Leap Year grandad Ned Haveckin, with great grandson Owen Smeadon, is celebrating his 24th birthday. Picture: Evan Morgan
Leap Year grandad Ned Haveckin, with great grandson Owen Smeadon, is celebrating his 24th birthday. Picture: Evan Morgan

24yo war veteran, great grandad’s extraordinary life

HE WAS just five years old when he served as a World War II soldier, worked as a woodcutter and shearer in countless outback stations as a "teenager" and has 35 great grandkids; Ned Haveckin has sure packed a lot of life into his 24 birthdays.

The Bushland Beach resident was born on February 29, 1924. A leap day, which means technically his birthday only comes around once every four years - his 24th being today.

"It used to worry me when I was young (only celebrating my birthday every four years) … I reckon it's not a bad idea now," he chuckled.

"I'm 96 this birthday and then I'll be 100 on my (next actual birthday)."

Mr Haveckin grew up in the wool industry, learning to be a wool classer.

"Then of course, the war came," he recalled.

 

Thomas
Thomas "Ned" Haveckin during the war.

 

As part of the Australian Imperial Force, Mr Haveckin served five years in New Guinea, the Royal Netherlands East Indies, Tarakan and Borneo, fighting many battles as part of the seventh division, sometimes known as "The Silent Seventh".

"We first went to New Guinea, Port Moresby and that time it was getting heavily bombed, so they took us up on to the Kokoda Trail," he recalled.

"The campaign was just about finished then so it wasn't suitable for aircraft. The visibility was bad but it wasn't like down in Moresby it was getting bombed every night."

His next campaign was the Human Peninsula campaign - Markhum Valley, Lae, Ramu Valley and Shaggy Ridge.

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Ned Haveckin is celebrating his 24th birthday today. Picture: Evan Morgan
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Ned Haveckin is celebrating his 24th birthday today. Picture: Evan Morgan

 

"When we finished there they brought us home to Australia and gave us a rest and then they took us back to a place called Morotai up in the East Indies and we did the invasion of Tarakan and then Balikpapan - and when we were up on Balikpapan of course the war finished," Mr Haveckin recalled.

Then, he spent another year fighting in the Indonesian Revolution in the Makassa Islands, where the country was fighting to get their freedom from the Dutch.

After the war, Mr Haveckin worked out bush as a woodcutter and shearer around Victoria and in outback Queensland including Longreach and Blackall.

"Timber was in big demand because of the shortage of energy and the more we cut the more we could sell," he said.

 

Bushland Beach resident Thomas
Bushland Beach resident Thomas "Ned" Haveckin, who was born on a Leap Day, February 29, 1924. He celebrates his "24th birthday" in 2020. Ned pictured with his wife Edna, who celebrated 70 years of marriage last May.

 

He married his sweetheart Edna when he was just six years old (actually 21), with the pair celebrating 70 years of marriage last May.

A big celebration is planned for today, with Mr Haveckin saying he's "looking forward to seeing the family" especially his daughter from Victoria coming to visit.

He says he "hopes" to get a letter from the Queen on his 25th birthday in four years, which will be his 100th.