Basil Catterns

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Basil Catterns (left) in action in New Guinea, 1944


Basil Wilfred Thomas Catterns MC (11 August 1917 – 30 March 2007) was an Australian businessman, citizen soldier and amateur yachtsman.


Early years[edit]

Catterns was born in Balmain, Sydney,[1] the son of an English merchant seaman, Wilfred Catterns, and Emily (née Greenwell). An uncle, Basil G. Catterns, for whom he was named, later became the Chief Cashier of the Bank of England.

Educated at Fort Street Boys' High School, Catterns joined the staff of the (now defunct) Sydney afternoon daily newspaper, The Sun. On the outbreak of World War II in 1939 he volunteered for military service and served with the Australian Imperial Force in the Middle East and North Africa including Tobruk. When the AIF was brought back to Australia in 1942, he met Nina McKnight and later married her in 1943.

World War II[edit]

In September 1942, Catterns, by now a captain, was sent to New Guinea with his infantry unit where he saw action on the Kokoda Track winning a Military Cross [2] and being mentioned in dispatches for acts of gallantry which his battalion commander, Lieutenant-Colonel (later Major-General) Paul Cullen, was moved to declare the bravest thing I'd ever seen a man do.[3] Catterns served in New Guinea for the rest of the war, eventually attaining the rank of major.

Post War[edit]

After the war Catterns pursued a career in advertising. He produced a film of the Melbourne Olympic Games; sailed the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race on six occasions; founded Offshore Yachting, the magazine of the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia; and was one of the longest-serving members of the Sydney Maritime Museum.[4]

Catterns and his wife lived in suburban Sydney where they raised three children: David, a barrister/QC; Diana, an artist; and Angela, a well-known radio broadcaster and co-presenter of 'Film First' Sunday movie premieres on The World Movies Channel.

Final Years[edit]

Basil Catterns died at age 89 of undisclosed causes.


  • Nina McKnight - 1943 - 2007



The Catterns's story was a major thread in the documentary series Kokoda[5] which was originally aired on ABC1 in late April 2010.


  1. ^ Australia, World War II Military Service Records, 1939-1945
  2. ^ "It's an Honour database". It's an Honour. Australian Government (Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet). Archived from the original on 30 August 2007. Retrieved 13 January 2009. 
  3. ^ Ham, Paul (19 April 2007). "A romantic hero in war and peace". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 January 2009. 
  4. ^ Kiernan, Ian (2004). "James Craig's 130th Birthday - A summary of the speeches". "Scuttlebut" Archive. Sydney Maritime Museum. Archived from the original on 26 September 2009. Retrieved 13 January 2009. 
  5. ^ "Kokoda". Featherstone Productions. Featherstone Productions. 2010. Archived from the original on 25 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-29.  (Kokoda is produced by Pericles Films in association with Featherstone Productions, Screen Australia, Film Victoria, Veterans Affairs and ABC TV)

External links[edit]