Captain Frederick Rutherford Skillen



Frederick Rutherford Skillen was born on 13 August 1893 at 34 Beverley Street, Belfast, the first of four children of linen factory manager Joseph Skillen and his wife Mary Graham Morrow Skillen (nee Rutherford). By 1911 he was living with his family in Ballymena and working as a shipping clerk.

Skillen enlisted in the North Irish Horse at Belfast on 1 October 1914 (No.1232). However he did not spend long with the regiment. On 1 December 1914 he was discharged following his appointed as a 2nd lieutenant in the 12th (Service) Battalion, King's (Liverpool Regiment).

On 22 July 1915 Skillen embarked for France with his battalion. A report in the Ballymena Observer of 31 December 1915 noted:

Second-Lieutenant F.R. Skillen, who was transport officer for the King's Own Liverpool Regiment, was home from the front during the Christmas week-end. ... He was looking fit, and had the best wishes of his many friends in Ballymena on his departure on Tuesday last.

On 15 May 1916 he was promoted to lieutenant, and on 1 August the following year, acting captain.

On 16 August 1917 the battalion took part in the Battle of Langemarck, part of Third Ypres. Attacking on the eastern side of the Steenbeek, their casualties for the day were 4 officers killed and 7 wounded, with 41 other ranks killed, 230 wounded and 34 missing. Skillen was one of the wounded officers, having received a gun shot wound to the arm. However it appears that the wound was not serious and he was soon back at duty.

On 19 September Skillen was promoted to the rank of captain. He was mentioned Field-Marshal Haig's despatch of 7 April 1918. A second mention came in Haig's despatch of 16 March 1919.

In February 1919 Skillen was posted to the 4th Battalion, King's (Liverpool Regiment), and soon after was attached to No.175 Prisoner of War Company.

Skillen faced a court martial at Calais on 11 November 1919, charged with drunkenness and acting to the prejudice of good order and military discipline. He was acquitted.

A week later he fell ill and was evacuated to England. A medical board at Hemel Hempstead four months later found him cured and fit for general service. He relinquished his commission on completion of his service a few days later.

In 1921 Skillen was employed as a health insurance officer in the Ministry of Health. Two years later he enlisted in the ranks of the 52nd East Lancashire Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery.

He died on 23 February 1954 at the City Hospital, Lisburn Road, Belfast.


Skillen's brother William Graham served during the war as a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery.


Image kindly made available by Des Blackadder, from his site Ballymena and the Great War.