Long time coming home: the unknown patient of Callan Park
In March 1928 a Sydney newspaper published a photograph of a man who had been a patient at Callan Park Mental Asylum for almost twelve years since being medically repatriated from the Western Front in September 1916. Discovered - dishevelled and incoherent - wandering behind the lines in France, he possessed no insignia or identification, save for an Australian army hat. He was visibly confused and panicky, unable to give his rank, his battalion or his name. Places in the care of an Australian field hospital, he eventually proffered his name as George Brown. He said that he had enlisted in the AIF from his home in Tasmania and that his regimental number was 2584. None of this was true but, in the absence of any alternative, his file was marked with that name. The staff at Callan Park referred to him as 'the unknown patient'. Under his real name, he was listed as 'missing'. For both the unknown patient, and his nameless family, their war was about to become a while lot longer. The newspaper appealed for assistance in identifying the soldier and provided a dramatic overview of his circumstances.