John (Jack) Lahey was the youngest of timberman David Lahey’s sons but the first to enlist for service in the Great War.
He left Brisbane on the HMAT Shropshire on August 7, 1915 as part of the 25th Battalion which mostly comprised men recruited in Queensland.
Most of the fighting was over by the time Jack arrived on the Gallipoli peninsula on October 12. By then, perhaps the greatest enemy was not the Turks, but disease.
Rotting corpses, poor sanitation and legions of flies made for appalling conditions for both the ANZAC and Turkish troops, and thousands died on both sides.
Within a matter of weeks of arriving at Gallipoli, Jack, too, became a casualty and was listed as sick on November 7.
After being taken to the 7th Field Ambulance at Anzac Cove, he was transferred to the First Australian General Hospital in Cairo on November 30, where he was treated for serious enteric fever.
Jack was so debilitated by the intestinal illness that, at the end of January 1916, he was invalided back to Australia on the Suffolk for ‘three months change’.
He arrived in Sydney in March, but returned to duty the following month and embarked on the Mooltan in April to rejoin his battalion in France.
In October, the troops of Jack’s battalion were bogged in mud, fighting in the Somme Valley.
The winter of 1916 was one of the worst on record and, just as at Gallipoli, the conditions in the trenches contributed as much to the casualties as the fighting.
Jack was ill in November and again in January when he received news of his promotion to Corporal.
In March, Jack’s family received a telegram informing them he was being treated for severe influenza, and had been invalided to England to a hospital in Birmingham.
After recovering, Jack spent some weeks at Perham Down, Salisbury, before returning to France at the end of May and rejoining his battalion in June.
He was wounded in action on September 22, most likely when the 25th Battalion was part of the Second Division’s attack in the battle of Menin Road.
His family received a telegram on September 27 to say he had suffered severe, multiple gunshot wounds and had been admitted to the General Military Hospital in Colchester.
For Jack, with wounds to his left forearm, the war was over. He returned to Australia and was discharged from the AIF in May, 1918.
He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.