Author(s): Marianne van Velzen
At the end of WWI 45,000 Australians had died on the Western Front. Some bodies had been hastily buried mid-battle in massed graves; some were mutilated beyond recognition. In some cases their next of kin had been informed of the death of their loved ones; but in most instances men were listed as 'Missing in Action', because nobody knew for sure. Now that the guns were silent, a loud clamour arose from Australia for information and for the dead to be buried respectfully. But the men put in charge of this exercise and those engaged in 'body divining' were deeply flawed men, many of them with their own personal reasons for preferring to remain in France unearthing bodies rather than being demobilised and sent home. In the end there was a great scandal, with allegations of 'body hoaxing' and gross misappropriation of money and army possessions. There were two highly secretive inquiries. This is the untold story of those dark days and darker deeds. It makes for a compelling narrative by one of our best literary sleuths and story-tellers, Marianne van Velzen.