He Belonged to Wagga: The Great War, the AIF and returned soldiers in an Australian country town

Ian Hodges

2023 Winner

Book cover

Judges' comments

Ian Hodges’ investigation of the consequences of the First World War for Wagga emphasises the aftermaths and fortunes of those who served and returned home. Built on multiple sources ranging from repatriation records and unit war diaries to personal papers and tennis club minutes, this is rich historical writing at its best. Hodges’ writing is always even-handed and with a deft turn of phrase. He builds absorbing interest in a town and its war-going men, their relationships with each other and with the other men, women and children of Wagga after the war.  

The title of this book is instructive. Hodges builds bridges between community history based on Wagga and broader debates in Australian historiography. He engages with the exaggerated ‘bush’ dimensions of the Anzac legend and reminds us that this war had no sharp ‘end’ but reverberated in complex ways for decades. For some of the returned men, there were wounds, physical and psychological, that resisted healing; for others there was community leadership and business success; and for many, the experience of war would not prove defining. Civic life incorporated the experiences of the AIF from Wagga rather than the other way around. 

One of the book’s great strengths is Hodges’ ability to move between different realms of interpretation with assuredness. He is attentive to the many strands of military history but equally comfortable with local business and community histories. He dives deeply into individual stories, and then shifts easily again to the national scene.

Updated on 23 February 2024