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Nightmares plagued Gallipoli survivor until his death

PILGRIMAGE: Thea Warren, of East Lismore, will go to Gallipoli to honour her father, James Fairhall, who fought in the ill-fated campaign.
PILGRIMAGE: Thea Warren, of East Lismore, will go to Gallipoli to honour her father, James Fairhall, who fought in the ill-fated campaign. Marc Stapelberg

NIGHTMARES plagued the sleep of Gallipoli veteran James Fairhall until his death in 1961, more than 40 years after the war.

"I can remember getting up when I was a child and my mother would be making him a cup of tea because he'd had another nightmare," daughter Thea Warren, 90, remembered.

"She said he had his last one two weeks before he died."

Next week Ms Warren and her children will attend the centenary dawn service of the Gallipoli landings, braving the cold of the Turkish night to pay tribute to their loved one's sacrifice.

Mr Fairhall spent four years in the trenches after he enlisted aged 18, but rarely mentioned the ordeal to his family.

"He only talked to me once, and he said that the worst thing that ever happened to him was the first time he had to use a bayonet," Ms Warren said.

"Late one night we were just sitting there talking and he just said that to me.

"And I can imagine that would have been pretty bad.

"He didn't talk much, that's the only time."

What Ms Warren does know is that Mr Fairhall went to Gallipoli with his older brother, who was a sergeant in the same unit.

She knows that one day after fighting her father was in the latrine, bleeding heavily from an unknown wound, and his brother helped save his life.

"He looked after him, so I guess he was lucky," she said.

 

But "lucky" is a relative term. His life was saved, but the trauma was permanent.

"They went over there and didn't know anything about wars... they wouldn't have had any idea what they were getting into.

"So you can imagine that it would have had a big influence on them.

"I felt sorry that I didn't know as much then as I do now so I could have talked to him about it."

Ms Warren visited Gallipoli the dawn service eight years ago and was shocked at how close the opposing trenches were.

"We went up to Lone Pine... it's very steep where the men were coming up and they said the Turks had guns right along there and were just shooting them as they appeared.

"They tried to tell the chap in charge not to send them anymore but they said he wouldn't take any notice.

"War is terrible."

Topics:  anzac centenary anzac-centenary ptsd world war 1



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