Missing in Action
Australia's World War I Grave Services, an astonishing true story of misconduct, fraud and hoaxing
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Poor leadership, mismanagement, quarrels, distrust and accusations of hoaxing ... this is the story of what happened after the guns were laid down and Australians tried to find their war dead.
By the end of World War I, 45,000 Australians had died on the Western Front. Some bodies had been hastily buried mid-battle in massed graves; others were mutilated beyond recognition. Often men were simply listed as 'Missing in Action' because nobody knew for sure.
Lieutenant Robert Burns was one of the missing, and now that the guns had fallen silent his father wanted to know what had become of his son. He wasn't the only one looking for answers. A loud clamour arose from Australia for information and the need for the dead to be buried respectfully.
Many of the Australians charged with the grisly task of finding and reburying the dead were deeply flawed. Each had his own reasons for preferring to remain in France instead of returning home. In the end there was a great scandal, with allegations of 'body hoaxing' and gross misappropriation of money and army possessions leading to two highly secretive inquiries.
Untold until now, Missing in Action is the compelling and unexpected story of those dark days and darker deeds and a father's desperate search for his son's remains.
Marianne van Velzen was born in the Netherlands but grew up in Australia. In her late teens she emigrated back to Europe and later became a journalist. She has a life-long interest in Australia and is the author of Call of the Outback, published in 2016, and Bomber Boys, published in 2017.
Allen & Unwin
Allen & Unwin
Paperback - C format