Harold Holt

Harold Holt was an Australian Prime Minister that vanished while swimming off Portsea, Victoria in 1967. Despite extensive searches no remains were ever found and despite drowning being the likely conclusion.


Harold Holt was born in Sydney in 1908. He spent most of his childhood with his family in Melbourne. After studying law at the University of Melbourne, he started his own law firm and was elected to the House of Representatives when he was 27 years old.

He went on to work in small ways for the United Australia Party until the government lost in 1941. He then joined the Australian Army for a short time. When three ministers died in the Canberra Air Disaster, he and many other politicians were called back to work.

Holt joined the Australian Liberal Party in 1945, and when they formed a government in 1949, he was named Minister for Immigration. Holt quickly moved up the ranks, becoming Deputy Leader in 1956 and then Treasurer in 1958. This was due to his liberal policies and how he dealt with labour disputes.

Holt became Prime Minister in January 1966 when his predecessor stepped down. Later that year, he won an election by a huge margin. As Prime Minister, he tried to get Australia and its Asian neighbours to get along better with each other. He also got Australia more involved in the Vietnam War, which was already going on.

Last Days

On December 14, 1967, Harold Holt’s last cabinet meeting was held. He went back to the Prime Minister’s house, which is called “The Lodge,” to sleep for a few hours. Then, he went back to his office in parliament to finish a press release.

Around 11 a.m., Holt was driven to RAAF Fairbairn so he could get on a military jet to Melbourne. He went with a few of his employees, but his wife stayed in Canberra to get ready for a Christmas party.

When Holt got to Canberra, he and his personal secretary went to his constituency office to dictate some letters. He then drove to his home on St. George’s Road, Toorak. While he was there, he told his housekeeper that he would be at his beach house for the weekend.

Holt drove to his beach house in Portsea, Victoria. On the way, he stopped to talk to a neighbour named Marjorie Gillespie, who invited him to drinks later. After spending an hour with Gillespie and her husband, he drove to meet his housekeeper for dinner. She had also driven down to the Beach House on her own.

On December 16, Harold Holt did his usual things at the beach house. He got up early, ate breakfast, and then worked in the garden. Later in the day, he called his stepson and invited him to the beach house. He then went to the Gillespies’ cocktail party and then went back to the beach house to have his own party.

Disappearance of Harold Holt

Holt woke up early again on December 17 and called his wife for the last time before driving to the local general store to buy bug spray, peanuts, and a bunch of newspapers. At 11:15 a.m., he went to Point Nepean with Marjorie Gillespie, her daughter, and two family friends to keep an eye out for a yacht going to Port Philip Bay.

Holt suggested that they all go swimming at Cheviot Beach on the way back because he wanted to get hungry for lunch. Holt was familiar with the area and had dived on the beach’s famous wreck many times. Only Holt and a friend named Alan Stewart went swimming because the waves and undertow were so strong. The others stayed on the beach.

Stewart said later that the undertow he felt made him stay close to the shore while Holt swam out with what almost looked like reckless abandon. He never screamed or waved for help. Instead, he kept swimming until he went under the waves and was never seen again.


Alan Stewart drove to the nearby Officer Cadet School in Portsea and told everyone that Holt was missing and that something bad had happened. Most of the people there were off for the weekend, but the police were called and a search started.

By 1:30 p.m., three amateur divers had gone into the water to look for Harold Holt. They couldn’t continue because the water was too rough, so a helicopter was used to look along the coast. In the end, other boats, police divers, and two diving teams from the Australian Navy tried to find them, but they were not found.

The search for Holt’s body went on the next day. By then, more than 300 people were helping to look for his body. Working in shifts, 50 divers searched the coast in a systematic way, but they didn’t find anything. As the week went on, the weather kept getting in the way of the search, and the number of people involved kept going down.

About a week after Holt had been seen last, the search was finally stopped. The Australian government would have a hard time choosing a new leader after he went missing and was thought to be dead.


Harold Holt remains an Australian Politician more remembered for his mysterious death then for his political achievements, it is unlikely the truth of his disappearance will ever bee definitively known but it remains likely that theories will continue to abound in this case for years to come.

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