Serra Council of Australia New Zealand and the South Pacific

WW1 Chaplains - Fahey

WW1 Chaplains Overview Honour Roll Profiles References

JOHN FAHEY (1883 – 1959)

John Fahey 1883 - 1959

Catholic priest and military chaplain, John Fahey, was born on the 3rd October 1883 in Tipperary, Ireland. The son of a farmer, he was ordained in May 1907. Almost immediately following his ordination, he departed Ireland for Australia as a member of the Australian Mission and began his work in Perth at the city’s cathedral. His station was moved to south-eastern Western Australia, to begin ministry in the parishes of York and Yarloop-Pinjara. Joining the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on the 8th September 1914, he began a military career in the 11th Battalion as Chaplain, 4th Class (Captain).

Having reached the shores of Gallipoli on 25th April 1915, his first act of battle was one of bravery and compassion – directly disobeying orders reserving all available landing spaces for combatants so as to disembark with his men and accompany them into one of the most defining moments of the Australian war. During his station at Gallipoli, he carried out a mission of tending to the needs of both the body and soul - consoling the wounded, burying the dead, and standing in solidarity with the living. He was considered to typify the kind of active and robust priesthood that was highly appreciated in Australia at the time, and had his fair share of close calls. From Gallipoli, he wrote that he had been “shot twice through my overcoat without the skin being touched. I had a book shot out of my hands, the jam tin I was eating out of was shot through”. Falling ill in July 1915, he was evacuated and returned to resume his duty a few months later in September – remaining there until the 7th November. His work at Gallipoli – along with his hardy character – earned him widespread appreciation both amongst the troops and the home front, and the Distinguished Service Order for 'gallantry under fire'.

In March 1916, he re-joined the 11th Battalion, and embarked for France in April. This new theatre of war, with its pivotal feature of heavy artillery, completely transformed his experience of battle, and left him staggered: “shells of all calibres, mostly high explosive, simply rain on a small sector of the front…It is appalling, it is diabolical, and it is wonderful how anyone escapes”. Remaining in France until 14 November 1917, he became the longest-serving front-line chaplain of any denomination. His experience of wartime service had left him deeply marked by an admiration for Australian soldiers: “the more I knew them the more I loved and admired them…Their bravery has been written in deeds that will live to the end of the world”. His performance during his military career both in Gallipoli and the Western Front earned him a promotion to Chaplain 3rd Class (Major).

Leaving for Australia on 16th March 1918, he was greeted with a heroes’ welcome – being feted against his wishes upon his arrival in Perth. Settling into normal parish life, he was stationed first at Cottesloe from 1919-32, moving between various Perth parishes from 1932-39, and returning to Cottesloe in 1939 where he remained as parish priest until his death on 28th April 1959. He is buried at the Karrakatta Cemetary in Perth.

WW1 Chaplains Overview Honour Roll Profiles References

For further information: SCANZSPAC, PO Box 1015, Woden ACT 2606, Australia Email: contact@scanzspac.org