Marcel Caux waited till his 99th year to admit being an Australian survivor of the “Great War” ~ World War 1 (1914-1918).
He enlisted in the army at 16, claiming age 18, as Harold Katte (“I hate that name. I never want to hear it mentioned again”) after hearing “the call from the boys at Gallipoli.”
As an infantry private, “Marcel Caux” was wounded in the 1916 Battle of Pozières, again in Hangard Wood, then a shattered knee in the 1918 Battle of Amiens sent him home.
Caux deserted twice. Once for a few days, the second more determinedly – as did more than 13,000 other Australians (in 1917 alone). Many were just teenage volunteers trapped in a horror nightmare none foresaw while chatting naive bravado in a dusty recruitment line of some peaceful country town that their exhausted bodies, tortured minds, and jolted hearts now ached for.
Eighty years passed before Marcel Caux uttered a single word about the trench warfare he fought.
His eternity of sad regret ended quietly in a Sydney nursing home, 22nd August 2004, aged 105.
We .. went to Somme.
Yes, that’s when I lost my first real mates, my friends. They were mostly Englishmen, but they were real true blue.. true blue men.
The Prussian guard, they were called, huge men, and the trenches were filled with their bodies.
I was an 8-stone runt. They could have crushed me with one hand, had they a mind to, but I had the equalizer – a rifle.
I just murdered, I s’pose. I just murdered people living. It was a horrid, horrid combination of murder.. and murder.. and all sorts of things going on that shouldn’t be going on.
It was then I realized I was depriving children of their fathers.
World War I ruined my life. Not only was I ruined because I was wounded three times, it scarred me mentally forever.”
This page honours not only a fine Australian, but one more human who, sent to kill or be killed, found no relief – even in their body’s survival – and only a crippled tortured mind in which to play out the remains of a ruined life.