As a motorcycle dispatch rider, Talbot Lahey represented an important link in an often fragile communications chain, delivering urgent orders at speed between headquarters and the front-line. It was a perilous assignment, as riding a motorcycle could be dangerous enough without having to run the gauntlet of enemy gun fire.
However, Talbot was no novice, having bought a belt-drive Triumph he affectionately named Lucy in 1913, and may have been chosen as a dispatch rider based on this previous experience.
Posing proudly with his army Triumph H in his riding gear, Tal was photographed in Belgium in the last year of the war and posted the photo home to his older brother, Archie, in 1919. The dedication in his elegant handwriting in the bottom right hand corner read: “Your Affectionate Brother Tal”.
Beaudesert-born Talbot Lahey was the sixth of 21 children of Isaiah Lahey. He was a brother of Godfrey Lahey and a cousin of Romeo Lahey, Noel Lahey, Jack Lahey and Francis Lahey, whose names are also listed on the Canungra memorial.
Enlisting on August 2, 1916, Talbot Lahey then aged 26, described, in elegant script, his occupation as gentleman, although his service records subsequently listed him as a benchman.
At just five foot three and a half inches (161 centimetres) and weighing just 115 pounds (52 kilos), according to his enlistment papers, Talbot Lahey was one of many young men from the Canungra district who belied the ANZAC legend of Australian soldiers as big, strapping country boys.
Private Lahey left Melbourne on the HMAT Orsova on December 6, 1916 and arrived in Plymouth on February 17, 1917.
Initially posted to the 31st Battalion, Talbot was transferred to 3rd Machine Gun Company and, after further training, proceeded to France in April 1917 to reinforce the 21st Machine Gun Company.
We know little of Talbot’s service on the battlefield, except that he was gassed at Ypres in 1917, according to a medical report completed at the end of the war, and had numerous admissions to hospital that year. In early 1918 he was twice treated for influenza.
Talbot was transferred to the Australian Corps Signal Company as Sapper Lahey on March 23, 1918 with an ‘a’ added to his service number.
Some eight months after the Armistice, he embarked on the Persic in July, 1919, along with his cousin, Francis Lahey. He arrived in Australia in September, and was discharged from the Army a month later.
On August 6, 1924, Tal married Adelaide Georgina Everett, who was known to the family as ‘George’. ‘George’ was a niece of Tal’s stepmother, Edith Everett, whom his father had married in 1904, three years after the death of his mother, Emma.
Tal and ‘George’ had a son they named Maxwell.
Tal’s great nephew, Ian Lahey, describes his grandfather Archie’s brother as ‘a bit of a larrikin’.
“He and brother Douglas set off some explosives behind a gum tree during a party at Jandera, Archie’s home. Some crockery was broken and a piece of timber went over two houses and landed on a third,” said Ian.