A century on from the end of World War I we acknowledge their service …
Lest we forget.
Lance Corporal William Fahey MM
Born: 1888 – Pakenham. Died: 2 April 1956 Heidelberg.
Enlisted: 22 January 1915 aged 26
Served: Egypt, Gallipoli and Western Front
Amongst the former students listed on the St Patrick’s Roll of Honour are five brothers: James, William, Thomas, Patrick, and Edward Fahey. They were sons of John and Margaret Fahey. Their father’s family, which was described as “highly respected by all who knew them”, had moved from Dandenong to Pakenham. The family property may have been located where the Lakeside estate now is on the Old Princes Highway opposite Thewlis Road.
Tragically for the family, John Fahey died in 1895 aged just 49. For Margaret and her children, this must have been devastating, both emotionally and financially. In an era before the widow’s pension and child endowment, Margaret would have had to depend heavily on family and friends to make ends meet.
Given their dates of birth, the Fahey brothers would have attended St Patrick’s in the 1890s and early 1900s. After completing school, the brothers scattered in search of work, eventually enlisting for service as far afield as Melbourne, Tallangatta in northern Victoria and Maitland and Liverpool in NSW. By WWI, Margaret (now re-married to a Mr Christopherson) was living in Carlton.
William was the first of the Fahey brothers to enlist. At the time, he was working as a labourer around Tallangatta, near Wodonga. Initially sent to Egypt, he then proceeded to Gallipoli in late August 1915 and served there until the Anzacs were evacuated in December 1915. William was subsequently returned to Egypt for a couple of months before being shipped to the Western Front.
During the Battle of the Somme, William took part in the Australian attack on the German positions at Mouquet Farm near Pozieres. Known to the soldiers as “Moo Cow Farm”, this was a heavily fortified German position on a strategically important ridge near Pozieres. A party including William was involved in a desperate fight with the Germans at “Point 54”. Somehow, William managed to survive that day, but was wounded. He and some comrades were subsequently awarded the Military Medal by King George V. William’s citation read: “For most conspicuous gallantry in action at Mouquet Farm on 26 August 1916 in continuing to fire on the enemy after he had been wounded in both arms. The rifle was loaded by one wounded man whilst Private Fahey did the firing. He maintained his position until ordered to fall back to the rest of his Company”. The heroics at Mouquet Farm also earned him a brief mention in the official Australian war history written by the famous Charles Bean.
William was hospitalised at Rouen, and returned to his unit in November 1916. William was later promoted to Lance Corporal on 1 February 1917, but days later was wounded in the chest and sent back to hospital in England. He returned to Australia in June 1918 and was discharged as medically unfit due to an abnormally fast heart beat.
After the War, William lived in Carlton for a time and later in Coburg where he was listed on the electoral roll as being a textile worker. William married Margaret Marsden in 1926 and they had a daughter. Sadly, William became a widower in 1934 when his wife died. William himself died in 1956.
This is an extract from Patrick Ferry’s book A Century After The Guns Fell Silent – Remembering the Pakenham District’s WWI Diggers 1914-18.
For more details on this and other profiles in the book, head to the website www.pakenhamww1.com