Marked men

Featured in

  • Published 20150505
  • ISBN: 9781922182807
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

GERMAINE GREER’S FATHER never hugged her. Born just before World War II, Greer’s childhood was overshadowed by a father who had served in military intelligence and survived the protracted horrors of the German siege of Malta, and returned suffering the effects of anxiety disorders and near-starvation. Greer found him cold, reserved and distant, unwilling or unable to respond to her desire for familial intimacy. Her story of a father altered as a returned serviceman – alienated and aloof, seemingly out of place in the feminised space of home and family – is one echoed in the stories of Australians from many walks of life. War service may have been mythologised and enshrined in the national narrative, but the private experience of return is all too often suffused with personal ache and anguish, marking out a profound generational and inter-generational legacy of psychological loss.

Twenty years ago, when I first began to research the experiences of returned Australian servicemen from the major wars of the twentieth century, evidence of the costs of war – material and emotional – surfaced in abundance. Official archives contained numerous reports of the pressures on widows and children struggling to survive when breadwinners had fallen in combat, or the burdens on wives and mothers caring for severely injured and ill veterans. More commonly, however, these dusty files held disquieting accounts about the strain of living with those demobilised soldiers who were seemingly fit and healthy, but had returned moody and withdrawn – by turns sullen and violent, prone to fits of rage, unable to hold down jobs and salving their private torments in drink or drugs.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

If you are an educator or student wishing to access content for study purposes please contact us at griffithreview@griffith.edu.au

Share article

More from author

Private life of a public man

MemoirEulogy delivered at Donald Horne's funeral, September 21, 2005. I HAVE TO confess that my first meeting with Donald was less than auspicious. It was...

More from this edition

Breaking ranks with Empire

EssayIN 1920, THE New Zealand official war artist George Edmund Butler presented a painting to the New Zealand Government for the proposed National War...

The past is not sacred

EssayTHE TERM ‘HISTORY wars’ is best known in Australia for summing up the fierce debate over the nature and extent of frontier conflict, with...

When I look upon the suffering

PoetryIn Afghanistan, a widow receives my monthly stipend, a small apology as I monitor my intake of news, post a cheque but can’t stomach the photos.   My widow’s daughters, swathed in black, don’t...

Stay up to date with the latest, news, articles and special offers from Griffith Review.