The theatrical career of Gerald Benedict Fahy was brought to a sad end at the 15th Australian Field Ambulance where he died of gas poisoning on 7 April 1917. “Gattye”, as he was known to his family and friends, enlisted at Enoggera, Queensland, on 9 May 1915. Although he gave his occupation as “labourer” he signed his enlistment form with a flourish, perhaps indicating his standard of education. Indeed, he is remembered on the Patrician Brothers’ Orange Old Boys Roll of Honour.
Gerald embarked at Sydney on HMAT Shropshire on 20 August 1915 bound for Egypt, where he was taken on strength with the 15th Battalion at Lemnos. On 9 February 1916 he was wounded and admitted to the Australian Overseas Base at Chesireh, Egypt.
In March 1916 Gerald rejoined his battalion and was transferred to France. Here he was wounded in action on 8 August and again on 28 August 1916, when he also suffered shell shock. On 3 September 1916 Gerald rejoined his battalion and was then transferred to the 4th Division Salvage Company. On 7 April 1917 at the 15th Australian Field Ambulance he died of gas poisoning and was laid to rest at the Bernafay Wood British Cemetery in Montauban France.
Gerald had originally enlisted under the name of Thompson. In a letter included in his war record he explains why:
This is my explanation to having enlisted under a wrong name. For the last four or five months I have had relatives of my wife coming to my home and wanting to lene [sic] on me. They are quiet [sic] able to work but seem to be of the kind that don’t want it. I did not care to cause rows between my wife and self and took the name of Thompson and shifted my address thinking that would leave me free of them for a time. On the day that I enlisted I took the name of Thompson not knowing that I was doing wrong and with no intention whatever of doing anything wrong. I came to the knowledge of what I had done and took the first opportunity I had of explaining matters. I can get references from the last three places in which I was employed as to character and my way of living showing that my past is good and above reproach. I ask you to treat me as lightly as possible as my heart is bent on going to the front.
Why did Gerald Fahy choose the name “Thompson”? The Perth Daily News dated 15 January 1907 records a performance of Fun on the Bristol. In the play Gerald Fahy performed the role of “Thompson” – perhaps it was the first name that popped into head that he was familiar with! Obviously, Gerald enjoyed performing. In 1903 the Petersham Choral Society performed Dorothy where Gerald performed on alternate nights. The Port Augusta Dispatch of Friday 21 June 1907 records:
Gerald Benedict Fahy was born in 1883 and was the son of Patrick Fahy and Jane Collins (of Springside) who had married in Orange in 1864. They had eight children; Gerald was the first boy after six girls. His father Patrick was the licensee of both the Steam Engine Hotel and the Daniel O’Connell Hotel in Lords Place. The family later moved to Stanmore in Sydney where the last four children were born.
Flicking through the pages of A Gentleman of the Inky Way by Joe Glasson (who identifies himself as a cousin through the Collins line) it is apparent that the Fahy family was musically talented. Gerald’s younger brother “Bort” (Herbert) was well-known in Sydney and country New South Wales for his musical talents. Though “Bort” could not read a note of music he could sing and play for hours. Joe Glasson records his visits to the Fahy family home in Stanmore, Sydney:
As soon as tea was over, Bort, an accredited musical genius, would sit at the piano hour after hour, his brother, sisters and friends would sing first-class music in four parts, including all the Gilbert and Sullivan operas.
Gerald left a widow and three small children. He had married Annie Harper, daughter of William Thomas Harper, in Brisbane on 22 April 1912. In 1918 Annie was chosen to occupy one of the Anzac Cottages at Goodna, Queensland, built especially for war widows. Annie never remarried and died in Queensland in 1957. Their son, Gerald Herbert Fahy, served in WWII.
It is interesting to note that while Gerald Benedict Fahy died and was interred in France, his widow Annie Fahy registered his death in Brisbane, Queensland, in 1922. His death certificate states that he was given a military burial. Three children are listed on the death certificate: Minnie Josephine, aged four, Edward Henry, three, and Gerald Herbert, one.
Gerald Benedict “Gattye” Fahy is commemorated on the Patrician Brothers’ Roll of Honour, the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph and on panel no 184 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. A tree was planted in honour of “Pte GB Fahy”; it was donated by AB Woodhouse. Very few of the trees are still standing today.
* Sharon Jameson, October 2018