Madness and the Military
Australia’s Experience of Shell Shock in the Great War (2nd ed)
By Michael Tyquin
Published by Australian Scholarly Publishing
RRP A$44.00 | Published November 2019
Format: Paperback ISBN: 9781925984019
Michael Tyquin wrote the first edition of this book some 13 years ago but has returned to the subject at the urging of many colleagues who demanded a new edition.
In the period since the first edition, he writes that the centenary commemorations of the First World War have ‘brought into sharper focus the continuing link between war service and the physical and mental damage sustained by individual soldiers and how this affected wider society.’
However little of the new research focuses on the Australian experience although he acknowledges there are themes common to all combatants.
This book deals with war neurosis or ‘shell shock’ as it was commonly called for many years after the First World War. The psychological casualties and the resulting mental debris of that war have been largely forgotten for reasons he explores and reveals. He describes a neglected generation of war veterans while challenging long-cherished myths surrounding the commemoration of their war.
In many cases, it was the families, especially wives and mothers, who bore the brunt of trying to ease the suffering of the men who returned from the battlefields. Inevitably, there were broken men who couldn’t be helped who ended up as the detritus of society.
In the final chapter, he discusses the issue of ‘moral injury’ – the debilitating effects of the guilt and shame of the men who perpetrated violence on others and who witnessed it.
In examining the treatment of wartime psychological casualties, Tyquin has produced a work of continuing significance.
We would do well to remember that behind the stirring speeches of war commemoration, there is a darker truth: the price the families and the wider society pays – and goes on paying – for the terrible psychological damage inflicted by war.
This book lays it all out in grim detail.