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Aslatt, Harold Francis (1885–1958)

by W. H. Connell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Harold Francis Aslatt (1885-1958), soldier and bushworker, was born on 16 November 1885 at Stoneham, Hampshire, England, son of Francis Aslatt, brick manufacturer, and his wife Emily Laura, née Babot. When 23 he migrated alone to Australia and before World War I worked as a teamster and station-hand in the Griffith district of New South Wales.

Aslatt enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 16 November 1914 and embarked for Egypt next February with reinforcements for the 13th Battalion. He first saw action on 26 April 1915 when his unit landed at Gaba Tepe and took over the defence of Monash Valley. The 13th Battalion historian was later to name Aslatt as among the unit's 'most distinguished in those early days'. Promoted lance corporal on 4 November and corporal on 3 December, he remained at Anzac until the evacuation and then returned to Egypt; on 10 March 1916 he was transferred to the newly formed 45th Battalion. For the next two months he was involved in training and defensive activities in the Canal zone; he also began a course of instruction in the operation of the new Stokes gun and on 16 July, shortly after his arrival in France, was transferred to the 4th Light Trench Mortar Battery. Though they lacked experience and full training, the artillerymen of the 4th Australian Division went straight into the battle of Fromelles as reinforcements; they then withdrew for further training. In August they supported the 4th Canadian Division at Ypres and rejoined their own division there in September.

In 1917 Aslatt served with the 4th Divisional Artillery at Bullecourt in April, at Messines in May and June, and at Passchendaele in September; he was promoted sergeant on 23 June. Early in 1918 his battery was in action at Villers-Bretonneux and he was awarded the Military Medal for 'conspicuous gallantry and valuable service in command of a mortar near Albert on 5 April'. The citation noted that, although exposed to heavy machine-gun and mortar fire, he 'carried out his work as if on parade at a practice shoot'. Next June he received the Meritorious Service Medal for 'continuous good and gallant service in the field'. In the second half of 1918 he took part in the counter-offensive near Amiens and, for 'conspicuous devotion to duty' at Bellenglise in mid-September, was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal; 'his cheerful and energetic manner set an example which had good effects on all around him'.

After the Armistice, Aslatt undertook a five-month course in marine engineering in England and was demobilized on his return to Australia in March 1920. For the next nineteen years he worked as a prospector and bushworker in New South Wales. When World War II broke out he joined the 11th Garrison Battalion in Sydney and served for five years. He was discharged in June 1944 and returned to bush work. In 1957 he settled at Maiden Gully near Bendigo, Victoria, and died there, unmarried, on 15 October 1958 of coronary vascular disease. He was buried in Bendigo cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac, vols 1, 2 (Syd, 1921, 1924)
  • T. A. White, The Fighting Thirteenth (Syd, 1924)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The Australian Imperial Force in France, vols 3-6 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • J. E. Lee, A Brief History of the 45th Battalion, A. I. F. (Syd, 1962)
  • London Gazette, 17 June, 16 July 1918, 8 Mar 1919.

Citation details

W. H. Connell, 'Aslatt, Harold Francis (1885–1958)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/aslatt-harold-francis-5075/text8465, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 16 November 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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