Archives: Mr Fahey goes to war

By Gerard Benjamin

Having delivered countless letters from the front to the residents of Teneriffe Hill, it must have come as a grim reminder about the reality of the Great War when their well-regarded postman told them, “I’m heading off to it as well…”

As a result, someone organised several farewell gifts which included a leather wallet with a little booklet containing the signatures of the more than 60 recipients of the post run. 

The presentation was made on Thursday, 30 March 1916, and among the names were Doggett, Exton, Fowles, Snelling, Abercrombie and Alderman McMaster. The following day, 34-year-old William Fahey, originally from Gympie, enlisted. 

It would have made all the difference to him if Miss Agnes Bradley, also from Gympie, had said yes to his marriage proposal, but that was not to be.

After his initial training, Will Fahey graduated from the Signalling School at Chermside (site of current day Marchant Park, Aspley). Later in 1916 there was more training in England at Amesbury near Stonehenge, plus plenty to see with his mates on a four-day leave pass in London including museum and theatre visits.

By October 1917, Will Fahey qualified as an assistant instructor at the Army Signal School in Dunstable, and he remembered how one trainer had explained the need to be quick when finding a position on a map.

“If you take a long time finding it and you have English Tommies with you, they will go to sleep,” he advised. “If you happen to have Aussie soldiers with you, they will go on leave.” 

Six months later Private Fahey was under battle conditions in France. As a signaller his duty was to keep lines of communication open; message orders or co-ordinates via signal lamp, repair broken telegraphic wires in trenches, or act as a runner, no matter the weather or battle conditions.

Luckily, he returned from France unscathed and attained the rank of sergeant. After the Armistice in November 1918 he stayed on in London to attend the British School of Telegraphy, then worked for another year at AIF Headquarters before coming home.

Back at Chermside in 1916, Private Fahey’s mates included George Brigham, Leslie Cutler and George Simpson. All survived the conflict, as did George Brigham’s invaluable diary which offers graphic day-to-day details in the life of a WWI digger. Available on the State Library of Queensland website, it makes for fascinating reading (Search George Brigham on OneSearch). 

William Fahey (Back Row, Right)

The four mates vowed that after the war they would meet in Brisbane for a photo. They did that in 1920—but another 30 years elapsed before their next reunion. This time their photo appeared in the Courier Mail accompanying a story entitled “Mates for 34 years” (29 August 1950).

After the war, Will Fahey had returned to the postal service, and one day in Queen Street he spotted Agnes Bradley. They renewed their friendship, and this time when he signalled ‘marriage’, she gave the green light. They had two daughters and lived at Red Hill. 

As chance would have it, Mr Fahey’s great-grandson Ben Wieland and his wife Susan are Teneriffe residents and live but a stone’s throw from the streets which made up Mr Fahey’s old 1916 postal run. 

Ben is the current custodian of his great-grandfather’s wallet and the booklet of signatures from 104 years ago, as well as his medals.

“This will be the first time that I can’t take his war medals down to the Anzac Day ceremony at the Submariners Walk in Teneriffe,” said Ben.