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 under prominent painters such as Frederick McCubbin at the National Gallery School in Melbourne, 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 before being sent back to Australia. Undeterred, 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 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 joy was tempered by the knowledge that one of her brothers would never come home.
During the war, Noel had requested a transfer to the 11th Field Company Australian Engineers to be his brother Romeo, and was wounded in action at Ploegsteert Wood in June 1917.
He was admitted to the 9th Australian Field Ambulance suffering from multiple gun-shot wounds. Romeo visited him, and 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, Vida’s youngest brother Jack was shot in the arm, and evacuated to England. He was invalided home to Australia. Vida and Romeo remained in Europe and continued to serve for the rest of the war.