Godfrey Lahey was among the thousands of eager volunteers who rushed to join the Army after the outbreak of war in August 1914.
Beaudesert-born Godfrey, a younger brother of Talbot Lahey, enlisted on September 6, 1914, aged 20 and, like most of the early recruits, was sent first to Egypt to deal with the threat the Ottoman Empire posed to British interests in the Middle East.
Godfrey’s civilian clerical skills were translated into war work as a signaler and telephonist and he carefully copied out and kept General Hamilton’s order for the Gallipoli landings, dated April 23, 1915.
“Soldiers of France and of the King, before us lies an adventure unprecedented in modern war. Together with our comrades of the fleet we are about to force a landing on the open beach in positions which have been vaunted by our enemies as impregnable. The landing will be made good by the help of God and the navy. The positions will be stormed and the war brought one step closer to a glorious finish. Remember, said Lord Kitchener, when bidding adieu to your commander once you set your foot on the Gallipoli Peninsula you must fight the thing through to the finish. The whole world will be watching your progress. Let us prove ourselves worthy of the great feat of arms entrusted to us.”
As the disaster of the Gallipoli landings unfolded on April 25 and the positions which had been “vaunted as impregnable” proved no exaggeration by the enemy, Private Lahey was on a ship off the coast.
He never landed on the peninsula but remained in a support role before the campaign was abandoned and the ANZAC forces returned to Egypt.
From his now barely legible service record we know that Godfrey served at Tel el Kebir in Egypt in early 1916 and was made temporary Corporal and then temporary Sergeant of the 4th Divisional Ammunition Column before being promoted to Staff Sergeant in April.
Godfrey shipped from Alexandria on June 6, 1916 arriving in Marseilles a week later.
In early 1917 he was based in Rouen, where he was attached to the Australian section of the Third Echelon General Headquarters.
Perhaps the most remarkable incident during his military life was being severely reprimanded for contravening the standing orders of the Rouen base, by being in the Café des Deux Avenues, at the corner of the Avenue Pasteur and the Avenue du Mont Riboudet, at 11.15am on May 27, 1918 while on active service.
Somehow, while the war raged on, Godfrey was able to take leave to go sightseeing in France and, according to his daughter, Alicia Johns, visited Monte Carlo and climbed Mont Blanc.
In early December 1918, less than a month after the end of the war, Godfrey was given permission to travel home to Australia at his own expense, via New York. He left Liverpool on the SS Megantic on December 11 and arrived in Australia on the SS Ventura from San Francisco on May 10, 1919.
For his war service, Godfrey Lahey was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Returning to Beaudesert, he met and married Amelia Stanley and started a family that would eventually number nine children.
During World War Two, Godfrey Lahey’s name was given as the next of kin for three young men, his sons, Douglas George Lahey, born exactly four years after the Armistice on November 11, 1922, Godfrey Noel Lahey, born June 25, 1924 and Maurice Stanley Lahey, born April 4, 1926.
Godfrey Lahey passed away in July, 1961, according to a letter written to central army records by one of his sons in 1967, requesting an ANZAC Medallion on behalf of his late father.