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Kaeppel, Carl Henry (1887–1946)

by Ann G. Smith

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Carl Henry Kaeppel (1887-1946), educationist, was born on 13 January 1887 at Nattai, Mittagong, New South Wales, son of Carl William Herbert Kaeppel, merchant, and his wife Emily Annette, née Edwards. Educated at Sydney Grammar School, he was school captain in 1905 and Salting exhibitioner in 1906. After graduating B.A. from the University of Sydney in 1910 with first-class honours in Greek and Latin he travelled to Europe on a Cooper graduate scholarship, returning to teach at Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) and The Armidale School. On 8 January 1916 at St Peter's Church, Neutral Bay, he married Muriel Beatrice Bailey; he divorced her in 1920.

Kaeppel had been active in the Sydney University Scouts and in 1914 was a lieutenant in the Sydney senior cadets. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in December 1915, was soon commissioned and during service in France and England with the 18th Battalion and the 5th Training Battalion gained 'a reputation for grim soldiering and hard drinking'. He won the Military Cross in September 1916 and was promoted captain in July 1917. By the time of his appointment as adjutant of the 18th Battalion in December next year the once handsome, curly-haired, athletic student had become a balding, thickset figure with lined face and missing teeth.

After the Armistice Kaeppel studied archaeology in England, his researches in the British Museum laying the foundation for his profound knowledge of ancient geography. He returned to Australia in August 1919 and next year was appointed classics master at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School where the headmaster R. P. Franklin, a former fellow teacher at Shore, was a close friend.

A voracious reader with a photographic memory, Kaeppel excelled as scholar and teacher. Although he lacked an ear for phonetics (and could not pronounce an r), he had not only an intimate knowledge of Greek and Latin but 'explored with indefatigable thoroughness' the lesser-known ancient languages. A short man, in grey slacks and a well-worn sports jacket, he was a firm disciplinarian in the classroom; he carried an ash walking-stick which he banged on the ground to emphasize points and reputedly could inspire even the recalcitrant idler. His 'lads' greatly respected him.

He lived in the school lodge, made generous, impulsive gifts to his friends from his extensive library, and was an habitué of the Savage and Naval and Military clubs. He was a spell-binding conversationalist. However, his heavy drinking increased with the years and in 1931 he was forced to leave Melbourne Grammar. He moved to Sydney where he lived by coaching and by freelance journalism. In 1932 he wrote A Short History of Latin Literature and in 1935 the fascinating Off the Beaten Track in Classics.

A. R. Chisholm, who considered him 'one of the three or four most eminent scholars that Australia has produced', described him as 'exuberant, but moody; purposeful, but nostalgic; almost blatant at times, but fundamentally shy'. Nominally a Protestant and in practice an atheist, he was converted to Catholicism during his later Sydney years. He died of cancer at Lewisham Hospital on 6 December 1946 and was buried in Waverley cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £20.

Select Bibliography

  • A. R. Chisholm, Men Were My Milestones (Melb, 1958)
  • Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, Liber Melburniensis (Melb, 1937).

Citation details

Ann G. Smith, 'Kaeppel, Carl Henry (1887–1946)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kaeppel-carl-henry-6893/text11951, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 2 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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