Darwin war history
Written by Norman Cramp, Director Darwin Military Museum.
HARRY HAVELETT, Service Number 3498, Private, 50th Infantry Battalion 1st AIF.
Harry Havelett, whose correct surname was Hablett, was an indigenous man born at Alice Springs in 1898, the son of George Hablett and an unknown Aboriginal woman. Nothing is known of Harry’s early life other than whilst a child, he was taken to Quorn, South Australia, to be raised and educated by a European family.
He enlisted in the AIF in Adelaide, SA, on 24th January 1917 at which time he recorded he was nineteen years and one month of age, single and working as a ‘Stockman’. He stood five feet and ten inches tall, weighed 141 pounds (lbs), was of ‘dark’ complexion with dark brown eyes and dark hair. He embarked from Adelaide in February 1917 aboard HMAT Seeang Bee (Ship A48) arriving in England on 2nd May 1917. While in England he suffered a bout of the mumps and contracted pneumonia. He regained his health and was posted to France and the Somme Valley section of Western Front.
In November 1917, while on active service, he was charged with desertion, although the period of his unauthorised absence was only ten days, being from the 13th to 23rd October. Regardless of the timeframe, which was more likely to have been being absent without leave (AWL), he was found guilty of desertion and sentenced to ten year’s penal servitude. He commenced his sentence at the No: 7 Military Prison but for reason(s) unknown, probably following a review of the charge and severity of the sentence (i.e.: desertion versus being AWL), his sentence was initially commuted to 2 years imprisonment and later suspended indefinitely.
Following his release from prison, he returned to his unit in France 22nd June 1918 and was very soon in action. On 8th July 1918 he was wounded in action, suffering a gunshot to his thigh and scrotum. The wounds were fatal with Harry dying of the wounds that day. He was buried in Plot 3, Row D, Grave 17 in the Daour Communal Cemetery Extension, 2.75 miles west of Corbie in the Somme Valley.
Mistaken identity revealed
In September 1918, Harry’s father George, who was residing in the Barrow Creek NT area wrote (via the Barrow Creek Postmaster) to the AIF advising of his son’s correct surname and providing an explanation as to why Harry Hablett had become known as Havelett.
George Hablett was awarded Harry’s three Great War medals, but it is unknown if he ever received/collected them.
Although a Territorian by birth, Harry Havelett has been overlooked as ‘one of ours’ until now, and as a result his name does not appear on the Darwin Cenotaph. However, his name is listed in the Australian War Memorial’s list of World War One indigenous soldiers and on the Memorial Wall at the Darwin Military Museum, East Point, Darwin.
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