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He Belonged to Wagga

The Great War, the AIF and returned soldiers in an Australian country town


Ian Hodges

North Melbourne, VIC: Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2022

Paperback    330pp     RRP: $44:00


Reviewer: Adrian Catt, February 2024


Pride. Mateship. Determination. These are the qualities which make Australians. Though they may seem lacking in this nation at present, the people of Wagga in the early days of  Federation had it in spades; an esprit de corps which, if regained, would make this Nation great again.

This is a quaint, but very important historical account of how a regional country town, and indeed an entire district, was awakened by visionaries, leaders and believers and drawn into a World War out of heartfelt allegiance to Empire, Peace and community. An uplifting book that examines the people, government and organisations which worked from Colonial times into early Commonwealth in order to support the War effort, for those in Service as well as those left behind; right through to declaration of Peace, repatriation, social expansion, and the resultant hardships of continued misery inflicted by the arrival of the Great Depression.

Author Ian Hodges tells the story of key individuals of the Wagga district, whether they be politicians, aristocrats, farmers, professionals or labourers, and follows how both their lives and community matured during these difficult and troubled times. Hodges uncovers the pride, co-operation and successes of Wagga, as well as the rogues, failures, disagreements and fallouts of the largest regional town in New South Wales at that time.

Division, however, was no barrier to supplying, supporting and recovering from the Great War for the Wagga district, as the results ultimately achieved always succeeded in supporting Soldiers, Families, and the wider community.

Each chapter reveals struggles, decisions, initiatives and policies which delivered positive outcomes, (such as the formation of ex-service organisations, Legacy, the rejection of conscription, and the establishment of pensions). Thoughtful summaries are provided too, and the book ends on a balanced note in a delightfully concise conclusion. The End Notes are impressively extensive.

Great reading which is very informative of the impact of the Great War and Great Depression upon the microcosm case in point: Wagga.  Thoroughly enjoyed – Highly recommended.



The RUSI – Vic Library thanks the publisher for making this work available for review.

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