This blog is being written as a record of the Coo-ee March, and a memorial to the 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 320 miles (515 km) march, that left Gilgandra with 25 men on 10th October, 1915, and arrived in Sydney on 12th November, 1915 with 263 recruits.
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.
When 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, Stephen and I joined the Coo-ee March 2015 Inc. (Gilgandra Sub-Committee), which was established to organise the 2015 Gilgandra to Sydney Re-enactment March.
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”.
The Coo-ee March 2015 Re-enactment 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 was the Administration/Research Officer for the Committee. 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. The website for the 2015 Coo-ee March Re-Enactment is at https://cooeemarch2015reenactment.com/.
Stephen and I have visited the graves and memorials of the fallen Coo-ees in England, France, Belgium and Israel, to lay a poppy wreath that traveled with us, and to leave a commemorative information card, and an Australian flag, on each grave.
We have created a separate webpage 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.
Great site Helen, will send some photos of William Howard and add others as we gather them. Margo
My 16 year old great aunt rode with the march for a short time. Her name was Nelly Smirthwaite.
Thank you for sharing this information about your great aunt.
A Smirthwaite from Gil was killed in the war. I wrote about him in DIGGER some years ago.
Great site.i rode in an earlier reenactment parade back in the late 1970s as the you lady riding out with the recruits
That must have been a wonderful experience for you. Thank you for sharing this information.
Hi Helen, my late father’s brother was Charles Alfred Hampson, was so interesting to read more information on him and his father Lightfoot Hampson. My father was born 2 years after Charles was killed and his mother died the day he was born so a lot of contact and information was lost with the family. Thank you for your efforts. Roz
Thank you for sharing this information about your family.
I am the granddaughter of William Lawrence Hunt and my great Uncle was John Hunt (Jack) both original closes. Their father Charles Hunt rode his horse from Coonamble to Bathurst where he joined his sons and enlisted by putting his age done.
Thank you for sharing your family’s story.
G’Day Helen, I would be interested to have a yarn to you sometime, I am a grandson of Allan Hunt a relative of William Hunt and Jack and Charles.
Cheers Gavin Charles Glover ,
I will be marching in the re-enactment
I look forward to meeting you during the Coo-ee March 2015 Reenactment.
Hi Helen, I’m writing an article about the Coo-ee March and have read about your grandfather and great Uncle. I’d love to speak to you and ask you a few questions. I’m also interested to know what happened to the youngest sibling, Pearl, who spent the war at St.Patricks Convent in Dubbo. Would love to hear from you. Thanks so much. Warmest regards. Neridah McMullin
Hi Neridah, I will contact you directly by email next weekend. Kind regards, Helen
Last year my wife and I dropped into the Gilgandra Coo-ee centre and by chance we had with us original photos of the two Hunt boys and Syd Bennet in uniform. Kylie took copies of these. I have subsequently found another original photo/portrait of the two Hunt boys together in uniform and have scanned this for Kylie. Have you seen any of these or received copies?
My wife is the great granddaughter of Hunt senior (Charles Henry / Harry /Da)who joined the his two sons in the march near Bathurst. We also have faded photos of their troopship leaving Sydney.
Let me know if you are interested in scans of any of these.
Kylie has given me your names to get in contact with you regarding these photos. I am very interested in scans of your photos. I will be in contact by email.
Hi Iain and Judy
I have not been able to reach you by email. Could you please contact me by email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss putting your photo(s) of your Hunt boys on their entries.
My great great uncle is Bill Hitchen and Richard Hitchen is my great great grandfather. My sister will be doing this entire march as a celebration to them. I can’t wait to hug her when she makes it into Sydney. I am so proud of her and everyone completing this special journey.
Went out to Gilgandra for start of march ball and church service it was wonderful and very moving came down from Brisbane my friend Pam Gribben has written Answering the Coo-ee Call launched at G’Gandra based on Lesley Greenleaf it’s excellent and what a buzz to meet the families of Coo-ees the book is avail for anyone interested at Megalong Book Store , The Turning Page Springwood & Dymocks Penrith congrats to all involved proud to be an Aussie. Janette Johnson Brisbane.
I have a friend marching this year from our Town Roma Old . I wish you all well and happy marching ! Jim Allen
Thank you for this wonderful blog, Helen.
I was excited to See my great grand father James Dawson mentioned in the Fromelles section , please contact me if you would like more info on Jim
James Birrell Dawson was my mothers uncle. He joined The Cooee March at Lithgow.
He was wounded at Fromelles on 19/20 July 1916.
I had the privilege of being part of the organizing committee for the 1987 re-enactment march and was MC of the welcome to Sydney dinner at Paddington RSL Club. Guest of Honour was NSW Governor Sir James Rowland. Would love to hear from Major Kim Templeton and others from that major event.
Hi do you have a list of people on the march from Gilgandra, I think my poppa was one of them and I only found out this week about it
There is a list men on the Coo-ee March with links to the record I have written about each of them at https://cooeemarch1915.com/the-men/ If the name of your poppa is not there, email me his name at email@example.com and I will check if he is among the other men I still have to write about.
Thankyou to all the participants and carriers of the Coo-ee torch of memories a significant part of Australian history and focklore,the sacrifices made can’t be measured truly,to honour the memories is a generational obligation.
Bill and Richard Hitchen are GG Uncles of mine through there sister Mary Hitchen who married Samuel Roger Bibb.
Hi Helen. I was really struck by this story of the original march as we passed through Gilgandra yesterday.
I look forward to reading as much information as possible on both the original march and the commemorative event.
Click on ‘Day by Day Account’ in the menu bar to find a link to a post for each day of the original 1915 recruitment march.
There is a post about each day of the 2015 Coo-ee March Re-enactment on my other blog https://cooeemarch2015reenactment.com/. Click on ‘News’ in the menu bar to read through them.