THE young men who left our region to join the 1st AIF came from a variety of backgrounds.
Some were protestants, others were catholic, a few had no religious affiliation; some had been born in England, some had English parents; others came from Irish, Scottish, Welsh, other European, and even American parentage. Some, no doubt, had convict ancestry.
Many were interested in "fighting for the Motherland", but most simply wanted the adventure they believed beckoned.
Families were often large in those days and it was therefore not unusual for four or five sons to enlist. Usually one son stayed at home, perhaps in case the others failed to return, although it seems likely that, initially at least, little thought was given to their never returning. Most families were used to moving around the state, and even moving from one state to another.
This was often to find work or to obtain new land being opened up, but often it was simply for an adventure, especially for young men starting out on their own. The war was simply another kind of adventure.
Patrick and Bridget Quailey of Lismore, previously of Grafton, had five sons. Four of these enlisted in the war.
Sons Ernest and Thomas were both tailors and enlisted in 1915; George David, an ironmonger, and Joseph Timothy, a grocer, enlisted in 1916.
All joined the Infantry though Ernest later transferred to the 5th Pioneers.
Only two of the four were to return to Australia. George was killed in action in Belgium on June 7, 1917, aged 32, and Thomas died of wounds in France on August 11, 1918, aged 26. George has no known grave but is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial, while Thomas is buried at Fouilloy Communal Cemetery, Oise, France.
Joseph returned in November 1918 (one record says February 10, 1919).
All the brothers had suffered various illnesses during their time overseas.
Joseph had to leave the ship at Devonport, Tasmania, because of laryngitis. It is not clear how long his illness kept him there. In those days, before antibiotics, many illnesses now thought minor were to be avoided.
Joseph was to be wounded several times but also found himself in hospital because of illness. At one stage he went absent without leave from the hospital. Possibly his "adventure" was losing its interest.
Presumably, Joseph returned to his occupation of grocer but he does not appear to have married until 1943 when he married Alice Edith Findlay at Mosman. However, he was one of the first to enlist in the Second World War. This was on April 15, 1940 when he gave his age as 43, two years younger than his actual age.
He gave his sister as his next of kin. No doubt because of his occupation he was attached to the Canteen Services but served for only a few months. He died in Sydney in 1972.
Ernest returned in July 1919. He had been plagued by illness too including deafness. He had been involved in some of the worst fighting at Pozieres and also at Bullecourt. He also went AWOL at one stage.
Many of our soldiers appear to have done so at least once. Mainly the punishment was cancellation of pay, a small price to pay for a few hours freedom no doubt.
As a member of the Pioneers, Ernest would have been at the front line most of the time. It is assumed he returned to his old occupation when he came back to Australia but was possibly badly affected by the war.
He died in Goodna Mental Hospital, Brisbane on July 16, 1957. He could well be said to be a casualty of war.