Joseph Albert Faragher was born in 1891 on the Isle of Man. He came to Western Australia and became a well-known soccer player in the Geraldton district, playing for the Moonyoonooka team.
Albert Faragher enlisted in March 1916 and joined the 44th Battalion in northern France in November, at the start of the coldest winter on record, remaining with his battalion as it rotated in and out of the front line.
He wrote to his girlfriend, Ada Shields, back in Australia. “It makes one laugh at times to see us dodging the German shells. One bloke would sing out, “Here’s one coming,” and we would lie flat down in the trench before he had finished saying it, very often up to our eyes in mud.”
In late February 1917, Private Faragher was shot in the knee at the front line near Armentieres, and was evacuated to England. He rejoined his battalion in France in June 1917, and was promoted to Corporal six weeks later.
On 2 August 1917, the 44th was in the front line at Messines. Artillery fire from both sides was going over the men’s heads as they worked to repair damaged defences underneath. Patrols snuck out into no man’s land under the cover of darkness, trying to get some idea of the enemy’s situation.
On that day, an artillery shell scored a direct hit on the 44th Battalion’s trenches. Corporal Albert Faragher and three other men were killed instantly.
A number of Faragher’s mates wrote letters to his family and friends in England and Australia. Private Pearson wrote to a friend in Geraldton, “poor chap, he was killed a few days ago right alongside me. He was killed right out and suffered not pain. He was a good fighter and knew no fear.”
Sergeant McClure wrote to Ada Shields, saying “I hope it will make it easier for you when I tell you that Albert was one of the best soldiers in our battalion … I am enclosing a letter found in his pocket which he had been writing to you and had not finished, and I know you will be pleased to receive it.”
Corporal Albert Faragher’s body was lost in later fighting. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, among the names of nearly 55,000 British, Australian, Canadian, South African and Indian soldiers who died in Belgium with no known grave. He was 27 years old.
A year after Faragher’s death, Ada Shields put a notice in the Geraldton Express as “a tribute to the memory of Corporal Faragher. It read:
His country’s call he answered,
The dear old flag to save
And for the good old homeland
His dear young life he gave.
He nobly did his duty,
One of Australia’s best;
He fought with the brave,
His life he gave,
And now he rests in a soldier’s grave.
Meleah Hampton, Historian, Military History Section