After the War: Fremantle author’s research accidentally turns up grisly incident linked to family’s past

Author Leigh Straw. Picture: Matt Jelonek d472256
Author Leigh Straw. Picture: Matt Jelonek d472256

RESEARCHING crime history at the Battye Library, Leigh Straw had no idea she would uncover a grisly incident from her own family’s past.

Flicking through an old Collie newspaper she spotted a story on returned World War I soldier Andrew Straw, a man who bore a striking resemblance to her husband, as well as sharing his name.

Photocopying the article to show the family, she soon discovered Andrew Straw was her husband’s great-great uncle, who in 1929 murdered a neighbour before turning the gun on himself.

The tragic story became the inspiration for her new book After the War, which looks at soldiers like Andrew Straw and how they dealt with the physical and mental scars earned in battle.

Dr Straw said the book retold the personal struggles of both soldiers and their families.

“My efforts to try and find out if the war had impacted on his mental state after active service was at first deeply personal and part of our family’s connection to the story but it soon developed in wanting to know more about the other men who had served and experienced mental and physical problems after the war,” she said.

“Once I started reading through a number of service files and repatriation records, I felt compelled to tell the stories of returned soldiers in Western Australia so that our understanding and commemoration of World War I could include more meaningfully the experiences of the men who returned.

“As much as it important that we commemorate the war, it is vital that we also follow the survivors into peacetime and understand the ways in which the war never ended for some of the returned soldiers and their families.

“The fighting stopped but their mental and physical trials continued for months and years afterwards.”

After the War is available from UWA Publishing at

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