The Soldier's Details
- First Name:
- John Bartley
- Nick Name:
- Regimental #:
- ‘B’ Company, No. 8 Platoon
- Place of Birth:
- Fremantle, Western Australia
- Father's Name:
- Philip Skelton
- Mothers's Name:
- Emma Wilhelmina Skelton (nee Witt)
- Church of England
- Pre-war Occupation:
- Selarang Camp Changi, Johore Bahru, Adam Park, Selarang Barracks Changi.
- ‘D’ Force Thailand, S Battalion
- Camps Thailand:
- Tarsau, Konyu II, Kinsaiyok, Rin Tin, Chungkai
- 4/6614 & 8848
- Return Details 1945:
- Thailand-Singapore by aircraft, Singapore-Fremantle, HMT Highland Brigade.
As recorded above, Jocka was a Fremantle boy, well known and a popular young man within the various sporting bodies.
His father Philip John Skelton was born 1869 in St Heliers, Jersey, Channel Islands married in 1912 Northam to Emma Whilhelmina Witt who was born in SA. Emma’s parents were both born Germany. They married Quorn, SA 1881.
Philip Skelton enlisted WW1 17 April 1916 stating his age as 42 years (he was in fact 47 years). With service No. 5921 Philip joined 16th reinforcements to 28th Battalion and went overseas. He seems to have been hospitalised often with illness. Finally he was discharged 19 Oct 1917 – ‘Overage’ and returned to WA.
Jocka had an older sister Phyllis and 3 younger brothers Frederick George, Reginald Leslie and Walter James.
As recorded below, Jocka’s father was a ‘bookmaker’ in his earlier years, however returned to his printing trade.
Jocka was fined several times over the years for operating as a SP Bookie.
He enlisted 19 July 1940 and joined 2/4th’s ‘B’ Company, Platoon 8 under Command of Lt. MacKinnon.
The following has been researched and written by Ron Pimm on behalf of Skelton family. Pimm has used ‘Colour Patch’ by Murray Ewen for much of his reference.
Jocks was interned as a POW at Singapore at Selarang. He was later included in the work party to Johore Baru, was at Adam Park and returned to Selarang Barracks before he was selected to work on Burma-Thai Railway with ‘D’ Force Thailand, S Battalion. It was probably during his Singapore days Jocka reguarly ran his betting shop!
This group included the largest number of men from the 2/4th (as did ‘A’ Force Burma, Green Force No. 3 Battalion which began working from the Burma end of the railway). They were sent to work in the Hellfire area, with their first work camp at Tarsau which would become the Japanese HQ for ‘D’ Force. Later, Tarsau would become a ‘hospital’ camp for ‘D’ Force sick. From Tarsau ‘S’ Battalion moved to Konyu II Camp, although some men This was the beginning of a hellish episode to survive. The men working hammer and tap to clear the way through rock for the rail. The men dressed in little clothing and mostly a ‘Jap happy’ usually no shoes and hats, endured injuries from pieces of flying flint which often resulted in tropical ulcers (from which so many men died – the fortunate survived amputations). The men working in the rockface faced extra heat, glare, were bashed, starved and worked long hours. They became ill with tropical illnesses such as malaria, dysentery, beri beri, etc. Cholera was their greatest fear and several 2/4th men died.
Dr. Phil Millard was their hero, working without any medical instruments or medication, always doing his utmost to keep the men alive. The 2/4th men thought highly of him. Please read further.
When Konyu II was nearing completion some POWs were sent to the Hintok Camps, and/or Kinsaiyok – wherever the Japanese engineers required labour. If Jocka was with Joe Pearce, he probably went to Kinsaiyok as Rin Tin is about 9-10 km away – Rin Tin (which Joe Pearce wrote about below).
‘D’ Force sick were sent to Chungkai (hospital records show Jocka was one) or Tarsau. When the railway was completed the POWs working in Burma were brought south, and those already south were gathered at 4 large camps in Thailand, including Tamarkan, Tamaung. We cannot be certain of Jocka’s movements from now on. Many 2/4th men in S Battalion were selected as being fit by the Japanese to work in Japan.
We know Jocka was at RinTin at one time. From ‘Joe Pearce, To Hellfire and Back’ Joe recalls the story of being in the camp by the river called Rin Tin. He writes the group of POWs were accompanied by 3 or 4 guards with a machine gun which had been set up (at Rin Tin).
Joe Pearce managed to send some of the very sick men down the river including Jocka Skelton. A single bomber from an Allied raid appeared over them. It seems this was the first occasion the POWs had seen an Allied plane flying low. As the bombs came down Jocka thought he could run, but nowhere near as fast as a Japanese General who flashed past him like a rocket! Jocka roared with laughter! The same plane now turned and was flying straight for them when a Japanese began firing. The plane made a very quick turn and was now flying close over their heads this time firing their guns. The men dived for cover.
The Japanese machine guns were taken out and fortunately nobody was injured. The POWs were delighted!
Jocka survived his internment and was in Thailand when the war ended. He returned home safely.
Jocka returned to his pre-war occupation SP bookmaker, although he officially recorded his occupation as ‘clerk’.
The above and much of the information and photos below have been provided by Ron Pimm with permission from Jocka’s daughters and their families. We are most grateful for Ron’s research and for his very detailed and thorough Skelton family history.
Jocka married about 1948 to Molly Baker at Fremantle. The couple continued to reside around the Fremantle area where he had grown up. They had two daughters.
Tragically, Jocka who was residing at Beaconsfield died in 1956 aged 40 years. He was father to two daughters. He lost his life at Rottnest in a boating accident.
The above notices incorrectly record Jocka having 3 children when in fact he had two daughters.
Above: Jocka, Molly with eldest daughter. A happy family.
In his younger days, Jocka was quite a larrikin – it was a common trait of the men of that era – quite a number of young men had seen the inside of a court before enlisting! Nothing ever serious, sometimes just testing the law and other times pushing the boundaries with what can be best described as youthful exploits!
It is believable this ‘larrikinson’ was ongoing from WW1 veterans. The Aussies from WW1 were widely known to enjoy a laugh wherever and whenever, often unsettling British Officers. Just as the WW2 men did and were known to enjoy a laugh at the expense of their Japanese captors.
Below: A young and rather dashing Jocka with his brother Reginald Leslie Skelton.
Below: Rob Pimm’s words on Phillip Kelton – father of Jocka.
Jocka predeceased his father Phillip, who died July 1957 Fremantle. His mother Emma died in 1971 at Fremantle.
Molly Skelton died at Beaconsfield in 12 August 1968 aged 57 years.
- Adam Park Camp - Singapore
- Johore Bahru, - Malaysia
- Selarang Barracks Changi - Singapore
- Selarang Camp Changi - Singapore
- Chungkai, 60k - Thailand
- Kanu II, 152.30k - Thailand
- Tarsau, Tha Sao 125k - Thailand
- Kinsaiyok Jungle No.2 Camp, 167.7Km - Thailand