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Our oldest digger turns 108

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Media Release


The Hon Bruce Scott MP

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Federal Member for Maranoa


21 January 1999




Australia’s oldest veteran, Jack Lockett of Bendigo, Victoria, will celebrate his 108th birthday tomorrow.


The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Bruce Scott, said he would be on the phone to Mr Lockett tomorrow morning to congratulate him.


“Jack’s birthday, coming as it does so early in the International Year of Older Persons, is an ideal moment to focus on the veterans who provide such an outstanding example to young Australians,” Mr Scott said.


“Jack, who only recently moved from his family home in Bendigo to the Carshalton House hostel, enjoys excellent health, a keen mind and a continuing interest in matters concerning the Great War.”


Born in 1891 and brought up in the Mallee area of Victoria, John Henry Lockett enlisted in the army on 24 March 1916, arriving at the Western Front in France toward the end of that year.


Except for a brief period of leave in Britain in 1918, he served on the Western Front for the duration of the war and was fortunate to escape serious injury on several occasions. He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in 1917.


Upon his return to Australia in September 1919, Mr Lockett resumed working on the land in the Mallee area, where two of his sons are still farming. In 1923, he married Maybell, whom he called “Doll” because she was so petite. In later years they moved to Bendigo to be closer to family members and Mr Lockett continued to live there following Doll’s death in 1981.


His family includes four children, 15 grandchildren, and in his own words, “twenty-odd” great-grandchildren.


“Jack had a busy year in 1998, involving himself in many of the functions surrounding the 80 th anniversary of the ending of WWI,” the Minister said.


“I had the great pleasure of being in Bendigo with the Prime Minister last July, when Jack received the Legion of Honour from the French Government for his war-time service to France.”


Asked for his secret in surviving the horrors of war and living to this great age, Mr Lockett says that the only thing is not to worry.


He says his main goals now are to see in the new millennium — and to lose weight. Since moving to his new abode, he has been spoiled by the staff and other residents and now finds he has to let his belt out a notch or two.


Media Contact:  Michael Priebe 02 6277 7820 or 0418 482 514



Note to Media:


Jack Lockett will celebrate his 108 th birthday at Carshalton House, Stoneham Rd, Golden Square, Bendigo, between 10:00 am and 11:00 am on Friday, 22 January, 1999.


Mr Lockett’s family and the management of Carshalton House have requested that media crews and press photographers attend only during this time, to cause as little inconvenience as possible to residents.


Telephone interviews outside this time can be arranged by contacting John Murray at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in Melbourne on 03 9284 6614.