When the Lahey brothers went away to war, their 32-year-old sister Vida was determined to join them.
The eldest of 12 children, Frances Vida Lahey, was working as an artist at her studio in Brisbane when the First World War broke out.
She had studied at the National Gallery School in Melbourne under prominent painters such as Frederick McCubbin and had exhibited her work to great acclaim in 1912, but the outbreak of war in 1914 changed everything.
Her youngest brother Jack enlisted for active service in the wake of the Gallipoli landings and arrived on the Gallipoli peninsula in October 1915. He soon became dangerously ill with enteric fever, and was evacuated to Egypt and sent back to Australia. Not to be deterred, he returned to active service before he was fully recovered and rejoined his battalion on the Western Front.
When two of Vida’s other brothers – Noel and Romeo – also volunteered, Vida abandoned her artistic pursuits and moved to London to provide a home base for her brothers and cousins who were serving in the Australian Imperial Force.
Soon after arriving she volunteered for the war effort, tracing aeroplane parts, working at the Anzac buffet, taking servicemen on convalescent leave on outings, and helping with the Red Cross Society.
When the guns finally fell silent on 11 November 1918, Vida watched on as joyous celebrations broke out on the streets of London and euphoric crowds gathered in Trafalgar Square, but her own joy was tempered by the knowledge that one of her brothers would never come home.
Noel had requested a transfer to the 11th Field Company Australian Engineers to be with their brother Romeo during the war, and was wounded in action at Ploegsteert Wood, Messines, in June 1917.
He was admitted to the 9th Australian Field Ambulance suffering from multiple gun-shot wounds. His brother Romeo visited him, but he died the next day. He was just 25 years old, and was buried at Pont D’Achelles Military Cemetery, near Armentieres.
Several months later, tragedy struck again. Vida’s youngest brother Jack was shot in the arm, and evacuated to England. He was invalided home to Australia, but Vida and Romeo remained in Europe and continued to serve for the rest of the war.