Sapper

Stephen Christopher Fahey

Conflict: 
WW1
Additional Information: 

Husband of Clara A. Fahey, of Rust Lane, Whanganui, North Island, New Zealand. Native of Ireland.

References:
  • CWGC
NZ WAR GRAVES
CONTRIBUTED
Stephen Christopher Fahey with wife Clara and children Elsie and Christopher before going to England with the Australian army

Public Contributions:

Submitted by: Wendy Cooksey
Relationship to casualty: Second Great Niece
Stephen was born in Dublin, Ireland on Christmas Day 1874, the 5th of Patrick Fahey and Maria Ann Smith’s seven children. Patrick was serving in the 4th Royal Irish Dragoons, a peace keeping force... Read More
Stephen was born in Dublin, Ireland on Christmas Day 1874, the 5th of Patrick Fahey and Maria Ann Smith’s seven children. Patrick was serving in the 4th Royal Irish Dragoons, a peace keeping force that was moved throughout Ireland and England. The Dragoons were based in Dublin at the time of Stephen’s birth. By the ripe old age of 15 years and 4 months, Stephen had joined the Royal Navy, as “boy 2 class RN” on the Impregnable, a naval training ship, moored at Plymouth in Devon. There are 2 entries relating to him in the 1891 census of England and Wales. One shows him, along with a large number of other boys, aged from 15 to 17, as ‘not on board’ the Impregnable. The other lists him with an equally large number of sailors whose ages ranged from 15 to 35, in the Royal Naval Hospital. Stephen’s naval record consists of a one page document that indicates he joined the Navy on 24th April 1890, making him just one month older than the minimum joining age of 15 years and 3 months. On 25th December 1892, his 18th birthday, Stephen signed up, as was the custom, for a period of 12 years. During his term in the navy, he became a baker, the same profession that his brother Walter, nephew, also Walter, and later on his great nephew Gordon, followed. Although all the notations regarding his character are ‘good’ and ‘very good’, during 1895 and 1896 Stephen spent 2 spells of 14 and 3 days in the cells. There is an unclear notation -- H L 90 ds—dated 4th November 1896 that appears to indicate he spend a further 90 days under some sort of punishment for “breaking out of ship”. Stephen’s physical description indicates he had grown from 5’ 1 ½” tall on enlistment to 5’ 4” at the age of 18, and that, by this time, he had acquired a ‘LOVE’ tattoo on his right forearm. In July 1898, Stephen and the Royal Navy parted company. Later information indicates he purchased his discharge. Stephen later moved to Canada where he worked on the railways. On 16th May 1905 Stephen married an English girl, Clara Annie Humphreys. Clara hailed from Liverpool. They married in the Anglican Church Saint Thomas in Quebec, Canada. Stephen and Clara’s daughter, Elsie Victoria, was born the following year and was baptised in the same church by the same minister who performed their marriage ceremony, J Frederick Renaud, Rector. The family left Montreal in 1911 on the appropriately named Canada, arriving in Liverpool on 22nd May. From there they sailed on the Afric , leaving for Australia on 1st June 1911, as passenger numbers 10507, 10508 and 10509. They were recorded as Mr S. C. Fahey, farmer aged 36; Mrs Fahey, wife aged 27 and Miss Elsie Fahey daughter aged 5 travelling from Liverpool, England to Sydney, Australia. There was a 10 day break for the family between disembarking from the Canada in Liverpool to boarding the Afric for Australia. Just under a year after they arrived in Australia, Clara gave birth to the couple’s son, Christopher Henry James Fahey on 3rd May 1912 at Granville, NSW. With Elsie, the family now had a pigeon pair. Five years after the family’s arrival in Australia, on 17th September 1916 Stephen Christopher FAHEY applied to join the Australian Imperial Forces. At this time the family were living at 27 Mona St, Auburn, Sydney, NSW. A few weeks later he was accepted into the military and was allocated number 2808. He joined the 3rd Pioneers. He was almost immediately transferred to the 3rd Divisional Engineers, 10th Field Company, with his occupation as ‘machinist’. The death certificates of his children would later describe their father as an ‘engineer’. Stephen’s physical description on his attestation papers indicates that he had grown a smidgen since his Royal Navy days. As a true sailor, Stephen had added to his ‘LOVE’ tattoo with a 2 star cross on his right arm; the initials RNKI on the little finger of his right hand; and 2 stars on the 2nd and 3rd fingers of his left hand. He also appears to have gained a couple of scars from a stabbing above his tailbone, and one on his upper right arm. His medical examination, held at the Victoria Barracks, indicates his eyesight was perfect and that he was ‘going bald’. Stephen embarked on the “Benalla” on 9th November 1916. This is likely the time that Clara and the children moved to New Zealand. Stephen’s records show a notation for Clara’s address as “c/o W. Humphreys, Niho Niho, North Island, New Zealand”. . At a later date Clara’s address is c/ Mrs Humphreys at the same address. Stephen was stationed in Devonport, Brightlingsea and Southampton, England, before leaving for France from Brightlingsea on 10th September 1917. Just three months later, on 13th December, Sapper Stephen Christopher Fahey died aged 40. It would seem from the numerous letters from his widow Clara to the Army and the Red Cross that it was some months before she was able to find out what had happened to her husband. The issuing of a death certificate was a long drawn out procedure and the widow was unable to claim a pension until this was completed. Quite a few letters were sent between Clara, Mrs E Oates, and the Red Cross in an effort to obtain some information. Indeed, Stephen’s death was eventually registered in New Zealand under the “New Zealand War Legislation Amendment Act of 1916” on the “Register of Death out of New Zealand of Members of Expeditionary Forces and Others”. This registration finally happened on 20th March 1918, on the information of W. McIntosh, Captain, Base Records, Melbourne. However no cause of death was noted. It must have been very difficult for Clara to live for the intervening time with two young children to care for. She moved more than once during this time. A letter dated 26th March 1918 to Mrs E Oates indicated that Clara had now been given the circumstances of her husband’s death. Some weeks later a letter from the Officer in charge of the 10th Field Company Engineers, London, dated 14th May 1918 , two months after Stephen’s death was registered, advised that: “Sapper Fahey died while in Coy. Camp between Wulverghem and Neuve Eglise. After breakfast on the morning of 13-12-17, Spr. Fahey was sitting on his bunk talking with several other members of the Coy. During the general talk Spr. Fahey lay back on his bunk and on being spoken to, did not reply. It was then found by those with him that he had died suddenly. The A.M.C. details and M.O. were then called in and life was found to be extinct” It was later confirmed that he had died of cardiac failure owing to acute nephritis. Stephen was buried at Trois Arbres Steenwerck, 3½ miles North West of Amentieres . It would appear the widow still did not receive her pension, even after learning of the circumstances of her husband’s death, as she wrote on 10th June 1918 requesting a certificate of death. The reply from the Officer in Charge Base Records, dated 27th June 1918 states that: “a certificate of report of the death of your husband, the late No. 2808 Spr. S.C. Fahey, 10th Field Company Engineers, has been forwarded to the District Paymaster, Sydney, N.S.W., as requested” . Seven months after Stephen died! However, this was still not the end of it. On 3rd September 1918, a letter from Colonel A.H. Sandford indicates that an ‘official death certificate’ was being sought from The Officer in Charge, Base Records. On 3rd February 1919, the Pensions and Maternity Allowance Office, Melbourne sent a letter to The Officer in Charge, Base Records, Melbourne, asking for copies of any reports on Stephen’s death: ‘in order that the widow’s and children’s claims for war pension may be determined’ . A reply was immediately sent on 8th February 1919 stating that the Pensions and Maternity Allowance Office HAD been notified ---on 25th March 1918—11 months earlier! It took until 25th August 1921 for Clara to receive Stephen’s effects; with them, she received his British War Medal. The accompanying letter advised that the Victory Medal would be transmitted as soon as it was available. In 1923 Clara wrote asking for a verse to be inscribed on Stephen’s headstone. She was allowed 66 characters, not including his name and date of death. She requested the following words: “God taketh the loved ones from our home, but never from our hearts” This was inscribed on Stephen’s headstone as requested, and a photo sent to Clara, but she did not immediately receive it as, by this time she had moved to Rust Lane, Whangarei, North Island, New Zealand. Clara never remarried. She died on 31 May 1971 in Farrandale Hospital, Epsom, New Zealand of congestive heart failure and Arterio Sclerosis. She was cremated at Waikumete . To me Stephen was a man of many nations: Born in Ireland Served in the British navy in England Married and became a father in Canada Joined the military in Australia Died in France His death registered in New Zealand--a place in which he had never set foot. RIP Great Great Uncle Stephen [NZWGT - record since updated]


Personal Tributes:

Casualty

Service Number: 
2808
Name:
Stephen Christopher Fahey
Rank: 
Sapper
Date of Birth:
25 December 1875
Place of Birth:
Dublin, Ireland
Date of Enlistment:
Not known
Unit:
Australian Engineers, 10 Field Company

Casualty Details

Cause of Death:
Died of sickness
Date of Death:
13 December 1917
Day of Death:
Thursday
Age at Death: 
40
Conflict: 
WW1

Embarkation Details

Text in italics supplied by Cenotaph Online, Auckland War Memorial Museum

Cemetery

Cemetery Reference: 
II. C. 11.
Cemetery Location: 
France
Stephen Christopher Fahey
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