Fallen soldiers

After the universal upheaval of World War I, many soldiers found it difficult to take up their former occupations and adjust to civilian life

They were uncertain, resentful, and somewhat ill at ease. This they hid by pretending an elaborate relief at being out of the army … Yet, as a matter of fact, they would have felt more at home in a prison than in this new-found and unquestionable freedom.

From F Scott Fitzgerald, ‘May Day’, 1922

After the universal upheaval of World War I, many soldiers found it difficult to take up their former occupations and adjust to civilian life. To make ends meet, some ex-soldiers turned to crime, while career criminals simply went back to their old ways. Ex-servicemen received preferential treatment in the community as an acknowledgment of their service and sacrifice, and they were often shown leniency by police and the courts. Devious criminals, many of whom had not enlisted, took advantage of public goodwill with scams involving stolen medals and false tales of heroism.

Stanley James Hay

circa September 1920

Suspected of break, enter and steal

Hay’s lower leg was amputated after he was wounded in action in France while serving in the Australian Imperial Force. After returning to Sydney he broke into ‘Diggerville’, a workshop set up by the Commonwealth Government to train ex-soldiers in trades such as jewellery making, welding and leatherwork. In court, police alleged that Hay had made off with five suitcases and four kitbags. He was found not guilty.

Augustine ‘Gus’ Gracey (alias Charles August Deane, Charles August De Gracie, Charles Augustine De Gracie) & Edgar ‘Eddie’ Dalton (alias Adamson Mitchell)

circa 1920

Suspect, offence unknown (Gracey); suspected of being an idle and disorderly person and having insufficient means of support (Dalton)

Men with serious or lengthy criminal records were forbidden to join up to fight in World War I, but these two felons had managed to enlist, with Gracey using an alias to dupe the authorities. Gracey was wounded on two occasions and was awarded medals for his service in France. For reasons unknown, Dalton had not embarked on a troopship, remaining in Australia.

Paul Bozan

7 November 1922

Suspected of break, enter and steal

French-born ex-soldier Bozan was known to police for stealing tools from carpenters’ workshops. In 1928, he appeared before the court charged with stealing provisions and working as a cook while suffering from a venereal disease. Though it is unclear exactly when Bozan contracted the disease, some soldiers returned from World War I with sexually transmitted infections, and governments enacted laws to attempt to prevent the diseases from spreading.

Ralph Leslie Lapworth

(alias Ainsworth, Laingham, Leslie Lapworth, Donald Leslie Osborne)

19 January 1922

Suspected of false pretences

This mugshot was taken after Lapworth scammed £3 from a clergyman by professing to have a sick wife. Lapworth had a history of pretending to be someone else – on this occasion, a railway porter. During World War I, he had been charged with wearing a military uniform when not a member of the armed forces. He later married a young woman, having convinced her that he had been injured in the war and was expecting a large payout. Lapworth did eventually join the army, in 1917, but after being discharged he went back to his criminal ways.

James Stuart MacKenzie

(alias James Stuart McKenzie)

circa August 1920

Suspected of false pretences

MacKenzie, an Englishman, had numerous convictions for obtaining goods and money by false pretences. He convinced his targets to trust him by pretending to be a returned soldier.

Morrie Stuart Thomas (alias Frederick Knox, Morley Stuart Thomas)

3 February 1922

Suspected of stealing

An Englishman, Thomas was a returned soldier and former prisoner of war. While employed at a department store, he filled suitcases with goods he had stolen from the shop and instructed an unsuspecting young man to carry them outside for him. Both men were caught. Thomas confessed and took full responsibility for his actions, pleading, ‘Don’t lock this boy up. He knows nothing of the matter’ (The Sun (Sydney), 10 February 1922).

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