Harold (aka Marcel CAUX) KATTE

KATTE, Harold (aka Marcel CAUX)

Service Number: 3863
Enlisted: 6 September 1915, Sydney, New South Wales
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 20th Infantry Battalion
Born: Hurstville, New South Wales, 1 March 1899
Home Town: Hurstville, Kogarah, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Wire-worker
Died: Natural causes, Chatswood, New South Wales, 27 August 2004, aged 105 years
Cemetery: Not yet discovered
Memorials: Municipality of Hurstville Pictorial Honour Roll No 2
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World War 1 Service

6 Sep 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 3863, Sydney, New South Wales
20 Jan 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 3863, 17th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
20 Jan 1916: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 3863, 17th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Runic, Sydney
13 Nov 1920: Discharged AIF WW1, Private, 3863, 20th Infantry Battalion

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Biography contributed by John Edwards

" 'Hero' Marcel Caux deserted mates: Report

The deceptions of Harold Katte - aka Marcel Caux - have led to red faces among Australia's defence forces because an image of the World War I soldier "hero" appears on a prize-winning design for a recruiting poster. The Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, said the poster reflected the military values of courage, teamwork and initiative, and the respect and honour that is due to returned servicemen and women. In fact, Marcel Caux had twice deserted his comrades in France, Fairfax Media reports. After the war, and until his death at 105 in 2004, he rewrote his life story. He was a bigamist and hid the truth from the members of his different families. The Katte/Caux story demonstrates what war can do to ordinary people. It also shows how one deception can lead to another nearly a century later and how the past can embarrass the present, in this case when Australia is seeking recruits to bolster defence forces stretched by overseas commitments. Caux was given a state funeral in 2004, as one of the last five Australian survivors of World War I. The French Government had honoured him as the last Australian survivor of the Battle of Pozieres. Yet the Sydney Morning Herald revealed the day after the funeral that the Caux story was not quite as presented to the people. Allegations about Caux's record had led the Department of Veterans' Affairs to have his body examined. This confirmed that, at least, the old soldier had gone to war and been wounded.

Lynette Silver, the historian who had been investigating the man's background with a military researcher, Di Elliott, and wrote a book, Marcel Caux: A Life Unravelled, said yesterday: "In many ways, Harold Katte was representative of a number of young Australians who enlisted in World War I. While we may view his incredibly colourful life with some amusement, and marvel at the way in which he managed to sustain so many lies for so long, his irregular private life and his two attempts at desertion make him a most inappropriate choice for a recruiting poster. His conduct is hardly a shining example for today's youth."

The first deception came in September 1915, when Harold Katte enlisted. He declared he was 18, when he was 16 and no more than 5ft 6in (165 centimetres) and 7st 10lb (49 kilograms). He was wounded three times, including in 1916 at Pozieres and in 1918 near Villers-Bretonneux, on the first day of the Battle of Amiens, where his knee was shattered and his war ended. The 2nd Division, in which he served with the 17th and then the 20th Battalions, lost 6848 men killed, wounded or missing in 12 days around Pozieres. Total Australian casualties in six weeks were put at 23,300." - from the Brisbane Times 14 Apr 2007 (www.brisbanetimes.com.au)