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Wandering Digger

could not possibly have been inspired by a diseased imagination. This poor, broken creature managed to tell the authorities at Callan Park Asylum, Sydney, that he had enlisted m Australia with the Second Battalion m 1914 and had gone to Egypt, indeed a land of riddles; thence to Gallipoli — Gallipoli of the treacherous slopes and white crosses. At the evacuation, he asserted, he was shifted to Tele el Kebir and later went on to France with the 15 th Battalion, being among the first batch of Australians m action on the Western Front. He had experienced a month of stationary warfare, when Fate moved a relentless, set purposeful, hand. A shell burst on the dug-out m which McQuay was sheltered and the structure collapsed on top of him. * They pulled him out of the debris a mere number — a soldier without memory or identity — knowing not from whence he came or whither he was bound. That was the only construction the Australian authorities could place on what they knew and what McQuay had intermittently mumbled to them when he felt communicative. After a sojourn m a French hospital, he somehow reached London. One day a digger was seen wandering > aimlessly and pathetically around the streets of the British capital. Yes, one can be lonely even m vast London. The digger was wearing the Australian uniform and was therefore placed m the hands of the Australian authorities. Obviously a hospital case, a man incapable of looking after himself — physically and morally ill — he was not sent back to the front. Subsequently McQuay reached Australia on the S.S. Karoola, landing m Melbourne and then being entrained to Sydney. But the stalwart young man who had gone away a soldier found himself a gibbering, unknown, irreconcilable nobody. At Broughton Hill military hospital, as it then was, he was entered as a patient, and it was there that he told a disconnected, but logical, story. His name was "George" and the surname "Brown" was either attached' to him at some period before his arrival — m order to give him at least some semblance of identity — or else he assumed it as the next best thing m an extremity of mental instability. However, from being a patient of meekness and contentment, the unhappy digger developed into a very bad mental case, utterly irresponsible at times and liable to strange fits of violence m the nature of hurling himself on the

II """"' nllllllllllnlllllllnllnnnllllllllllnlllllmnlnln.nl l mini nin mini |_ 1 1 (From "N.Z. Truth's" Special Commissioner.) ' 1| ll No mother's heart ever synchronized so completely with the ij || merrymaking of the Stratford district jubilee as when the mother of || || the New Zealand mystery soldier, George Thomas McQuay, || 11 definitely identified her son from an exclusioe photograph specially) || || conveyed to her from Wellington by "N. Z. Truth's" representative || 1 1 last wee^ || 1| In a wave of emotional joy, she clasped the photograph to her || || bosom, murmuring: "Yes, that is my George, God bless him, God bless §§ 11 him!" Then she swooned m her daughter's arms. " ||

= ;imiinnimiiiiniimininiiiiniminmimimmaimmmiimnimnHniiiiniMiimimiiiiiiiiimiimi -iiiiiiuiiiiiiiMiiiiiiiiiiiuiiiiiiitiiiiiiiiiiiniiiiiiiiiiiiiiltiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiuiiiiiiiiimiiiiiiiiii floor, contorting himself or else suddenly attacking the person nearest him. Progressively — or, more correctly., retrogressively — he developed into a gibbering mumblev of arrant nonsense, starting m fear and at times becoming paralysed with terror as he probably remembered the indescribable' moment when that black, all-enveloping curtain descended upon his senses.

Eminent doctors made strenuous efforts to explore the mind of this unhappy patient m the earlier years of his treatment, but he became steadily worse.

From the Broughton Hill institution he was transferred to the main section of Callan Park and at no time was he m such a state that he could have co-operated m hypnotic treatment.

The lesion of mind from which "Brown" suffered is not uncommon among ex-diggers, but recovery depends a great deal on the establishment of mental , links by the sudden appearance or association of some friend or relative.

Thus "Brown" continued day after day, remaining the Unknown Soldier of Australasia — unknown and all but buried m some" tomb or cenotaph.

Until the finding of his mother and the confirmation of his identity, the prospects of McQuay's recovery were hot considered very bright — m fact, practically nil if some relative could not be found.

The belief was. expressed at one stage that perhaps he was not a digger at all. This, however, must be discounted, if merely for the very improbable supposition that he could — as a lunatic — obtain the uniform of an Australian soldier, be repatriated to Australia from England and tell a circumstantial story of fighting with the Australians m Gallipoli and France.

Many avenues of inquiry were immediately closed when McQuay intimated, it is said, that he could neither read nor write. Life seemed to interest him not at all. The excitement during the recent .campaign of attempted identic " fication caused him considerable agitation and upset him at first. Now, however, he accepts it all. He first baulked furiously at cameras, but

now he stands almost lamb -like m any set position.

A wrinkled brow betokens a. worried and jumbled state of mmd — a brain that seems to be always trying to fathom something, but trying m a. futile, hopeless sort of way — a groping of conscience.

Since the first announcement concerning the mystery of a man unnamed and unknown m Australia, there have been over a hundred callers at Callan Park to see him — mostly parents who had cherished through the years the fading hope that perhaps their boy might have been wrongly reported "missing" or killed. It was a sad procession.

Reports were forwarded from everywhere. What struck the hospital authorities as a likely clue was a report that, the man resembled one of a family living on the Queensland border.

The father and mother were said to be dead, although a sister lived. But even this was found to be a blind alley.

Eventually there came a suggestion from "Truth's" Sydney representative that the man might be a New Zeiilander.

Subsequent investigations led to the happy substantiation of this theory.

Base Records were notified and "Truth's" exclusive photograph .-,vas forwarded by express transit!

A Sydney resident named Rawson came forward to sow the first seed of

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Permanent link to this item

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NZTR19280405.2.2.4

Bibliographic details

Wandering Digger, NZ Truth, Issue 1166, 5 April 1928

Word Count
1,039

Wandering Digger NZ Truth, Issue 1166, 5 April 1928

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