Long­est jour­ney home to Strat­ford

South Taranaki Star - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS -

‘‘They were hop­ing against hope that their man was alive. ’’

For the next decade, he re­mained in the hos­pi­tal with­out any iden­tity.

That changed in 1928 when the Re­turned Sailors and Soldiers Im­pe­rial League of Aus­tralia launched a pub­lic ap­peal to raise money to buy to­bacco for ex­sol­diers in Cal­lan Park, who did not have a pen­sion or any money.

The re­sult­ing story in the Syd­ney Sun news­pa­per made pass­ing ref­er­ence to an un­known Anzac in the hos­pi­tal who did not know who he was or where he was from.

‘‘It was only a para­graph in the pa­per,’’ Hast­ings said. But the words hit a raw nerve.

Hast­ings said there was an out­pour­ing of in­ter­est from both sides of the Tas­man from fam­i­lies whose loved ones had gone to war and never came home.

‘‘They were hop­ing against hope that their man was alive,’’ Hast­ings said.

Within a fort­night of the public­ity cam­paign, the un­known Anzac was iden­ti­fied as Ge­orge Thomas McQuay from Strat­ford in Taranaki who had served with the Auck­land In­fantry Bat­tal­ion at Gal­lipoli and on the Western Front be­fore go­ing miss­ing in July 1916.

Af­ter the well-pub­li­cised re­union with his mother in Syd­ney, Hast­ings said McQuay ‘‘dis­ap­peared from the head­lines’’ and there was lit­tle in­for­ma­tion avail­able at the time about what hap­pened to him next.

Upon his re­turn to New Zealand, Hast­ings found out that McQuay lived in the Porirua psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal for a time and was deemed to have lit­tle hope of re­cov­er­ing.

How­ever, his mother wanted him back home in Strat­ford and he was granted leave to go home for pe­ri­ods of time, as long as she paid for a min­der to be with him around the clock.

‘‘She did this at her own ex­pense. She wanted him home and this was the price she was pre­pared to pay,’’ Hast­ings said.

In 1931 he was of­fi­cially dis­charged as ‘‘un­re­cov­ered’’ and lived in Strat­ford for the rest of his life, un­til his death 20 years later.

Hast­ings said if McQuay had not been iden­ti­fied he would have spent the rest of his life at Cal­lan Park and when he died, he would have been buried in an anony­mous grave.

He called McQuay’s mother the hero­ine of the story, a woman who never gave up on her son - ‘‘a strag­gler from the war try­ing to find his way home.’’

David Hast­ings came across Ge­orge McQuay’s story when he was re­search­ing the sub­ject of shell shock, or what is com­monly known today as post trau­matic stress dis­or­der. David Hast­ings

SUP­PLIED

A copy of the flyer dis­trib­uted in March 1928 to help iden­tify the un­known pa­tient, who later turned out to be Strat­ford man Ge­orge McQuay,

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