Farewell to John Skene, 99, Glorious Glosters veteran

May 01 2018
Farewell to John Skene, 99, Glorious Glosters veteran

FORMER Gloucester Regiment soldier, John Skene MBE, from Frenchay, has died at the age of 99.

John’s wartime service saw him fighting against the Japanese in Burma.  He survived injury and illness in the jungle before eventually returning to Bristol, where he had a career in engineering.

He was awarded an MBE in 2002 and the Lord Mayor’s Medal in 2013 for voluntary charitable work. He was a Freemason for more than 50 years.

John was born in Kingswood in 1919, a couple of months after the end of the Great War and on the day that Romania annexed Transylvania.  His father was an engineer and his mother worked in a shoe factory. 

The family moved to Cardiff when John was just a few months old, but his mother died when he was only five, so he was cared for by his grandparents in Kingswood. On leaving school at 14, HE started work for the Douglas Motorcycle Factory before becoming a machinery inspector for the aeroplane company at Patchway.

In the spring of 1940 and aged 21, John was called up to join The Glosters and served in France with the British Expeditionary Force before Dunkirk.  He was posted to defend the Yorkshire coast with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and met his wife-to-be on a train to Bridlington in May 1940; they were married just months later.

Setting sail to war in the Far East, John was forced to leave behind Muriel and their two-week-old daughter.  In 1944, he was involved in heavy fighting, taking Kohima back from the Japanese, but he was wounded when a 600lb shell exploded close by.  The injury was to give him headaches for the remainder of his life.   He contracted malaria and dengue fever while convalescing in a field hospital and was eventually sent home in December 1945.

The couple had two children, Wendy and Janet; and  later two granddaughters, Janine and Annalea, and two great granddaughters, Sophie and Rebeka.

John was in the Territorial Army in the 1950s, rising to Captain. He and Muriel enjoyed ice skating, cycling, roller skating, swimming, dancing and fishing; Muriel set up a ‘fishing for the disabled’ scheme which John financed through car-boot sales and auctions.  Muriel died in December 1988.  

In his later years John enjoyed holidaying in the Mediterranean, listening to jazz, photography and his charity work.  He travelled to India and Burma to visit the graves of his fallen war comrades.

He was a member of the  St Keyna Lodge in Keynsham and was its almoner for 15 years.  He was proud of the charitable work his lodge did and even towards the end of his life was still actively engaged raising funds for the Kohima Education Trust and Help for Heroes.  He also had a raffle named after him with the ‘Not Forgotten Society’.

John Skene's funeral is on May 11 at 1.15pm, Waterside Chapel, Westerleigh; family flowers only, but donations in his memory can be made to the Kohima Educational Trust.