Odyssey of the Unknown Anzac

David Hastings

Ten years after the end of World War I, the Sydney Sun reported that an unknown Anzac still lay in a Sydney psychiatric hospital. ‘This man . . . was found wandering in a London street during the war,’ reported the paper. ‘He said he was an Australian soldier. Beyond his first statement that he was a Digger, he has not given any information about himself.’

Thousands of people in Australia and New Zealand responded to this story and an international campaign to find the man’s family followed. The story tapped into deep wells of sorrow and uncertainty which had been covered over by commemorations of Anzac heroism and honourable national sacrifice. More than a quarter of the Anzac dead had no known resting place. Might this be someone’s missing son?

David Hastings follows this one unknown Anzac, George McQuay, from rural New Zealand through Gallipoli and the Western Front, through desertions and hospitals, and finally home to New Zealand. By doing so, he takes us deep inside the Great War and the human mind.


View sample pages
(443.8 kB, PDF)



David Hastings began working in journalism as a copy boy on the Melbourne Sun in 1970 and ended in 2013 as editor of the Weekend Herald. Hastings has an MA in history from the University of Auckland. He is the author of Over the Mountains of the Sea: Life on the Migrant Ships, 1870–1885 (AUP 2006), Extra! Extra! How the People Made the News (AUP 2013) and The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie: Murder, Politics and Revenge in Nineteenth-Century New Zealand (AUP 2015).

April 2018, 210 x 140 mm, 208 pages, World rights excluding Australia
Paperback, ISBN 9781869408824, $34.99