Lieutenant Mordaunt Reid’s story flickers through all significant historical accounts of the Gallipoli landing on 25 April 1915. Official historian, Charles Bean paid him the ultimate accolade stating that he displayed all the attributes of a ‘born leader’ that morning. Yet Mordaunt’s story peters out, with the circumstances of his disappearance later that day consigned to footnotes. Intrigued, I searched old newspapers, soldiers’ dairies, and battalion histories, and tracked down aged relatives to uncover a poignant story that sweeps well beyond Mordaunt’s disappearance.
Mordaunt’s wife, Pauline Dowd, was convinced that he was alive; however, beyond the defence department’s Office of Base Records, there seemed no other agency Pauline could turn to for reliable information. Rather than impotently wait for official news on Mordaunt, Pauline wrote to the newspapers and cabled hospitals overseas seeking answers. In mid-1915 Pauline sailed for Cairo and then later, in 1916, on to London in her unending search for news. Pauline’s main hope centred on Bugler Frederick Ashton, who had disappeared on the same day as Mordaunt, but was subsequently confirmed as a prisoner-of-war. His letters confirmed that there were also other Australians held as prisoners. Pauline was convinced that Mordaunt was one of them.
Discover Mordaunt and Pauline’s moving story in Scott Bennett’s ‘The Nameless Names: Recovering the Missing Anzacs.’ Available in bookshops on 29 October 2018.
Ten principles that I anchor my writing process to:
- ‘The more the marble wastes, the more the statue grows’.
- Back off. Let the reader do the creating. Give elbow room to the creative reader.
- Avoid adverbs and words ending in ‘ing’.
- Maniacal focus on fluency, clarity and narrative urgency.
- Focus on sparse detail so there can be a real feeling of it – sights and sounds, smells and colours.
- Readers deserve more than half-hearted opinions.
- Don’t join all the dots for the reader; let their mind move ahead after the text is finished.
- Use simple words to explain complex issues.
- Don’t be a prisoner of language – bully it to do want you want.
- Success isn’t found in writing, but rewriting.
In 1927, an elderly man visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Paris to commemorate his missing son. The man calmly stepped through the crowd and climbed the Arc De Triomphe’s spiral staircase. Atop the terrace, overlooking Paris, he let out a mournful cry and dived to his death.
The tormented father believed that his son was the Unknown Soldier entombed beneath the grand arches.
What circumstances lead to such dire actions? Scott Bennett’s book, The Nameless Names, explores this question, sensitively revealing the anguish experienced by Australian families of the missing.
Who is this woman and why did she save her pennies and quietly depart Australia in the 1920s to mourn at this soldier’s grave located in Belguim.
Although the woman’s eyes are hidden beneath the shadow of her hat, her tight mouth and the white handkerchief she clutches betrays her emotion. Her story is one of forlorn love and unacknowledged grief.
Her name is Kath Chapman and she stands over the grave of Lieutenant Theo Pflaum.
Discover her moving story in Scott Bennett’s ‘The Nameless Names: Recovering the Missing Anzacs.’ Available in bookshops on 29 October 2018.