Noel Alaric LAHEY

LAHEY, Noel Alaric

Service Numbers: 2743, 2743A
Enlisted: 5 August 1915, Place of Enlistment, Brisbane, Queensland.
Last Rank: Sapper
Last Unit: 11th Field Company Engineers
Born: Pimpama, Queensland, Australia, 15 January 1892
Home Town: Brisbane, Brisbane, Queensland
Schooling: Brisbane Grammar School, Queensland, Australia
Occupation: Sawmiller
Died: Died of wounds, France, 10 June 1917, aged 25 years
Cemetery: Pont d'Achelles Military Cemetery, France
Section II, Row A, Grave No 5
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Beaudesert War Memorial, Brisbane Grammar School Memorial Library WW1 Honour Board 2, Canungra War Memorial, Corinda Sherwood Shire Roll of Honor, Graceville War Memorial
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World War 1 Service

5 Aug 1915: Enlisted AIF WW1, Sapper, 2743, 25th Infantry Battalion, Place of Enlistment, Brisbane, Queensland.
21 Oct 1915: Involvement Private, 2743, 25th Infantry Battalion
21 Oct 1915: Embarked Private, 2743, 25th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Seang Bee, Brisbane
10 Jun 1917: Involvement Sapper, 2743A, 11th Field Company Engineers

Sapper Noel Alaric Lahey

Noel Lahey was born at Pimpama, Queensland. He was educated at Brisbane Grammar School and went on to work in his family’s sawmill. He resided at Corinda as did his parents David and Jane Jemima Lahey. His sister Vida was an internationally renowned artist and teacher who also contributed heavily to the war effort.

He enlisted on 5th August 1915 and was posted to the25th Battalion, 6th Reinforcement. Following training in Australia he left Brisbane on the HMAT Seang Bee on October 21 and arrived in Palestine at the end of February, 1916.

A month later he embarked from Alexandria on the Saxonia and arrived in Marseilles in early March.In France, Noel Lahey served with the 9th Battalion from March until June 1916, when he received a gunshot wound to the right arm and was evacuated to hospital, firstly in Boulogne and then England.

He later transferred to the 11th Field Company Australian Engineers, part of the 3rd Divisional Engineers, to be with his brother, Romeo.

The Battle of Messines was the first time the Australian 3rd Division saw service on the Western Front, and it was there, on June 9, 1917, that Noel Lahey was seriously wounded in action at Ploegsteert Wood.

With gunshot wounds to his head, chest, left arm and right hand, he was admitted to the 9th Australian Field Ambulance, where he was visited by his brother.The following day, Noel Lahey died of his wounds. He was buried in France in the Pont D’Achelles Military Cemetery, Nieppe, Nord Pas de Calais.

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Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

Noel Lahey came from a large family of 12 children. His eldest sister, Vida, would become a well known Queensland artist, and Noel’s eldest brother; Romeo, would be the catalyst for the establishment of Queensland’s first National Park.

Noel Lahey was born at Pimpama and probably attended school at Pimpama before the family moved to Corinda. The family home was named “Wonga Wallen”; which is a district near Pimpama in the foothills of Tambourine Mountain. The Lahey family had extensive interests in timber cutting and milling in the Canungra area and when Noel completed school at Brisbane Grammar, he worked in the family business as a saw miller.

When Noel enlisted on 5th August 1915, he was the third of the Lahey brothers to do so. At the time he stated his home address as “Wonga Wallen” Corinda and named his father, David as his next of kin. Noel was drafted into the 6th reinforcements for the 25th Battalion which at that time was about to be deployed at Anzac. He embarked on the “Seang Bee” in Brisbane on 21st October and arrived in Egypt just as the Australians were being evacuated from Gallipoli back to Egypt.

During the expansion of the AIF in Egypt in early 1916, Noel was transferred to the 9th Battalion; another Queensland battalion, to bring its numbers up to strength after being split to create the 49th Battalion. Noel arrived in Marseilles on 3rd April and travelled by train to the northern sector of the western front for acclimatisation to the business of trench warfare.

After Haig launched the Somme Offensive in July 1916, three of the four Australian divisions in France were brought to the Somme to continue the offensive. The 9th Battalion, being part of the 1st Division was first into the line at Pozieres. Noel sustained a gun shot wound to the arm during this action and was evacuated to the 13th General Hospital in England.

At the same time that Noel was deployed to France, his sister Vida suspended her artistic endeavours and travelled to England to provide a base for her three brothers who were all now fighting in France; perhaps with the hope that they might be able to enjoy some leave in England in the company of their big sister. There is evidence that at least Noel and Romeo were able to both be in England at the same time as the Australian War memorial has in its collection a photograph taken in 1916 of Vida, Noel and Romeo.

After discharge from hospital, Noel was posted to a convalescent depot at Perham Downs. He may have been in close contact with his brother Romeo as while at Perham Downs, Noel requested a transfer to the 11th Field Company Australian Engineers (the same unit as Romeo). Upon being posted back to France on 25th November, Noel was indeed transferred to the 11th FCAE. To distinguish him from another man in the unit with the same regimental number, an “A” was added to Noel’s number of 2743.

The engineers were attached to the 11th Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Division and accompanied the brigade in rotations in and out of the line during the winter of 1916/17 and then to Flanders for the preparations of the Battle of Messines which began on 7th June 1917. The 11th Brigade were charged with consolidating gains made in the neighbourhood of Ploegsteert Wood (the men called it Plugstreet). On 9th June, Noel was admitted to the 13th Field Ambulance with wounds to his head, chest, right arm and left hand. His brother, Romeo visited him but Noel died of his wounds the next day.

Noel Lahey was buried in the Pont de Archelles Military Cemetery near Armentieres and his personal effects were sent to his father at Corinda.

Vida Lahey remained in England until the armistice, after which she toured France and the Netherlands before returning to Australia to continue her painting. “Rejoicing and remembrance: Armistice London 1918” was painted on her return and is now in the collection of the Australian War Memorial. Vida is perhaps best known for her painting “Monday Morning” which depicts a woman (perhaps her mother, Jane Jemima Lahey) washing clothes by hand. “Monday Morning” is in the collection of the Queensland Art Gallery.

Romeo Lahey had studied civil engineering before the war, holding degrees from both Sydney and Queensland Universities. In 1914, at the urging of his father, he began to champion the creation of a National Park in the border ranges, the same country that his family had been logging in for many years. His pleadings were not responded to until the election of the Ryan Labor Government in 1915 when the Lamington National Park was gazetted. Having achieved his aim, Romeo was now free to enlist which he did in July 1915; eventually being commissioned as a Lieutenant in the 11th Field Company Engineers. At the conclusion of the war, Romeo remained in London to study town planning before returning to Australia and continue his conservation work.

He was instrumental in the creation of the Binna Burra Lodge along with Arthur Groom and became the inaugural president of the Queensland National Parks Association; a position he held until his death in 1968.

Courtesy of Ian Lang

Mango Hill