic D Day landings, George himself was dispatched to Normandy’s Gold Beach, arriving during the early hours of 6th June 1944.
Sinking just before they reached the shore and with relentless enemy fire showering down on the approaching Allied soldiers, George not only managed to pull his mates who couldn’t swim out of the water, but also made successful advances across enemy ground. George’s courage on that day and the months that followed, was recognised by the French government in 2015 when they awarded him the top military honour – the Légion d’Honneur.
From an East End boxing ring to the battlefield of the largest seaborne invasion in history, George’s colourful past is reflected in his demeanour today – dignified and proud, with a cockney charm and twinkly in the eye that allows a glimpse of the feisty, independent boy of his youth.