This blog is being written as a record of the Coo-ee March, and a memorial to the 263 men who answered the call of “Coo-ee! Come and join us!”, and fell into line in the towns and villages along the route of the recruitment march from Gilgandra to Sydney in 1915.
This blog contains:
- day by day newspaper reports on the route of the march
- photographs of the march
- other newspaper articles of interest about the Coo-ees
- information on the individual men who joined the march
- photos of the men where available
- photos of the headstones on the graves of the Coo-ees who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country in the Great War
- information on how we remember the Coo-ees, through museums, plaques, etc.
- information about what sources we have consulted as part of our research
The march itself has entered the history books as the Gilgandra snowball march, which lead to other recruitment marches being held in late 1915 and early 1916, but the names of the men who joined the Coo-ee March have not.
There is no official list of the names of these men. There is no record of all the mens’ names in the official records of the march held in the Mitchell Library. Only the names of about 100 of them could be identified when John Meredith researched and published his book The Coo-ee March : Gilgandra – Sydney 1915 (Dubbo : Macquarie Publications, 1981).
My interest in the 1915 Coo-ee March dates back to the 1987 re-enactment of the march, when as a spectator with an interest in Australian history, I watched a group of men dressed in period clothing and carrying flags and a banner, calling “Coo-ee!”, march through the streets of my home town of Dubbo. One young man carrying a banner caught my eye, and two years later we were married in his home town of Wellington.
Several years ago Brian Bywater and Kim Templeton, two of the three organisers of the 1987 Coo-ee March Re-enactment, decided to plan a 100 year re-enactment march as part of the 2015 Centenary of Anzac commemorative events.
Once another re-enactment march had been planned, I began thinking about these unnamed shadowy “Coo-ees”, and thought it was important to try and research as many of them as possible, so that when people asked on the 2015 Re-enactment March “Who joined in our town?”, we would be able to give them an answer. More primary source material has become available in recent years, especially through access to digitised historical newspapers on Trove, and military service records on the National Archives of Australia website, which has assisted Stephen and I in our research on the “Coo-ees”.
My husband Stephen and I were members of the Coo-ee March 2015 Inc. (Gilgandra Sub-Committee), which organised the Coo-ee March 2015 Re-enactment, which was held from 17th October to 11th November 2015.
Commemorative services were held with representatives from local communities in each town and village on the route. Stephen was the Route Coordinator on the 2015 Re-enactment March, and lead the marchers, and participated in these services. I provided information about the 1915 Coo-ee March, and the men who joined the Coo-ees, for each town and village at these commemorative services, and spoke at many of these services.
During a holiday to England, France and Belgium in September 2012, and in August-September 2014, Stephen and I visited the graves and memorials of those fallen Coo-ees who did not return to Australia after the end of the Great War.
In August-September 2016 we re-visited the graves and memorials of the fallen Coo-ees in England, France, and Belgium, to lay a wreath that travelled with us, and to leave a commemorative information card, and an Australian flag, on each grave.
We hope to visit the grave of the last fallen Coo-ee we have yet to visit, in January 2020.
We have created a separate page as a Roll of Honour for the fallen Coo-ees on this website.
If anyone has photographs of the 1915 march, family photographs of the individual men who joined, or information about their Coo-ee relative, or any information on anyone you believe may have a member of the Coo-ee March, we would very much like to hear from you.
My contact email is CooeeMarch1915@gmail.com.