REMEMBERED: Allan Skerman was believed to have been one of Australia's oldest surviving Rats of Tobruk.
REMEMBERED: Allan Skerman was believed to have been one of Australia's oldest surviving Rats of Tobruk. Contributed

One of the last Rats of Tobruk dies aged 101

THE Mackay community will remember Allan Skerman as one of the oldest living Rats of Tobruk.

But grandson Lee Skerman said he would remember his grandfather as an author, a prospector and a "reasonably accomplished golfer".

Mr Skerman passed away peacefully on October 18, 2018 at 101 years of age.

"To us, he was a fantastic grandfather," Lee said.

"That was something he was proud of, being a grandfather."

During his life, Mr Skerman was celebrated in the Mackay community for his kindness and service in Tobruk during World War II.

Born in Warwick in 1917, Mr Skerman began work as a prospector during the Great Depression before joining the Mounted Police force in 1937.


Allan Skerman as a police officerPhoto Contributed
Allan Skerman served as as a police officer before enlisting to serve in World War II. Contributed

His son, Allan Skerman Jnr, said it was in the police force that his father met the love of his life.

"Hilda was a worker in a Brisbane factory and she used to wave at him," he said.

Mr Skerman enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force in 1939. As a member of the 2/9th Australian Infantry Battalion he served a total of five years before receiving a civilian discharge.

Lee said while his grandfather had a successful military career he had never believed in the glorification of war.

"He has written about his time in service. That is not something he talked about with us," he said.

"The war was something he was not proud of."

Allan Jnr also told the Daily Mercury in April that his father did not like to see the war glorified.

The siege in Tobruk in 1941 lasted five months; 599 Australians were killed, 2450 were wounded and 941 were taken prisoner.

"He took it all very seriously, he saw a lot of people killed in the war including some of his mates," Allan Jnr said.

Although, one positive thing came from Mr Skerman's time serving in Tobruk: his proposal to Hilda.

Mr Skerman recounted the tale of his proposal in 2017.

"I was sitting in the sun picking the fleas out of my singlet and I though it would be a cunning thing to do (proposing by mail)," he said.

So, on a piece of paper from the Salvation Army, he penned a letter suggesting that on his return the two marry.

His romantic gesture did not fall on deaf ears and the couple was married in Australia on Anzac Day in 1942.

They soon welcomed their only son Allan Jnr.

In his later years, Mr Skerman discovered a passion for writing and penned a number of books.

Lee said his grandfather enjoyed taking up hobbies that challenged him.

"He had many different hobbies. He was a published writer, a gemstone cutter. He grew orchids," he said. "It was very much all about achievement for him."

Allan Jnr said his father will be remembered fondly.

"He was a pretty strict sort of fellow, straight-forward and (he had) a kind side for his family and animals." Allan Jnr said.

Mr Skerman leaves behind his four grandchildren, two great grandchildren and many cherished friends.

His life will be celebrated in a ceremony on Tuesday, October 30 at the Resthaven on Quarry.

Lee said the family was coping with a "massive sense of loss".