JOHN BARTLEY ‘JOCKA’ SKELTON WX6681 drowned in boating accident 1956

Who was Jocka Skelton – He was the bloke who ran the books betting races on ants, flies and anything else .    He was possibly born a SP Bookie!  Learning the trade at Fremantle firstly with his father.
Jocka was an active sportsman in Fremantle and well known and loved larrikin.



Private JOHN BARTLEY ‘JOCKA’ was a Fremantle boy – well known in sporting circles and quite a larrikin. His father was a bookie before returning to his original trade of printing, Jocka had grown up around (illegal) SP Bookmaking.  No doubt  learning much from his father’s SP Bookmaking business.
He enlisted 19 July 1940 and joined 2/4th’s ‘B’ Company, Platoon 8 under Command of Lt. MacKinnon.  Of the 50 men of 8 Platoon, 28 would survive to return home to WA.

Please read about ‘B’ Coy 8 Platoon

‘Jocka’ worked on the Burma-Thai Railway around Hellfire Pass with ‘D’ Force S Battalion.  He was recovered from Thailand at the end of the war.  Arriving home he spent several months hospitalised with Tuberculosis.
‘Jocka’ constantly sought to lift the spirits of his mates retelling ‘colourful’ and entertaining stories of his Fremantle days.   Most importantly he ran books (gambling) on flies, ants and anything else that moved!
We know Jocka was at RinTin at one time.  From ‘Joe Pearce’s story – ‘To Hellfire and Back’ Joe recalls 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 on the ground began firing. The plane now made a very quick turn and was 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 entertained and delighted!
‘Jocka’ married 1948 and resided at Beaconsfield.   He returned to his illegal SP book-making although officially recorded his occupation as clerk.

Above:  Jocka & Molly with their eldest daughter.



Below:  Please read a description of Jocka’s one week’s war in Singapore 1942 

Read further about Jocka.

On 11 January 1956 ‘Jocka’ and mate Thomas Cornwall set out from Fremantle, on a beautiful summer’s day for a fishing trip to Rottnest.  Later they shared a few drinks at the Rottnest Hotel which was then only two years old.
When attempting to row their dinghy back to their launch moored near the Settlement they lost an oar, and in attempt to recover it lost the second oar.  With the dinghy drifting they tried again to recover the oars and capsized. There was probably a howling sea breeze.   During the next half an hour Cornwall managed to swim his mate Jocka, who was a non-swimmer to shore.  Now exhausted, Cornwall ran to the Settlement for assistance.  Cornwall returned and was shocked to find Jocka dead.
The death of 40 year old Jocka left his wife Molly widowed with two young daughters.  He was buried at Fremantle Cemetery.