Thursday, October 30, 2014


Another name associated with Commando pocket library is Skentlebery who is credited as the author of the following issues:

Desert Hero (#144, Dec 1964)
The Desperate Hours (#157, Mar 1965)
Achtung Submarine (#182, Sep 1965)
Bullet in the Back (#191, Dec 1965)
Nameless Hero (#192, Dec 1965)
Breakthrough (#196, Jan 1966)
The Lost Army (#222, Jul 1966)
Desert Fury (#232, Oct 1966)
The Phantom Raiders (#257, Apr 1967)
The Terror of Tobruk (#288, Oct 1967)
Desert Monster (#298, Nov 1967)
Forgotten Few (#362, Oct 1968)
War Eagle (#371, Dec 1968)
Common Foe (#375, Dec 1968)
Redcap (#427, Sep 1969)
The Night the Tow Rope Broke (#524, Jan 1971)
The Spy Who Never Was (#534, Mar 1971)
Soldier from Space (#577, Aug 1971)

The spread of these issues makes me wonder whether the author was regularly working elsewhere and only writing for Commando when he had spare time to fill. Unfortunately, I've found no other credits for this author elsewhere, in or out of comics.

Indeed, Skentlebery is a very uncommon surname, with only a handful of people listed in official birth records for the UK and Wales since 1837. Of these, the only likely candidate is Francis Arnold Skentlebery, born in Cardiff in 1909. The more common spelling is Skentelbery [the middle 'le' becoming 'el'].

The alternate spelling opens up a number of possibilities and I offer here two.

Michael Leo Skentelbery, born in Cork on 6 November 1917, was the son of A. H. Skentelbery of Weaver Pt., Crosshaven, Cork, who became an Irish diplomat who worked for the Department of External Affairs, Dublin. He was the Secretary of an Irish Legation who travelled to New York in October 1946 and the Charge d'Affaires in Australia for some years in the 1950s (at least 1952-57).

Skentelbery was subsequently the Irish Ambassador to Argentina, the above photograph showing him presenting his credentials to the President, Sir Arturo U. Illia, on 16 April 1964. (A second photograph from the same event can be found here.)

He is subsequently mentioned in an anthology of rugby anecdotes (Roars from the Back of the Bus: Rugby Tales of Life with the Lions, ed. Stewart McKinney, Random House, 2012). According to Sean Lynch, he was introduced to Skentlebery during the Irish team's 1970 tour of Argentina:
On our arrival in Argentina, the Irish Ambassador, Mr Michael Leo Skentelbery, met us at Buenos Aires Airport. Now, I'm not the best with remembering names, especially after a 16-hour flight and a few in-flight beers with the lads. However, I did notice that the Ambassador had quite a shake and someone said he had Parkinson's disease.
    In between all the mayhem of this tour, I made the biggest faux pas of my life. Two weeks after we had met the Ambassador we were invited to his flat for drinks and I had completely forgotten his name. While in conversation with him, making small talk I became befuddled and tongue-tied when I had to address him. I asked, 'How have you been, Mr... Parkinson?'
    All the boys like Terry Moore and Phil O'Callaghan doubled up with laughter. He tried to ignore me but to make matters worse, delighted that I thought I had remembered his name, I pulled him by the sleeve and said, 'I'm talking to you, Mr. Parkinson. Would you listen?'
    One of the lads advised me to abandon my line of conversation. When I discovered my gaffe, I was never more embarrassed in my life.
Could this be our author? It might explain his irregular appearances in the late 1960s if he was away on diplomatic duties. He was, at least, an author, as he is known to have written poetry—a verse entitled "He Sends Her a Present of Spring" appeared in The Bulletin vol. 76 no. 3957 (14 December 1955).

I can also offer an alternative: David George Skentelbery, born in October 1937, who has been a journalist and director with Orbit News Ltd. for many years. An online biography describes him as:
Warrington's most experienced journalist having worked in the town for 44 years. Started his career on the Knutsford Guardian and also worked on the Warrington Guardian before moving to the Lancashire Evening Post in Wigan and Warrington. Also worked on national newspapers in Manchester, including The Daily Telegraph and the Sunday Express.
    Founded Orbit News in 1968. Born in Birmingham, grew up in the Knutsford area. Son of former Manchester Evening News theatre critic Tom Wildern Skentelbery. Hobbies include cricket and is an active member of Glazebury Cricket Club. Former member of Knutsford and Lymm Oughtrington Cricket Clubs. Part-time Birmingham City fan!
It would be no surprise to find a journalist in his twenties writing comics as a sideline as it was often a useful source of additional income. Given his online presence, I'm hopeful that David might be able to confirm or deny his authorship.


  1. Hello
    In search of the history of the former Irish ambassador in Argentina, Michael Leo Skentelberry, I came across your blog where you tell joking anecdotes about your meeting with Skentelberry. Yes, indeed, the man seemed to suffer from Parkinson's and even had a small limp that seemed to walk making small heights. In the blog you say that there are more photographs about the event that you coment, but unfortunately I have not been able to find it.
    Here I send you photographs from 1966 when the ambassador visited our city of VT, south of the province of Santa Fe.
    I had fun and in my historical compilation of that event I will have something to say to give it a touch of humor. Thank you very much.
    José Wallace

  2. I can confirm the author is David George Skentelbery - My Father who is still alive and kicking in Lymm. I will forward him this link. We are both still working journalists although my father is currently on lockdown aged 82. We run the website whch has been my home town for 57 years. He wrote the books for extra money when I was born.

  3. Thanks for getting in touch, Gary. Much appreciated. Thomsons only listed surnames in their records, so even with help from the company, discovering who wrote and drew these classic war stories is still a case of detective work coupled with the occasional bit of luck. I'm pleased to hear that your Dad is still around... perhaps he has a story to tell about his time on the Commando treadmill and whether he wrote any other comic strips or stories.

    1. Hi#
      David Skentelbery here.
      Yes, I wrote quite a few Commando books, and a couple for another company, the name of which I can't recall.
      As you will know, Thomson re-issued Commando books under different names so I can't confirm that all those listed were by me. But the titles are similar to the original ones. I have copies of most of mine but at present haven't got access to them because of lockdown.

    2. Hi David, Good to hear from you. The other two companies publishing at that time were Fleetway (War, Battle, Air Ace) and G.M. Smith/Micron (Combat). Maybe Pearsons, although they may have stopped by 1964. Perhaps when lockdown is over you'll be able to confirm who it was and what titles you did.

    3. Hi Steve
      Yes - it was Combat that I wrote two titles for. They were both ideas that had been rejected by Commando. They only paid half the fee that Thomson paid and a had a hell of a job getting the money out of them. I did submit one to Fleetway but they didn't like it so I never bothered with them again.
      At Commando I dealt with an editor named C.E.W. Checkley and got to know the type of story he liked. When he died, I submitted one further story (which I am sure he would have accepted) but the new guy turned it down so I never bothered with them again.
      In 1999 I publlshed a "proper" book rather than a comic - "Jumbles Wood" - a children's story, inspired by my two granddaughters. It is still available from Amazon.
      During "lockdown" I have been finishing off a book telling of my school days at a sort of "Dotheboys Hall" type of boarding school in Cheshire. I hope to have it published before the end of the year.
      After lockdown I should be able to confirm the original titles of all my comic books.

    4. Thanks, David. Chic Checkley published a great many fantastic stories at Commando. I'll be interested to learn which stories you wrote for Combat once you can get to them.

    5. Hi Steve,
      You might like to know that my book "The No Hoper" has been published by Amazon this week. It is a description of my school days, and shortly after, told, I hope, in a humorous fashion.
      I can confirm that the list of Commando titles you have were indeed by me.
      David Skentelbery

    6. Thank you, David. For anyone interested, here's a link. I would still love to know the titles of the contributions you made to Combat Library to complete the list of your war comics.



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