A tribute to...

Jack Harold Skipper MC

Published: 9/10/2023

Eulogy delivered by Mark

Dad was born in Perth on Wednesday April 23, 1930 to parents Gladys Skipper (nee Devine) and Clive Harold Skipper.  His family ancestry traces back in Western Australia to Laverton and Leonora, north east of Kalgoorlie, where the family were sheep farmers and also Southern Cross  between Kalgoorlie and Perth, where the family owned the general store and drapery on Antares Street.  

He had a brother Clive, born in 1926 who passed away in 2006 and sister Fae born in 1928 and passed away tragically in 1932.    

Dad was born during the Great Depression and the family marriage broke down and Dad was cared for by friends and neighbours in the street, while his Mum went to work. She had multiple jobs as a stenographer and retail assistant.  

Dad used to go on family holidays up the Western Australian coast and he particularly liked Shark Bay north of Geraldton. There is a photo of him leaning against a dinghy at the age of around 5 or 6 in your service booklet.  Dad attended North Perth Public School and was fortunate enough to attend High School at Hale and they won Head of the Rover rowing in 1947. 

There are photos of his 60th rowing reunion in 2007 in the montage.  

Dad was accepted into Duntroon Military College in Canberra and was in the Class of 1948. He graduated second in the year in 1951 and the passing out parade and inspection was conducted by then PM Sir Robert Menzies. Posted to Korea with 1 Royal Australian Regiment (RAR) in 1952 taking a reinforcement draft by sea to Kure Japan near Hiroshima. Additional training at battle school Hara Mura Japan, then to Korea by mid 1952 to join 1 RAR B Coy 6 Platoon as replacement Platoon Commander (previous Platoon Commander was Killed In Action). Served 12 months in Korea with a second posting to Brigade HQ after being wounded by a grenade..  1 RAR took over positions held by other UN troops in October 1952 on Hill 355, but those positions were not fully maintained, with Chinese trenches close to the wire and poorly maintained mine fences.  One issue was that the UN Troops threw food tins outside the trenches and when the sun's rays reflected from them, it allowed the Chinese to pinpoint their locations for mortar and shell fire.  

The Australian positions around Hill 355 were very much like WW1 trenches, but more elaborate. They also included forward listening posts, which were some 100 yards to 200 yards from the line. These positions were to alert troops to enemy attacks and patrols, which came largely at night. The Australians also had roving ambush fighting patrols almost nightly. As Allan mentioned Dad was awarded the Military Cross in Korea. At the time of the award, he was the only platoon commander surviving in B Company.  

On the night of 27 August 1952, Lieutenant Skipper commanded a fighting patrol of around thirteen men who were to operate near the 'Boot'. As they approached the creek crossing in that area, an enemy patrol was heard moving forward. Lieutenant Skipper withdrew his scouts and took up an ambush on the crossing. As the enemy soldiers attempted to cross, they were engaged and at least five were killed. The patrol was then subjected to enemy fire. Lieutenant Skipper quickly reorganised his patrol and withdrew it from the scene of the action without casualties. 

On the night of 15/16 November 1952, Lieutenant Skipper commanded a patrol sent out to collect a dead enemy soldier located in the middle of a minefield at Calgary. Knowing the great importance attached to the recovery of this body, he probed the minefield for two hours until he had cleared a path through which he could pull the body. The night was extremely dark and very little information was available concerning the minefield. During this operation he displayed a high degree of bravery and initiative.   

On the night of 16/17 November 1952, Lieutenant Skipper commanded a patrol which was sent out to secure Calgary, a short time after a standing patrol had been driven back. Lieutenant Skipper conducted a reconnaissance in this area and moved a fighting patrol forward and was attacked by a large enemy party. Having inflicted many casualties and despite being wounded himself, he successfully withdrew his patrol to a new ambush position. Lieutenant Skipper's example and leadership during this action had a great effect on the morale of his company as he was, at that stage, the only remaining platoon commander.  

He was evacuated to a UN hospital by an Indian field ambulance to a Norwegian MASH hospital. On the way to the hospital the Indian ambulance with brown out headlights ran off the road, rolling down an embankment. Luckily for him, he was sitting in the front passenger seat, if he had been on the stretcher, he would have been crushed. A British truck with engineers was flagged down, and after some 'cordial persuasion' did a U-turn and drove them back to the Indian field ambulance station to get a new vehicle to the Norwegian MASH.  

For his actions on November 15, 16 and 17 as well as the earlier action in August 1952 he was awarded the Military Cross.   I would like to thank the Republic of Korea Consulate for everything they have done for Dad over the years and for the special event they held in May to commemorate the 70 years of the truce. Thank you Jin and Brianna for attending today.   Further 12 months posting back to Hara Mura Japan as Instructor Battle School. Returned to Australia in 1954 for Posting to 43/48 Infantry Battalion South Australia as Adjutant and promoted to Captain. During that posting he was sent to Maralinga in 1956 as Camp Adjutant during the British Nuclear Bomb trials. Longer than expected due to unfavourable winds.  He witnessed 3 atomic explosions and he and the Australian troops walked through the blast areas with gas masks and disposable smocks.    

Posted to Malaya 3 RAR (1957 / 1958) based at Sungai Siput. Promoted to Major at the young age of 28 and was Company second in command during the Communist Insurgency. The Malayan Emergency went from 1948 to 1960 and at the time it was the longest conflict Australia has been involved in, recently surpassed by Afghanistan. Sent to the UK from Malaya via Singapore in March 1958 to train with Royal Marines. One training mission was to blow up an oil refinery near Poole on the south coast. He was teamed up with a Royal Marine commando from Birmingham UK in his two man canoe. The canoes were blown off course by strong winds and landed a long way from the intended point. The Brits running the exercise were so concerned the Commandos were lost that they went up and down beaches with loud hailers looking for them. Jack Skipper and his Royal Marine colleague, were not sure and kept quiet thinking it was a trap and proceeded to make their way to the refinery and oil tanks, leaving a message in chalk "Up the Aussies" the big oil tanks. They were the only ones who made it to the objective! Returned to Australia and appointed the second Commanding Officer of the new 1 Commando Company at Georges Heights Mosman May 1959.  It was Australia's first commando unit.    

Commando exercises covered Parachute, Cliff Climbing, unarmed combat, underwater activities, diving etc.  Exercises at that time were frequently with Royal Australian Navy submarines and included trips to Hawkesbury River for training.    

Dad trained Harry Smith MC, who was the commanding officer in the rubber plantation at the Battle of Long Tan on August 18, 1966. Major Harry Smith MC was the 4th Commanding Officer at 1 Commando after Dad and sadly Harry passed away three days before Dad.   

A tribute to Jack Harold Skipper MC
A tribute to Jack Harold Skipper MC

Dad married Mum in December 1959 at St Phillips Church in York Street and just celebrated their 63th wedding anniversary last year. I was born in January 1961. Dad informed the Army that he was going to retire in late 1961 and ASIO tried to hire him.  They sent him to Canberra for a weekend, where he walked around in a trench coat on some spy exercise.  It wasn't for him. Retired from the Army at the end of 1961. We moved from the Army unit in Musgrave Street to Countess Street in 1962. Juliet was born in September 1964.    

After the Army, Dad became the Marketing Manager at Dutch Company Philips and he introduced the Pilashave to Australia. We bought an 1800's wooden house in Inkerman Street in 1972. Dad put a machete through his leg clearing the land and Professor Fred Stephens who lived across the road rushed him to Sydney Hospital for stitches. Dad and Mum were at Inkerman Street for 50 years this past May.  

Dad was challenged at remembering names and when they had friends over Mum had to write their name on a piece of paper and stick to the inside of the bar cupboard. Dad was also Marketing Manager at Jantzen swimwear and Country Club shirts in the 60s and 70's and Managing Director at Osti Womens Fashions  and Tuff Footwear in the 70's and 80's. He loved Tuff at Leichhardt as they made Army, Submariner and Steel Cap Safety boots.  

In the last semester at Uni, I went to campus career interviews and I was offered positions with the RAAF pilot entry at Point Cook and with an IT company called NCR.  After going through the Air Force medicals and physic testing, Dad talked me out of the Air Force, telling me that you will get postings everywhere or even in Butterworth Malaysia and you will find it hard to settle down and get married etc. I took his advice and joined the IT industry and enjoyed more than 3 decades of the boom there. Thanks Dad.  

I married Terrie in 1986 and Juliet Conrad in 1989.  He gave a great speech at both on the family unit, something I have copied at Michael and Nicholas wedding. Strong family units don't happen by accident, you have to work at it with lots of give and take, through thick and thin and with the support of your family and friends.  

Following the passing of my Grandfather, Jack Jacobs, Dad and Mum went to work for the Family Business, Bronson & Jacobs at Lane Cove and Dad was instrumental with the building of the Parkview Drive building in Homebush from 1990. Back in 1990, the building was the first in what we now know as Sydney Olympic Park.   On December 31, 1990, Dad was clearing gutters on top of the hay shed at Robertson. In the weeks before the Electricity Commission moved 11,000 volt lines to around 5 metres above the shed.   

It was a very hot day and electricity arced off the cable and hit Dad in the head, burning a hole in his socks.   Dr Denis Wade was at the bottom of the ladder and resuscitated Dad, and looked after him for hours until Mum worked out there was an issue and came down and they called the Ambulance.  Denis you gave him an extra 33 years of life, thank you.  

Dad was always willing to give excellent advice on anything, in fact I used to see them daily for coffee at Inkerman Street and Dad would always say "how is the family". He took great interest in the family and what they were doing.   He was a loyal husband to Mum, they were inseparable and were at Robertson from Friday - Monday and then Thursday to Monday from 1982 until last year. We spent most of our school holidays there from 1969. They loved Roberston, the people, the coffee shop, the Co-Op, the shops and the property at Macquarie Run.  

They loved organising and exhibiting at the Roberston show and attending the cattle judging at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.  They won many ribbons over the years.  Dad survived prostate cancer in 1996. Dad was instrumental in the successful sale of Bronson & Jacobs in 2004. He did not forget his Military past and was a regular attendee at Duntroon and other Army Functions. He and Mum ran the Robertson ANZAC Day March for decades until last year.   Dad was not a technology expert, but he loved the iPads we got him. Reading the newspapers, doing facetime, zoom and receiving photos. 

His 90th birthday was during COVID and we had a massive zoom with all his grandchildren and great grandchildren participating.  Dad's passion was farming and he was thrilled to see it continue at Billimari, with sheep and crops, as it was in his blood and he was keen to see the Skipper farming dynasty continue.  Dad had a heart attack on June 1 and luckily for him, DVA installed a defib and pacemaker in his chest around 10 years ago. The three jolts he got saved him. He certainly had 9 lives.  

So with 2 children, 11 grandchildren and 2 ½ grandchildren so far, Dad was proud and saw it as a great achievement.  He loved the family unit. Michael in 1986, Nicholas in 1988, Matthew in 1990, Jack in 1993, Sam, in 1993, Abby Rose in 1994, Liv in 1996, Alex in 1997, Christie & Ellie in 1998 and Georgi in 2003, Emily in 2015 and Jack Skipper Jr in 2017 He will never be forgotten as he was adored by everyone he met. 

Thank you Dad on behalf of all his family and friends, you taught us so much.

It was a great innings. Stop and smell the roses.

     Rest in Peace Dad    

Eulogy delivered by Michael

I'm Michael, Grandpa Jacks eldest grandson.. and I'm honored to present this tribute on behalf of my siblings, Nicholas, Matthew, Sam, Alex, Christie & Ellie, my wife Nicole, Sister-in-law Ashleigh, my children, Emily & Jack, and of course my little niece or nephew due early next year!   

On reflection over recent weeks, I've had several conversations with my siblings and cousins about grandpa Jack..  and the path of discussion often leads back to Robertson…  in fact, during our childhood, the Inkerman St house in Sydney was almost just mid week accommodation for Grandma & Grandpa, whilst they visited the Schmidt/Skipper grandkids and ticked off a few medical appointments before returning back to the farm.. I think my brother Nick & I may have spent 2 nights at the Sydney house in our entire lives, so Robertson undoubtedly holds most of the memories!    

As Dad mentioned, our grandparents' schedule during those years was like clockwork and it took a major event to peel them away from the farm over a weekend.   

Springdale was Grandpa's oasis.. and the farm presented as such.. If you look back at photos from the 70's, the block was quite bare.. and if you were to visit now you would see beautifully managed pastures, established native tree lines and very happy cattle.   

Our grandparents took lifestyle farming to the next level…the farm was never left wanting and they were crossing Simmentals back to angus before it was in vogue.. well ahead of their time!   

I don't think there would be two people on this planet who have pulled more fireweed by hand than our grandparents! Grandpa always seemed to have time and patience.. and this was evident through practical lessons he gave his grandchildren. Grandpa taught us how to drive a manual, shoot and clean a rifle, light a fire, drive a tractor, strain a fence, ride a motorbike and work cattle, amongst other things. 

I cannot recall a time when he became short or frustrated with us, even when my brother Matt drove a quad bike through a swing set or I lodged a two wheeler in a barbed fence.. Grandpa always had a healthy tolerance of our mistakes, as long as everything we did on the farm we did slowly and we washed our hands with warm soapy water at the end of the day!  

The farm experience for us didn't drop off when we entered the house in the evening.. Grandpa would light a fire, and we would sit through pre-recorded episodes of Landline and Gardening Australia, review newspaper clippings which he deemed relevant, play games, solve puzzles, read a story or two and for some reason we'd have Vicks VapoRub applied to our chests at bedtime, even if we weren't congested! All of the grandchildren are incredibly grateful for our time on the farm… and having that connection to the country is something we will cherish. Life at Roberston always seemed to slow down and was relatively stress free.. the only exception was perhaps in the cattle yards, which Grandpa affectionately referred to as D-Day or Divorce Day. A sentiment that is shared by most farming couples, Nicole & I included. Perhaps these stress free weekends at Roberston, coupled with Grandpa's staunch approach to personal hygiene, is the secret to a long & happy life!   

With Grandpa's practical lessons and life experiences aside, his greatest attribute was his charisma and attitude to life. He had a beautiful way to greet and engage those around him and he was always interested in how you were and what you were doing, more so than himself. Grandpa also had a cheeky yet subtle sense of humor which on occasion wasn't so subtle... one evening at the imperial hotel in Cowra, a pub known for its incredibly large meals that often went home in takeaway containers, Grandpa caught the attention of the moderately attractive waitress and said "look at the size of these meals, how can you work here and keep a figure like that!", I was slightly embarrassed and the waitress was left blushing!   

A tribute to Jack Harold Skipper MC
A tribute to Jack Harold Skipper MC

In more recent times.. At North Shore Cardiology.. it was suggested there would be a live in nurse assisting them at home.. to which Grandpa responded.. make sure she's a blonde!   Such was his charm, that neither women were remotely offended… he always played the sweet old man card beautifully!   

Whenever you visited Grandpa, and exchanged the usual pleasantries of "hello Grandpa, how are you" he'd often respond with "Better for seeing you", well, Grandpa, I think we are all better for knowing you! We love you...   Here was a man!   A man who from humble beginnings made his mark on the world and the country that he served.   In the 50's and 60's Korea was still fresh in the minds of a world who feared the "Red Peril". The "Domino Principle" was their MO with Malaya an example of how porous our borders were.   

Both are conflicts where Jack Skipper was tested, survived and learnt the lessons of war.   Major Jack Skipper MC came to 1 Commando Company in 1959 with an impressive military record.  Awarded the Military Cross in Korea Jack Skipper demonstrated his leadership skills in both these conflicts. Instituted in 1914, the Military Cross (MC) was issued for leadership and gallantry in presence of the enemy to warrant and junior officers of the Army who were ineligible (on account of their rank) for the Distinguished Service Order.  

Major Skipper MC brought an aggressive training program based on experience and expanded the skill base of the Commandos to include night parachute jumps and midnight raids on the RAN mothball fleet anchored in Athol Bay, much to the annoyance of locals and the inhabitants of Taronga Zoo!   

By 1961 Jack had completed his tour as OC of 1 Commando Company and moved on. However such was the connection between the man and the Unit that Jack was a regular visitor back to the barracks at Georges Heights.   As a young soldier I have clear recollections of his visits when he gave talks on the geophysical situation in SE Asia. Afterwards he could be found in the OR's Mess chatting with the Diggers who would listen intently to the words of a man who had been at the sharp end.  

He was generous in his praise for the Australian fighting man and acknowledged the non-combatants who did so much to keep supplies to the troops at the sharp end.   

Jack never spoke ill of the average enemy soldier, only the leadership who ordered unacceptable actions. He did zero in on political indecision as soldiers do however he was known to give credit to some elected representatives I lost touch with Jack Skipper as my career took me to  faraway places but I never forgot him.   

Today I say to his family and to you who are gathered here   

"Jack Skipper MC. Go to your rest...Your Duty Done"

     Lest we Forget  

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