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Cricket match on Melbourne Cup Day

Cricket match on Melbourne Cup Day

On Tuesday, 2nd November, 1915, the Coo-ees were staying at Lithgow Military Camp.  It was Melbourne Cup Day, and a letter home reported that a sweep had been held by the Lithgow Camp recruits.[1]  (It is not known if the Coo-ees participated).

The Coo-ees spent most of the day in squad drill, and in the afternoon played a cricket match against the Lithgow Camp recruits.[2]

Ursel James Schofield (Bathurst recruit), Charles Edmund Marchant (Gilgandra recruit), and Percy Walter Holpen (Wellington recruit) were named as the best players for the Coo-ees in this cricket match in the following article, published in the Lithgow Mercury:

‘LITHGOW RECRUITS v. COO-EES.

A cricket match was played on Tuesday afternoon between the Lithgow Recruits and the Coo-ees, resulting in a win for the local soldiers by 4 wickets and 6 runs. Ryan, for the local lads, was top-scorer, with 56 not out, the next man on the list for his side being Phillips, with 45. The only other double figure scorer for the camp was Wheeler, who hit 14. For the “snowballers” Schofield top-scored with 51, the other double figure scorers being Marchant 28, and Halpin 12. The total scores were: Lithgow recruits 125; Coo-ees, 119. Vaughan secured the best bowling average for the Lithgow men, and Marchant for the Coo-ees.’[3]

'Lithgow Recruits v. Coo-ees', Lithgow Mercury, 15 November 1915, p. 2

‘Lithgow Recruits v. Coo-ees’, Lithgow Mercury, 15 November 1915, p. 2

Sergeant-Major Lee referred to the Melbourne Cup in his speech given at the recruiting meeting held at the Oddfellows’ Hall in Lithgow that evening.

‘Sergt.-major Lee opened with a reiteration of the object of the march – to try to make the young men of Australia realise that every available man should be in the fight for King and country. (Applause.) The time had come to realise that the Empire was fighting for its very existence. … But we must fight to accomplish it. It was no use thinking it. The Empire would not be saved by sitting by the fireside smoking a pipe, at the ale bench pouring down liquor, on the tennis court, at the stadium, or the Melbourne Cup; it could only be accomplished on the battlefield, and for that reason they said, ‘Come, come, come. Your country needs you ; your mates are calling. Won’t you get into khaki? …’[4]

[1] ‘Cowra Boys at Lithgow’, Cowra Free Press, 6 November 1915, p. 2, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article99695362

[2] ‘The Route March’, The Farmer and Settler, 5 November 1915, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116680017

[3] ‘Lithgow Recruits v. Coo-ees’, Lithgow Mercury, 3 November 1915,  p. 2, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article218452404

[4] ‘Recruiting Meeting’, Lithgow Mercury, 3 November 1915, p. 2, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article218452420

 

The Coo-ees part in the fray anniversary of the start

The Coo-ees. Part in the fray, anniversary of the start

Transcript of an article from The Bathurst Times, 10 October, 1916, p. 4.

”THE COO-EES.’
PART IN THE FRAY, ANNIVERSARY OF THE START.

It’s twelve months all but two days since the Coo-ees started their long march from Gilgandra to Berlin, and though they’re not there yet, most of them are still on the way. One is well beyond the borders of Germany — he is a prisoner of war, and is reported to be in a prison camp in Westphalia — several have been wounded, and two, including their famous leader, “Captain Bill” Hitchen, are dead.

The Coo-ees started on the first stage of their march, the 330 miles trip from Gilgandra to Sydney, on Tuesday, Oct. 10. There were 25 of them then; but before they had covered half the distance the home town had sent another ten hotfoot to join them. These 35 Gilgandra men were good recruiting agents, for before they reached Sydney they had gathered in seven more men for every one of the original troop. They arrived just about 270 strong. Their example was followed all over the country, and recruiting marches were conducted from several points. None of them, however, caused such interest as that of the Coo-ees, and although public memory is always short it is probable that Captain Bill Hitchen and his men will always be remembered when Australia’s part in the war is talked of, certainly they will never be forgotten in Gilgandra and the other country towns which they passed through.

SACRIFICES THEY MADE.

Every town and township on the line turned out to meet them as they approached, and they were feted out and fed until their leaders began to fear that they would he killed by the kindness. The enthusiasm of the volunteers, too, was infectious. All along the road men dropped their work and joined the ranks. From Gilgandra alone there were three men with families. There was Captain Hitchen (officially he was only a Corporal; but he will always be remembered as Captain Bill), who had a family of three sons and two daughters; there was Signaller A. J. McGregor, who left behind him a wife and five young children; and there was Corporal J. McKeown, who left wife and four small McKeowns.

Wee McGregor, as he was known all along the march, sold out a flourishing bakery business in Gilgandra to join the Coo-ees. He had three brothers at the front, and he wanted to follow them. On the way to Sydney another brother jumped into the ranks— five from one family. McKeown had also fought in the South African war, and had the soldiering blood in him. At Coonamble two young brothers named Hunt joined the ranks. Their father saw them start; but the thought of the parting was too much for him. A few days later he hurried after the boys, and at Bathurst he, too, joined the march.

MEN OF ALL AGES.

The Coo-ees were men of all ages. Captain Bill himself was 52, and though the rest all said they were under 45, the authorities in many cases had suspicions about them. On the other hand, there were three lads under the age of 18.

When they reached Sydney on March 8 [sic] a number of them were rejected as medically unfit; but 200 eventually set sail for Europe. They didn’t all go together. Some were taken into the Light Horse, and others into the Engineers and Artillery; but about 180 went away as the 15th Reinforcements of the 13th. Battalion. In Egypt they were again split up; but the majority went into the 45th. Battalion. Those who stayed in Egypt were under fire three weeks after their landing, and the men who went to France were in the trenches in June. It used to be a military axiom that it took three years to train a soldier. In the case of the Coo-ees, the time spent in training was a little over three months.

The people of Gilgandra are keeping up the anniversary of the start of the march on Tuesday by a social. They originally intended to devote the proceeds to purchasing Christmas hampers for the men; but the State War Council refused permission for this, and the money will now be devoted to the Repariation Fund. Numbers of private parcels are being made up, however, in the way of Christmas gifts, for the men. So far there have been but nine casualties among the Coo-ees.

COO-EES WHO HAVE FALLEN.

Corporal Hitchen died of diabetes in Harefield Hospital, in England, a few weeks ago. He was ill when he arrived in England, and went straight into hospital. He died two months later. When news of his death was received in Gilgandra, all the business houses closed their doors for two hours. Private Sid Houston, wounded, is a son of Mr. and Mrs. George Houston, of Wellington. He joined the Coo-ees there when he was only 17 years and three months of age. Private Dave Wagner, wounded, is a son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Wagner, of Valley Heights. He was only 16 years and 10 months old when he enlisted. Private D. S. Stewart was at first reported missing, but has since been traced to a prison camp in Westphalia, where he is a prisoner of war. He is the second son of Mr. and Mrs. A. Stewart, of Parkes-street, East Wellington, and was only 16 years and 9 months old when he enlisted. He was the youngest recruit with the Coo-ees. Another brother, who enlisted at 18, is in the trenches. Private Letcher, who has been killed in action, was a son of Mr. and Mrs. Letcher of Bathurst, and was only 17 years old when he joined the Coo-ees at Bathurst.

Private G. Seaman, who also joined the Coo-ees at Bathurst, has been reported wounded.

Private W. E. Hunter, Redfern, enlisted at Geurie, and when the Coo-ees were in Orange he received a letter from his mother stating that his two brothers had been killed at the Dardanelles. He is reported wounded.

Corporal W. Smith, who enlisted with the Coo-ees at Geurie, where he was employed as Shire Clerk, was taken to England from France to undergo an operation. From advices received by the last mail he was improving fast. He was a widower with a number of young children, whom he placed in a boarding-school before going to the front.’

Click here to view the article on Trove: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article109934579

 

Procession that welcomed the Coo-ees to Bathurst 28 October 1915

Procession that welcomed the Coo-ees to Bathurst 28th October 1915

Procession welcoming the Coo-ees to Bathurst, 28/10/1915. Photograph courtesy Margaret Murden and Dorothy Clampett.

Procession welcoming the Coo-ees to Bathurst, 28/10/1915. Photograph courtesy Dorothy Clampett and  Margaret Murden.

This photograph of the procession that welcomed the Coo-ees to Bathurst on Thursday 28th October , was taken from the corner of Russell Street and William Street, looking towards to Bathurst Court House.

The photograph partly shows two mounted police in the foreground, on William Street, then a brass band, following by men carrying rifles, at the head of a procession marching along Russell Street, next to King’s Parade. Trees obscure the rest of the procession. Spectators line the street. Bunting hangs across the road. The majestic Bathurst Court House can be seen in the background.

This photograph is from the family album of Lieutenant Frank Middenway’s daughters, now held by his granddaughters, Dorothy Clampett and Margaret Murden. Lieutenant Middenway, from Lithgow Army Camp, assisted with recruitment on the Coo-ee March from Lithgow to Sydney.

This photograph was recently published in an article titled ‘Coo-ee’, written by Ann O’Connell, in ‘Ashfield Answers the Call’, Ashfield History No. 20, Journal of the Ashfield and District Historical Society Inc.[1]

A description of the procession that lead the Coo-ees through the streets of Bathurst to the Soldiers’ Memorial in King’s Parade, which was built in 1909 to honour the Bathurst men who served in the 1899-1902 South African War, is given in the following transcription of an article titled ‘Recruits’ published in the Bathurst Times on 29 October 1915: [2]

RECRUITS

THE GILGANDRA BOYS

BRILLIANT BATHURST RECEPTION.

SPEAKERS’ LAUDATORY REMARKS.

BIG CROWDS IN THE STREETS AND PARK.

Down the hill along Lambert-street at about 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon came a procession unique in the history of Bathurst, and one which portended the serious manner in which the serious crisis in which the Empire is at present involved is taken by the males of the community. For the Gilgandra recruits— that gallant band of volunteers inaugurated by Captain T B. [sic] Hitchen — were entering the good old City of the Plains, and the Bathurst people had determined that the reception accorded them should be one worthy of the town and district.

Enough has been said of the commendable nature of the scheme of Captain Hitchen, and the arrival yesterday of the ever-increasing band of men that goes to prove the value of the captain’s recruiting effort was made the occasion of a gala day in Bathurst, the attendance in the streets and elsewhere, and the enthusiasm displayed being typical of the high esteem in which the marching recruits are held.

WORDS OF WELCOME.

At the corner of Stewart and Lambert streets, where the procession entered the town proper, a sign was displayed on the balcony of the Hotel Dudley, which read: ‘Well done, Coo-ees! We welcome you, and wish you God-speed,’ and this formed a fitting word of welcome to the gallant little band. All along the streets to the King’s Parade, where the Union Jack and Australian ensign flew proudly aloft on the newly erected flagstaff, crowds of enthusiastic citizens lined the way, and united in the effort to make the welcome to the recruits a warm one.

The procession was headed by a section of mounted police, behind which marched the City and Salvation Army Bands, discoursing excellent martial music. The local cadets followed, marching in good time ahead of scholars of the various schools and convents of the district, wearing the dainty costumes aired on the Belgian Day and Australia Day celebrations. His Worship the Mayor came next in a conveyance, followed by Mr A. G. Chiplin, in solitary glory in a hansom cab. The Military Band, under Mr. Lewins preceded the Gilgandra and other recruits, who were accorded a royal reception all along the route. “First Stop— Berlin,” read the inscription on one of the transport waggons, and each of the conveyances of the various units bore some similar indication of the determined spirit of the volunteers. The Civilian Rifle Club members marched behind the recruits, and were followed by a number of motor cars and other vehicles. The appearance of the banner “Bathurst Boomerangs” was the signal for an out-burst of emphasised applause, and the local quota to the strength of the contingent was accorded a brilliant reception.

On the way to the King’s Parade the frequent call of “Coo-ee!” echoed in the air, punctuated by the musical clang of the bells of All Saints’ Cathedral and the cheers of the multitude. Bunting was prominent everywhere, and as the procession turned into Russell-street from George-street it passed beneath a string of flags and words of welcome.

 

The Soldiers’ Memorial (built 1909) at King’s Parade, Bathurst. Photograph: H. Thompson

The Soldiers’ Memorial (built 1909) at King’s Parade, Bathurst. Photograph: H. Thompson

THE MAYOR’S WELCOME.

The scene when the recruits and others assembled at the Soldiers’ Memorial was a memorable one, and the remarks of the Mayor when welcoming the recruits were lost on the ears of the majority of the big assemblage. Nevertheless there was no mistaking the enthusiastic spirit of the multitude, and Bathurst may well feel proud of the greeting it accorded the band of gallant Empire defenders on their arrival.

Mr Beavis, who was supported on the Memorial by Captain Hitchen, Major Wynne, Captain Eade, Sergeant Lea, Mr. Fern, M.L.A., Major Machattie, and others formally welcomed the recruits to Bathurst. He mentioned that the town had already spent £15,000 in contributing to the various war funds, and that 400 of its men had joined the colors, while doubtless from 500 to 1000 more would do so in the future.

Captain Hitchen returned thanks for the reception accorded the recruits, which had been most flattering to himself and all concerned.

INTO CAMP.

Having been entertained at after-noon tea by the ladies’ committee, the recruits marched to the Show Ground, where an excellent evening meal was served, in order that they might attend the evening’s proceedings in Machattie Park refreshed and keen on the recruiting aspect of the fixture.’

To read this article on Trove click here: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111246742

[1] O’Connell, Ann, ‘Coo-ee’, ‘Ashfield Answers the Call’, Ashfield History No. 20, Journal of the Ashfield and District Historical Society Inc., p. 42.

[2] ‘Recruits’, The Bathurst Times, 29 October 1915, p. 2, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111246742

 

Coo-ees at Penrith – article in the Nepean Times

COO-EES AT PENRITH : ARTICLE FROM THE NEPEAN TIMES

This is a transcription of an article titled ‘Coo-ees at Penrith’ that was published in The Nepean Times on 13 November 1915 (p. 3).

It gives a detailed description of the Coo-ees welcome to Emu Plains and Penrith on 9th November 1915, and evening open-air concert and recruiting speeches. It describes the piper and kettle drummer that marched them into Emu Plains, where they were greeted by the local people, and the local school children that supplied the Coo-ees with 40 dozen cordials and aerated waters. It describes the Light Horse, Infantry, Boy Scouts, Rifle Club, and local recruits that paraded with them into Penrith and through High Street, which was decorated in bunting. It describes the ladies of Penrith who had volunteered their time and resources to feed the Coo-ees, and the efforts of the organising committee that had prepared the Coo-ees welcome to Penrith. It describes the banners on the support wagons. It also describes Mr Harley Blacket’s role in supporting the Coo-ee March, who had volunteered his time and the service of his motor car, and reports on his recruiting speech at Penrith.

COO-EES AT PENRITH

The war has evoked many notable scenes and manifestations of ardent patriotism at Penrith, but it is safe to say that the outburst of Australian loyalty, and the fervor of the enthusiastic greeting of the multitude which welcomed the Gilgandra Coo-ees to Penrith on Tuesday afternoon last transcended all out experiences of stirring movement and interesting spectacle called up in connection with various phases and developments consequent on the war.

And properly so; for the coming of the Coo-ees was an historic, and unique happening; it represented in concrete personal form, so to speak, the patriotic appeal of the backblocks to the loyal heart of all Australia; and naturally, adduced the intense admiration and support of the people on the line of the route traversed by the column, and in the quotas of stalwart prospective heroes that it gathered to its ranks at various centres, gave, like beauty, “its own excuse for being,” and in the gaining of those recruits received the sort of practical appreciation it (the column) most desired.

The Coo-ees, who had “bivouacked” at Springwood on Monday night, reached Emu Plains about noon. Along the Mountain route from Lawson to Springwood they had been accompanied by the excellent Leura Brass Band, under Bandmaster Rumph (instructor of the band of the 26th Regiment), and at Springwood were met by the Penrith Brass Band, which played at the fete given in honour of the Coo-ees at the Holmedale Estate on Monday night.

At Springwood the services of Piper R. Mackay were secured, and it was to the stirring “skirling” of the “Cock of the North” played by the redoubtable piper, assisted by the kettle drummer of the column, that the Coo-ees marched into Penrith territory proper, coming over the Nepean Bridge about 4 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, in gallant style, flanked and followed by a cheering “rearguard” of, it seemed, nearly the whole population of Emu Plains. At Emu, en passant, the Coo-ees were cordially entertained (and in this connection it may be mentioned the local school children of Emu supplied 40 dozen cordials and aerated waters) and at Emu also they made the acquaintance of Senators Grant and McDougall, who had come up specially from Sydney to greet the men.

In accordance with the arrangements the Coo-ees were received at the West End boundary, opposite Mr Bennett’s residence by the various local military units, comprising Light Horse, to number of 42, under command of Staff-Sergt-Major Owens; Infantry (40), under Lieut Plunkett officer in charge of parade); Cadets (100), under charge of Lieut (Rev) M G Hinsby; and Boy Scouts to the number of about 40, in charge of Mr Strang, assistant Master Sup Pub School; the Rifle club; and last but not least a detachment of district recruits (headed by two returned heroes from the front — Privates Geo Taylor and Geo Primmer) in training at Liverpool camp, under the command of Sergt Lane, with whom were Sergts G Baker and Earp; Corporals F H Haylen, H V Towne, and R Sullivan; the Privates were P Baker; W J Starling, V Colless, C Miller, H Stafford, E Ausburn, J Delahunty, J McLachlan, W Fryer, F Newman, W Potter, T Cummins, J H Gardiner, E Hope, J Boots, J Hackett, I Tennant, R Henry, T Eaton, J Rumgay, B Evans, J Evans, B Hair. The splendid, alert soldierly appearance of this detachment, and, in fact, that of the whole local military show, was commented upon with marked appreciation by the public. During the intermediate halt at the bridge end our representative, in taking a “bird’s eye-view” of the Coo-ees was greatly struck by their robust appearance, and generally fine physique, their keen soldierly spirit, and good discipline.

The transport waggons which had severally “trekked” with the column from each distant centre at which large units fell in, added to the “army in being” impress of the contingent, each wagon being “labelled” in typically Australian style thus were the “Bathurst Boomerangs,” the “Gilgandra Coo-ees,” the “Geurie Unit,” the “Wellington Emus,” the “Dubbo Lads,” while another was painted “Through to Belin,” each waggon flying a special flag of its own, one showing the Union Jack, another the Australian banner, and another the Irish flag, etc; the column also displaying large banners at the head of each unit. The horses were in splendid condition, and a good serviceable lot, and are to be sold on the column reaching its destination.

After formal introductions of the  Mayor and Aldermen, Clergy and prominent citizens to Capt Hitchen, Major Wynne, Capt Eade, and other officers, by Cr Riches, who had accompanied the Coo-ees throughout the Blue Mountains Shire, the Mayor briefly announced that Senators Macdougall and Grant would address a few words to the column, prior to the continuing of the march to Penrith.

Senator Macdougall congratulated Capt Hitchen, officers and men on the soldierly appearance of the column, and said the inspiration which led to the organisation of the Coo-ees, and   to the march, was one that thrilled Australia. He congratulated them on their putting the sacred duty of the defence of the Empire and human liberty before every other consideration. The war was now at a critical period. Lord Kitchener said great additions were required to the forces of the Allies, for keeping up the supply of men and munitions was essential to win the victory. He wished the men God-speed on their way to the front, and a safe return and a glorious victory over the enemy. He thanked the Mayor for the opportunity granted of addressing “that band of Australia’s prospective warriors.”

Senator Grant said, so far as he could judge such a movement as that of the Coo-ees was the best sort of reply to the nay voiced in some quarters for Conscription. Speaking as a member of the Commonwealth Parliament he considered the Defence Department had done wonderfully well to equip and transport so many troops and to adopt such efficient measures. He was understood to say that there were scarcely more than 200,000 men remaining of “fighting ages” in the State, and had no doubt that as many drafts as necessary would avail without having to resort to Conscription. He realised the men in the firing line and those in training for the front were risking their lives for their country, and felt that the Government and State would loyally stand by the men and could not do less in the circumstances. (Cheers).

Capt Wynne, a splendid type of the professional British soldier, in reply, said that from the marching point of view they had come from a district of bad roads to one a bit worse (laughter), but he was glad to have made the acquaintance of the Mayor and civic body, and people of Penrith despite the rough marching road thereto. (Laughter). He was sure Capt Hitchen and the men appreciated the commendatory speeches they had heard, but would be better pleased if they scored a lot of recruits at Penrith.

After a great outburst of cheering for the Coo-ees, to which the latter replied by a thrilling (and “shrilling”) edition of the Australian war-cry— “Coo-eeing” in true bushland fashion—the route was resumed, headed by the Penrith Brass Band, followed by Light Horse Detachment, Cadets, Citizen Forces Boy Scouts, War Reinforcements, etc., the Coo-ees and the general public, which almost to a man,woman and child followed in the wake of the procession, or “kept up” along the side-walks.

Along decorated High Street, bunting streaming from various points of vantage; and extending across the street, the march, greeted by a vociferous and continuous salvo of cheering that was voluminous enough to have silenced the biggest battery manufactured by Krupps, if cheers could accomplish such a feat; continued, till in the vicinity of the central block (from the Federal Hotel to Mrs Voyce’s establishment) a halt was called, to permit of the vocal welcome of the school children being given to the Coo-ees. Under the baton of Mr J A Maloney, B.A., Head Master, the children sang the patriotic song, “Coo-ee,” in fine style, the column giving their “hereditary” acknowledgement—the locality resounding to the shrillily accented vibration of the Coo-ees’ acclaim. Arrived at the Town Hall, via Evans Steet, the Mayor, from the steps of the civic forum, briefly welcomed the Coo-ees to Penrith in the name of the civic fathers and citizens. His Worship said, inter alia, that he knew the men would comport themselves with true pluck and endurance on the battlefield when they gained the war zone, and he urged them to “give the enemy a special one, good and hard” when they got into holts with that atrocious entity, in memory of Nurse Cavell so cruelly and unjustly done to death by German brutality. He then called for three more cheers for Captain Hitchen and the Coo-ees, which were given with a will, and replied to in their own genial, familiar fashion by the Coo-ees.

At the Showground.

The Showground was reached about 5 p.m. and soon after “stacking arms” for the time being a welcome interlude, came o’er the scene for the Coo-ees, with the arrival of the mail. A number of letters and papers were distributed to their addressees, only one or two not getting a word from “the Old Farm in the Bush.” One Coo-ee somewhat disconsolately remarked to our reporter— “I think I’ll go and write a lonely letter to myself if I don’t get one to-morrow.” In converse with Capt Hitchen, a fine open hearted and well set-up bushman of much inland experience, we learned that the Coo-ees embraced a wide clientele of men belonging to various callings and orders, several wealthy privates, a number of farmers, including a father and three sons (Messrs Hunt), stockmen, tradesmen, dam-sinkers, and shearers, general labourers, etc., being included. It will be remembered that Capt Hitchen was rescued by his son, then a lad of 16 years, some two years ago after falling down a deep well, while in the act of effecting some repairs. That son is now sailing amongst recent reinforcements for the front, another brother having preceded him. Capt Hitchen hopes to meet his two boys over at the front, and be with them at the fall of Constantinople. Needless to say, we heartily voice his patriotic desire.

The arrangements for supplying the men’s gastronomic needs reflects vast credit on the committee, more especially on the ladies, who in the most commendable and gracious manner attended to the cooking and setting out of the viands, the laying of tables, and ministering to the entertainment of the men with that kindly assiduity which it is only fair to say is a proverbial characteristic of the patriotic ladies of Penrith. The “mere men” folk of the committee, however, were not idle spectators of the energies and courtesies of the ladies, and seconded those efforts with considerable effect. At the dinner — the   menu of which was excellent in quality and variety— the local civic fathers, clergy, and members of committee sat down with the Coo-ees, the four esteemed and popular clerics of Penrith— viz, Revs (Lieut) M G Hinsby, Father Barlow, J Tarn, and J McKee —thorough patriots and democrats of the noblest type— fraternising very cordially with the brave and true “soldiers in making,” who have come so far to prove the quality of their patriotism. The ready compliance on the part of the public of Penrith, and outlying districts to meet the request of the committee in the matter of supplying cooked provender for the men cannot be too warmly appreciated. The kindness also of Mrs Voyce and Mrs F Horstmann, in supplying nearly all the crockery, dishes, and cutlery required in the festive section helped the committee in a very important phase, and the sub-committee of management (Ald Jones and Fitch and Mr H Morris) desire to accord their best thanks to those and the other ladies.

The Concert.

The Coo-ees welcome open-air concert, which had been organised chiefly by Miss Elsie Thorncroft, who, happily, had obtained assistance of some of the leading metropolitan artists, including the world-famed Mr Malcolm McEachern, formerly associated with Madame Melba, in operatic and concert work, was held in the grandstand enclosure at the Showground, and it was unanimously agreed that in point of quality, in every phase, vocal, recitative, and instrumental, the performance excelled any open-air concert ever held in Penrith. Mr Polkinghorn, who had accompanied the concert party from Sydney, the artists travelling in Mr Alex Watts’ motor car (Mr Watts having, we understand, patriotically financed the “delegation”), acted as announcer of the items. In the case of the efforts of such a famed vocalist as Mr. McEachern such an infliction as casual criticism would be both impertinent  and superfluous, especially at a patriotic concert, and the same remark applies as emphatically to the other contributors to the concert, every item of which was artistically rendered, while the accompaniments left nothing to be desired. The accompanists, by the way, were Misses Hazel Doyle and B Stanton, and Mr Lindley Evans, and the piano— a well-tuned instrument was kindly lent by Mr Hill, High Street, Penrith. Mr McEachern in his opening number, “A Hero of the Dardanelles,” thrilled the gathering, his enunciation, tone and phrasing, being, of course, that of a great artist. The eminent basso achieved a similar success in the encore number, “Boys of the Bulldog Breed,” evincing the temperamental geniality and enthusiasm essential in the true exponent of martial and patriotic song. Miss Dorrie Newman next gave a tuneful rendering of the pretty ballad —”The Little Grey Home in the West”; and Miss Elsie Thorncroft, previous to reciting “The Roll Call,” asked the audience to stand during the playing of the anthem “Abide With Me,” in reverence of the memory of Nurse Cavell, the victim of Hunnish barbarity, and whose fiendish execution is another indeliable blot on the escutcheon of the German nation. Miss Thorncroft’s dramatic recital of “The Roll Call” pleased the audience, and the popular elocutionist responded, to the insistent recall with the spirited declamation of Harold Bybie’s searching verses, “How Will You Feel, Sonny?” particularly addressed to the shirkers, who, however well-fitted for the ranks, refrain from answering the “call to arms” in the true patriotic spirit. Mr Smythe then gave a most amusing, though none the less cultured rendering of “Down in Zomerset, Where the Cider Apples Grow,” and in reply to a clamorous encore sang with great force and expression the stirring martial apostrophe— “Long Live the King.”

A break was made at this stage in the vocally harmonic section of the concert, Mayor Walker introducing to the audience Mr Harley Blacket, the “guide, philosopher and friend” of the Coo-ees, who had accompanied the contingent all the way from Dubbo in his motor-car, carrying the invalided or wearied, acting as courier, lecturer, adviser-in-general, etc., to the column; and as Capt Hitchen said feelingly, “Harley Blacket was a credit to the Australian nation, and the Coo-ees would be lost without him.” In passing it may be remarked here that Q.M.S. Lee (ex-Methodist Minister), who had spoken frequently along the route, urging enlistment on the young fellows at various centres, was recuperating at Mt Victoria for a few days, having felt somewhat “run down” after his exertions.

Mr Blackett, who was received with a great ovation— the cheering lasting several minutes — made a very earnest and forcible appeal for recruits. The Coo-ees, he said, greatly appreciated the splendid reception they had received at Penrith, which, he hoped, would be an augury of the whole-hearted resolve of the Penrith men of “fighting age,” to join the column. En passant, he paid a feeling tribute to Capt Hitchen and the men of the column, saying that if the men of the backblocks were always rough and ready as regards speech and manners they were rough diamonds— men with hearts of gold and thews of iron.   “They were not out on a holiday jaunt; they were out for fighting men —men every time — to strive for victory of Liberty over the accursed foe of Justice, Right and Human Weal” (Cheers). Appealing to the Coo-ees he said — “What do we want, Coo-ees?” and the cry came back instantly— “We want men— men, and plenty of them!”   If Miss Thorncroft’s thrilling words and the call of the ladies generally, so brightly voiced, could not move the young men of Penrith he felt his words would fall on barren soil. “Loyalty did not consist in singing ‘God Save the King,’ but was synonymous with the spirit of patriotic pride, and readiness to serve the Empire,” and to sally forth in defence of their hearth and homes, for,” said Mr Blacket, “the frontiers of Australia today are being menaced at Gallipoli and in the Balkans; our coastline, as it were, by exigencies of war, figuratively, and actually in the sense of the extremity of affairs, has been translated across the ocean to the seat of war; and there our brave compatriots are fighting and falling in defence of our country as surely as if the battle was being waged on our own soil.” He made a touching reference to the fate of Nurse Cavell, and dwelt upon the hideous treatment of females by the Teutons, as verified during the war, in France, Belgium, Poland and Servia ; and asked how, in face of the atrocious nature of the German Menace, young men eligible in every way could turn a deaf ear to the appeal to enlist in such bodies as the Coo-ees. Mr Blacket concluded an inspiriting and fervent address, which covered almost every phase of the patriotic issues, with a vehement appeal to the men of Penrith, pointing his utterances with an anecdote of the man who seemed to fall, and yet maintained his position, while skating one day on very thin ice. Presently a rescue party went out, and when they came near the man sang out, “Don’t bother about me, boys, I’m standing on Jim– he’s keeping me up.” He hoped the young men of Penrith were not also “standing on Jim” (their brave fellows) in this awful crisis, and that they would come forward— those who had no incumbrances— and join the Coo-ees on their march to the training camp (Loud applause). As a part- ing shot, Mr Blacket said the Coo-ees did not want cheers; they wanted men. The speaker’s utterances were punctuated by several pointed and pungent references to the “cold -feet,” etc., of the men who were not ready to enlist, by the Coo-ees.

At the end of Mr Blackett’s address, which pressure of space obliges us to curtain, three Penrith men, viz., J Megarrity, Allen Easterbrook and W A Sutton came forward, amidst the cheers of the audience. We understand that two more recruits (not residents) joined here, bringing the Coo-ees’ aggregate up to about 230.

The remaining items of the concert programme were then proceeded with, as follows:— Recitation, “Bandy Jim” (a thrilling tale of the American Civil War), by Mr Wright; encore, patriotic appeal, entitled, “You”— both efforts being given in first-class form.   “En passant,” Mr Wright stated he   had made three efforts to enlist at the outset of war in England, and so was above the “shirker” category. Duet, Messrs E J Fulton and A Honey, rendered in fine unison and harmony.

Mrs Costello then mounted the concert platform, and read the following letter of welcome to Captain Hitchen and the Coo-ees from the local branch of the W.C.T.U.:— “On behalf of the members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Penrith Branch, we give you a hearty welcome to our town, and pray God will bless your efforts for the cause of righteousness. We are proud of the stand you have taken for God, Home, and Humanity, and will pray that you may be spared, with your noble band of volunteers, to return with honor to our sunny land when the fight for your King and Country is over. There is a great need for united efforts being put forth to fight the foe within our gates, “Kaiser King Alcohol,” who is destroying so many of our brave sons, who express willingness to serve their King, with their lives, if needs be; but the pro-Germans serve the drink, shouting goes on, the dreadful foe is taken to kill the brain, and so many are sent away disgraced. The number of drunken soldiers seen in the streets is a positive reproach to the community. We are doing our part, you have taken your noble stand, and we must work united in the interest of National efficiency, and bar the drink curse. Is it the right thing to have this temptation placed in the way of our young manhood, who are going out to fight our battles. If Germany wins we would be virtually slaves. The thing to be done is to end it. You are nobly doing your part, and have set an example worthy of our military authorities and politicians, following during this national crisis. Every hotel bar is a recruiting agency for the Germans, because alcohol contributed largely to inefficiency in the Australian forces, in rendering men unfit for service. There is no doubt that alcohol is a great ally for the Germans. Let it not be said our men so far forgot they were British men, as to be conquered by the foe within our gates— alcohol. We hope that your stay here will be mutually pleasant and profitable, and that your influence will live in the hearts of the people long after you leave our shore, and that your noble self-sacrificing example will be followed by others who take their stand to, Follow the King. God Save the King., Yours respectfully (Mrs) E J Costello, hon sec W.C.T.U., Penrith Branch.”

Capt Hitchen briefly expressed the thanks of the Coo-ees and himself for the ”nice letter” of the W.C.T.U. Miss Nita Colless then gave a much appreciated rendition of the popular patriotic solo, “Motherland,” with her usual artistic appraisement of the theme; and Mr McEachern again delighted the audience with his incomparable singing of “Land of Hope and Glory,” followed by “Till the Boys Come Home” (an Australian patriotic lyric) as an encore. A collection for the Coo-ees was here taken up, and later Miss E Thorncroft announced the result as £11 10s 1od. The concert continued its “dulcet career,” Miss Mackel singing a solo with much sweetness and charm, receiving the plaudits of the crowd; while Mr Don Hattersley’s inimitible recitation of the “Country Curate” and the “Country J.P.” (encore) fairly, “convulsed” the audience. Mr F W Hearne gave an excellent rendering of “The Deathless Army,” his full and liquid notes ringing out with fine emphasis on the still night air; and Mr H S Pullen (baritone) next gave a finely phrased, and musical interpretation of the stirring air, “When the Boys in Khaki all Come Home.” The last item on the exhaustive Coo-ee concert bill— viz “Rule Britannia” was then sung   by Mr McEachern, the chorus being taken up with tremendous vim by the gathering. An “unrehearsed” item, viz, a patriotic address in aid of the sheep-skin vest purchase movement for war purposes, by Mr J R Gilmore, was then given; after which the audience sang the National Anthem, and with a parting cloud-splitting storm of cheering for the Coo-oes and all their plans, powers, and principalities; and an ear-piercing climax of “volleyed” cooeeing in reply from the Gilgandra lads, the citizens hied homewards (about 10 p.m.), and our last view of the Coo-ees was, to use an Hibernianism, listening to the somnolent snoring of some of them in the unconscious regions of the “Land of Nod.”

On Wednesday morning the Coo-ees having hastily made a matutinal snack were out of camp and on the route bright and early for St Marys, where they breakfasted, before setting out on their record march to Parramatta.’

To read this article on Trove click here: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article86168730

Note: the official count for the number of recruits at Penrith was 4. Information on three of them can be found on this website:

Allen Easterbrook (spelt ‘Alan’ on his service record) https://cooeemarch1915.com/2015/07/26/alan-john-burnett-easterbrook/

Selby George Megarrity https://cooeemarch1915.com/2015/08/26/selby-george-megarrity/

Samuel Clark (one of the Coo-ees who caught up at Penrith) https://cooeemarch1915.com/2015/08/30/samuel-clark/

 

Stanley E. Stephens’ letter about his ‘baptism of fire’ in the trenches

Transcript of an article by “Coo-ee” Stanley. E. Stephens titled ‘A Baptism of Fire” published in The Farmer and Settler on 17 August 1917, p. 2.

‘A BAPTISM OF FIRE
A “Hop-Over” In France
VIVID DESCRIPTION OF TRENCH RAID.

The “raids” upon the German trenches carried out by the British forces have been among the most successful enterprises with which the war has made newspaper readers familiar, and their effect upon the enemy has been of the highest military importance, breaking down his moral, shattering his nerves, and making him, in most cases, an easy prey to the attacking party. A vivid description of one of these raids, and one that is interesting also, because of the personal and psychological disclosures made, was given by Stan E. Stephens, formerly on the “Farmer and Settler” staff in a letter that he wrote from France shortly before he participated in the attack upon Lagnicourt, in which action he was reported among the “missing.”

“On the night of February 4th, we ‘went in’ — into the front line,” he writes. “As we had suspected for some time past, we were to do a ‘stunt.’ There was a ‘hop over’ for us, to try to take a trench that some other battalion had taken and failed to hold, four or five days before. We dumped our blankets, and at about eight p.m. moved off in Indian file; stopped a moment at an ammunition dump at a chalk pit, to fill our pockets with bombs; then on again, in dead silence, crouching. We passed through a sap running forward to our front line, which we entered, squeezing past the Victorians that were holding it, and thus getting into position for the ‘hop over,’ only a few minutes to ten p.m. It had taken us two hours to come three-quarters of a mile. The moon was like an electric incandescent lamp in the frosty sky. Our hearts were thumping, and one heard muttered words and curses, as we stumbled into our places, and nervously filled our magazines and fixed our bayonets. I was wondering if I could ever bring myself to get over that bank, two feet above my head, where I crouched in what was merely a shell-hole connected with other shell-holes, and called a trench. Fritz was quiet. It must surely be ten o’clock — the time we were to go over. The big wild Irishman, Tom Riley, was on my right, Finlayson and Lord on my left.

“The plan of attack on this occasion was explained to us before we moved off, and was similar in the main points to the teachings we had had back in England. A two-minute barrage was to open on the enemy wire at ten p.m. making a passage for us, and then lifting to the trench, putting the enemy to flight, and smashing things up generally. At the end of two minutes (10.2 p.m.) the barrage was to lift altogether, and play on to the enemy supports and communications. We were to hop out at one minute past ten, and it was estimated that it would take us a minute to cross, reaching the wire as the barrage lifted to the supports — distance across, 150 yards. Our objective was a trench (already known as Stormy trench), in which Fritz had a strong post.

A Nerve-steadying Drink.
“Some one said: ‘Get ready’, and I was just wishing I was at home, or anywhere else in the wide world, when a fervent ‘Ah!’ in the vicinity made me look around. A mess-tin full of rum was being passed along. Everyone took a swig, and passed it on. There was plenty in it when it came to me, and I just gulped down a couple of mouthfuls and handed it to Fin, when, ‘bang,’ ‘bang,’ ‘screech,’ ‘screech,’ over our heads came some shells. Many men involuntarily ‘ducked,’ but were reassured by someone saying: ‘They’re ours.’ So they were. The barrage had started — only a minute to go! Thank Heaven for that rum. It pulled me together, stopped the nervous trembling that made me afraid that everybody would notice me and think I was going to ‘squib’ it. I was cool enough to notice things then, but still I glanced hatefully now and then at the top of the bank above me.

“Somebody said: ‘Now!’ There was a bustle, and I found myself up in No Man’s Land jostling someone to get around a shell-hole. The order had come simultaneously from both ends of our line, so that we at the centre were a bit behind — a sag in the middle. Everything could be seen as clear as day; the line stretched out to right and left. We crouched in our advance, moving slowly, picking our way, with the shells shrieking over us, and bursting only a few yards in front of us. I thought about the ‘backwash.’ Why weren’t some of us killed. Would they knock our heads off if we stood up straight? We were in semi-open order, perhaps five or six deep, and advancing slowly. Oh!, the weight on my back from the heavy kit and the stooping. Yet I felt amused at the struggles of a chap that was sitting down, softly cursing a piece of barbed wire— such silly, meaningless curses. Another stumbled in front of me, and I nearly jabbed him with my bayonet. Then I looked around smartly, to see if any one was close enough behind me to treat me likewise.

“The wire! We were up to it already. But the shells weren’t finished. They had made a good mess of it, I saw as I stepped through from loop to loop. A piece caught me somewhere, but something gave way and I was free again. No; the shells weren’t finished yet. ‘They are bursting behind me.’ I exclaimed to myself, ‘Why on earth don’t I get killed? Are they charmed, so as to kill only Fritzes.’ I caught the flash of another out of the tail of my eye, and then there was a straight line of intermittent flashes in front. What’s this? At that moment I slid and scrambled down a steep, bank and found myself in the German trench!

Too Quick for Fritz.  
“Our barrage was just lifting. A Fritz officer afterwards said: ‘I knew you were   Australians; you come in with your barrage; you are too quick for us.’ Yes, we went in with the barrage, instead of a few moments after it— and without a casualty!

“The details of this, my first hop-over, my baptism of fire, are indelibly printed on my memory. I shall always remember the impressions made on me, down to the most trivial incident of the hop-over. Thinking over it afterwards, I have tried to reason out why we got in with our barrage. It’s a good fault, for it prevents the Germans from getting ready for us when the barrage lifts. The Germans reckon that the Australians are always too quick for them that way. I certainly believe that a spirit of ‘don’t-care-a-damn’ was abroad; or, maybe, it was hereditary bloodthirstiness that came out in the excitement, and made us, for the time being, all ‘hogs for stoush.’ I think only the fear that we would be killed by our own curtain of fire kept us from actually running. It wasn’t the rum, anyhow, as the slanderous have asserted. The rum, I found out afterwards, was our first casualty, being broken in the coming up, so that the only rum issued was half a demi-john to a small section of trench that I happened to be in. The jar was found by a chap taking German prisoners back half an hour later, still   nearly half full.

“Just by the way, I might mention that he gave this batch of Fritzes a nip each, and filled his own waterbottle before giving the remainder to the Victorians (the men holding the old front trench), and bustling his herd back to Chalk Pit. The poor beggars wanted it!   They were almost in a state of collapse from our bombardment. I was to experience the same sort of bombardment very soon after.

Delighted to be Prisoners.
“To get back to it: The Fritzes that remained in the trench to meet us were still down their dugouts when the first men hopped in. The trench was big, wide, and deep. They came up crying, ‘Mercy, kamerad,’ whining and cowering in the bottom of the trench in a way that made me feel very brave; and, I have no doubt, the same feelings were experienced by others. They were shooed off at once in batches of ten or a dozen, as they were found, back to — somewhere. They were delighted to find that they were to be prisoners, pointing back to our lines and saying, ‘Mercy, kamerad,’ and ‘Kamerad good,’ etc. But they didn’t care about going over the top to go back. I helped one chap persuade his lot to go. I don’t think I actually stuck it into them, but they went! Like a mob of sheep, once started on their feet, they raced over the top and across No Man’s land for their very lives, the escort a good last, laughing fit to burst, at their scurry.

“Finlayson was separated from us in the hop-over, and entered the trench some distance on our right. Lord and I were together. Our bombardment continued on the enemy reserves, and Fritz had commenced ‘putting them into us.’ The row was deafening, and we were having casualties; not very many, but every now and then the order would be passed along for stretcher bearers. Just as I stepped down for a smoke (it would be about midnight) Fin. came along the trench looking for us. After yarning for a minute or two he went back to fetch his web gear and rifle, etc., up to our ‘possy.’ He and I had been mates for a long while, back in Kiama, and together with Lord, had run our affairs on an ‘all in and share alike’ basis, since going into the line. He had only been gone about ten minutes when another mate named Moss Paine came to tell me that Fin. was killed. I went back along the trench with Moss, but Fin. had been hit in the chest with a piece of shell that exploded in the trench, and had dropped without a word. Another good chap, Dave Whittingham (a tent mate at Duntroon), was hit everywhere, and died in half an hour. Moss Paine, who was standing between them— the three were talking together—was not touched. Needless to say, I was much upset. “The little bit of a trench we took has ‘opened up the game’ on this front, seemingly. It was on a rise that obstructed our observation of enemy lines; now the tables are turned.”’

Click here to view the article on Trove: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116642518

Note: Stanley E. Stephens was The Farmer and Settler newspaper’s official reporter on the Coo-ee March. He also joined the Coo-ees at Gilgandra as a recruit, and had the rank of sergeant on the march. Francis Charles Finlayson (whose death is reported in this article) joined the Coo-ees at Parramatta.

Fox mascot presented to the Coo-ees at Evans Plains

With the Coo-ees at Evans Plains (Daily Telegraph 30/10/1915)

With the Coo-ees at Evans Plains (Daily Telegraph 30/10/1915)

I have often wondered how the Coo-ees ended up with a fox cub as a mascot on the Coo-ee March. This is described in the following article, along with the ‘patriotic songs’ sung by the school children at Evan’s Plains. School children often took part in welcoming and entertaining the Coo-ees at each town and village visited on the march. It is interesting to note that the Coo-ees were expecting to reinforce the Australian men fighting at Gallipoli when they signed up on the Coo-ee March, not the Western Front.

Transcript of an article titled ‘At Evans Plains” published in the Bathurst newspaper National Advocate on 30 October 1915, p. 3.

‘AT EVAN’S-PLAINS.
YOUNG FOX AS MASCOT

The residents of Evan’s Plains extended a hearty welcome to the Gilgandra Coo-ees.   The Cooe-ees arrived about noon on Thursday, escorted by two local horsemen, Messrs. Cecil Colley and Morris Windsor who rode out some distance along the road to meet them. An energetic ladies committee, under the charge of Mrs. J. Dwyer and Miss Ivy Maher, worked hard to make the short stay of the men as pleasant as possible. Mr. Hugh McKay also rendered valuable assistance. Refreshments were served under the poplars on the property of Mr. J. Wardman. Several patriotic songs were rendered by the school children, whilst the good wishes for a safe return were expressed by several of the residents. The Coo-ees were presented by Mr. Frank Windsor with a young fox as a token from the Plains, which they intend to take along with them to Gallipoli.’

Click here to view the article on Trove: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article158152710

The “Gilgandra barber” and the Coo-ees welcomed in Lithgow

Article titled “Coo-ees Welcomed” from the Democrat, 6th November 1915, p. 2.

‘“Coo-ees” Welcomed.

The Gilgandra braves — the “Coo-ees” — were accorded an enthusiastic reception on Monday last. They left Wallerawang at 9.30 a.m., and marched to Middle River, where they halted. They were met there by the men of the Lithgow camp and a right royal time was spent. It is an offence to have long hair, and as the laws of the Medes and Persians altereth not, neither do the laws according to the Gilgandra recruits alter. At least six of the Lithgow boys needed tonsorial attention and the “Gilgandra barber,” who sat as judge, declared them guilty and sentenced them to be shorn of their curly locks. Despite protests, the chief executioner carried out his duties to the satisfaction of all but the six. These latter have now cool heads — it will prevent them from becoming hot-headed.

“’Fall in” was then sounded, and the two squads of soldiers marched to Bowenfels, where they halted to await the welcome ceremonies.

An Al Fresco lunch at Bowenfels (Sydney Mail 10/11/1915)

An Al Fresco lunch at Bowenfels (Sydney Mail, 10/11/1915)

The visitors looked in the pink of condition and were as hard as nails. They had increased their number by five at Wallerawang.  

The welcome arrangements were admirably carried out by the chief marshals (Messrs. A. E. Roper and Saunderson). There was not a hitch anywhere. This is as it should be and the gentlemen concerned are to be congratulated.

 

The Cooerwull school children sang “Advance Australia Fair” capitally, while the Lithgow children also did well.     

 

The Town Band played at the meeting place, and played beautifully.

The Mayor (Ald. Pillans) then welcomed the “Coo-ees” to Lithgow in a speech admirably suited to the occasion — being short, concise, and good. Major Wynne responded on behalf of the visitors. 

The procession was then formed, the mounted police in front, then the aldermen, the Progress Association and prominent townspeople, then came the Lithgow recruits, followed the Town Band, and then came the “Coo-ees,”‘ each town being represented by their respective units — a flag with the name or the town being the line of demarkation. Then we had our own cadets, with trumpeters playing smartly and briskly. Patrols of Boy Scouts, under Scout-master Lamb, were also in evidence and added considerably to the success of the procession. The civilians also joined in as well as scores of motor cars, buggies, ‘busses, etc. The procession wended its way along Main-street, across Eskbank bridge, up Railway Parade, and into the Trades Hall, which had been kindly loaned for the occasion.

 

At six o’clock the braves were entertained at luncheon at the Town Hall. This over, it had been intended to have a smoke social, but as the Oddfellows Hall proprietary had kindly granted a free pass for their picture show to the men, they all preferred that, and a splendid programme was screened to the enjoyment of the vast audience present.

 

On Tuesday advantage was taken of having squad drill, after which general leave was granted. The men were also given white hats and dungarees and they looked more like soldiers than they did in civilian costume.

 

The squad has two mascots — a young cattle dog and a fox. The young recruit who had charge of them said, “Now I’ve got them over the worst of their trouble, all the others want to collar them, but they won’t get them. They’re mine.”’

Click here to access the article on Trove:http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article103569195

The Coo-ee mascots [cropped photograph] (Daily Telegraph, 30/10/1915)

The Coo-ee mascots [cropped photograph] (Daily Telegraph, 30/10/1915)

Note: According to a docket in the official correspondence of the march, Thomas Dowd, a recruit from Wongarbon, was paid for 21 days barbering services on the march, so he appears to have been the “Gilgandra barber” in the above article.

Hair-cuts at Blayney

When the Coo-ees were at Blayney, the Blayney Recruiting Association paid two local barbers to cut the hair of about 80 of the men at the showground, where the Coo-ees were camped.[1]

This event is described in an extract of an article titled ‘Western News’, from The Bathurst Times, 29th October, 1915, p. 3.

‘WESTERN NEWS
(By Our Travelling Representative.)
BLAYNEY, Thursday.
A DAY OF HAIR-CUTS.

On Wednesday tho hairdressers of Blayney had a busy time in exercising the tonsorial art on tho Gilgandra “Coo-ees.” Curly locks and straight growths were trimmed and cut, and marching recruits emerged from the chairs feeling fresh and fit. One of the men, however, expressed his disapproval of a close crop. He gave the reason. “Some time ago,” he explained, “I got a knock on the head and since then I have always kept my hair pretty long so as to protect the scar, but now I’ve had a close crop and it shows out. Not only that my hat is now several sizes too large for my head. I stuffed a daily paper in so as to make it a closer fit, but that didn’t do any good. It’s still too big.” He was quite distressed about it. It appeared to worry him more than all tho thoughts of going off to fight for his country.’

Click here to access the article on Trove: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article111246715

[1] ‘Gilgandra to the Coast’, The Farmer and Settler, 29 October 1915, p. 3.

The veteran of the Coo-ees : John McNamara

Transcript of an article titled “The Veteran of the “Coo-ees” from The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate, November 16, 1915, p. 2.

THE VETERAN OF THE “COO-EES.”

As long as ever he can remember, John McNamara, the grizzled old veteran, who marched in the front rank of the “Coo-ees” all the way down to the coast, has had a hankering after a military life. He first enlisted during the early eighties in the New South Wales Artillery, which was then under the control of the State Government. On the outbreak of the Soudan campaign he volunteered, for service, and secured a place in the field battery. At the conclusion of the campaign he was awarded the Soudan medal and clasp and the Khedive’s bronze star. His next experience of active service was under Major Forbes in the Matabele campaign, for which he holds the medal.

On the outbreak of hostilities in South Africa McNamara joined Brabant’s Horse, and went right through the war, gaining the Queen’s Medal and four clasps, the Kings Medal and two clasps, and also the Distinguished Conduct Medal. During the same campaign he also served in the Imperial Light Horse under Colonel Duncan McKenzie, and in the Western Province Mounted Rifles. At the conclusion of hostilities he enlisted in the Transvaal Mounted Police as a trooper, and during the Cape Colony rebellion a mounted patrol in which he was had a brush with the famous rebel leader Maritz at Toutlebosch Kop. Later as he resigned from the mounted police, and secured employment on the Cape-Cairo railway, being stationed at Wankas, a town 60 miles north of Buluwayo. Here he contracted black-water fever, and on his recovery he went to New Zealand. He remained there for some years, but the call of the bush was too strong, and six years ago he came over to New South Wales. He attempted to enlist at the beginning of the present war, but was rejected owing to the fact that he was over 35. Now things are changed. He is going to the front, and his heart’s desire being satisfied, there is no happier man in the “Coo-ees” than John McNamara.

Click here to view the article on Trove: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77602239

Anniversary of their start

Transcript of an article from The Sunday Times, October 8, 1916, p. 9.

THE COO-EES
EN ROUTE FOR BERLIN
ANNIVERSARY OF THEIR START
It’s 12 months all but two days since the Coo-ees started on their long march from Gilgandra to Berlin, and thought they’re not there yet, most of them are still on the way. One is well beyond the borders of Germany – he is a prisoner of war, and is reported to be in a prison camp in Westphalia – several have been wounded, and two, including their famous leader, “Captain Bill” Hitchen, are dead.
The Coo-ees started on the first stage of their march, the 330 miles trip from Gilgandra to Sydney, on Tuesday, Oct 10. There were 25 of them then ; but before they had covered half the distance the home town had sent another ten hotfoot to join them. These 35 Gilgandra men were good recruiting agents, for before they reached Sydney they had gathered in seven more men for every one of the original troop. They arrived just about 270 strong. Their example was followed all over the country, and recruiting marches were conducted from several points. None of them, however, captured such interest as that of the Coo-ees , and although public memory is always short, it is probable that Captain Bill Hitchen and his men will always be remembered when Australia’s part in the war is talked of. Certainly they will never be forgotten in Gilgandra and the other country towns they passed through.

SACRIFICES THEY MADE
Every town and township on the line turned out to meet them as they approached, and they were feted and fed until their leaders began to fear they would be killed by kindness. The enthusiasm of the volunteers, too, was infectious. All along the road men dropped their work and joined the ranks. From Gilgandra alone there were three men with families. There was Captain Hitchen (officially he was only a Corporal ; but he will always be remembered as Captain Bill), who had a family of three sons and two daughters ; there was Signaller A. J. McGregor, who left behind him a wife and five young children ; and there was Corporal J. McKeown, who left a wife and four small McKeowns. Wee McGregor, as he was known all along the march, sold out a flourishing bakery business in Gilgandra to join the Coo-ees. He had three brothers at the front, and he wanted to follow them. On the way to Sydney another brother jumped into the ranks – five from one family. McKeown had fought in the South African war, and had soldiering in his blood. At Coonamble two young brothers named Hunt joined the ranks. Their father saw them start ; but the thought of the parting was too much for him. A few days later he hurried after the boys, and at Bathurst he, too, joint the march.

MEN OF ALL AGES
The Coo-ees were men of all ages. Captain Bill himself was 52, and though the rest all said they were under 45 the authorities in many cases had their suspicions about them. On the other hand there were three lads under the age of 18.
When they reached Sydney on March 8 [sic] a number of them were rejected as medically unfit ; but 220 eventually sailed for Europe. They didn’t all go together. Some were taken into the Light Horse and others into the Engineers and Artillery ; but about 180 went away as the 15th Reinforcements of the 13th Battalion. In Egypt they were again split up ; but the majority went into the 45th Battalion. Those who stayed in Egypt were under fire three weeks after their landing, and the men who went to France were in the trenches in June. It used to be a military axiom that it took three years to train a soldier. In the case of the Coo-ees, the time spent in training was a little over three months.
A record of their doings is being kept by Mr. A. H. Miller, of Gilgandra, who took part a leading part in organising the march. He is still collecting details, keeping a list of those who have fallen, and the experiences the men have met with. He also communicates with their relatives, whenever news of any of the men arrives.
The people of Gilgandra are keeping up the anniversary of the start of the march on Tuesday by a social. They originally intended to devote the proceeds to purchasing Christmas hampers for the men ; but the State War Council refused permission for this, and the money will now be devoted to the Repatriation Fund. Numbers of private parcels are being made up, however, for Christmas gifts, for the men. So far there have been but nine casualties among the Coo-ees.

COO-EES WHO HAVE FALLEN
Corporal Hitchen died of diabetes in Harefield Hospital, in England, a few weeks ago. He was ill when he arrived in England and went straight into hospital. He died two months later. When news of his death was received in Gilgandra, all the business houses closed their doors for two hours.
Private Victor Quinton, of Gilgandra, is wounded, though he was at first reported missing. He is a son of Mrs. A. Lumsey, of Gilgandra.
Private Sid Heuston, wounded, is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Heuston, of Wellington. He joined the Coo-ees there when he was only 17 years and three months of age.
Private Dave Wagner, wounded, is a son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Wagner, of Valley Heights. He was only 16 years and 10 months old when he enlisted.
Private J. Wiggins, wounded, is a son of Mr. E. Wiggins, of Springwood. He and his mate, Dave Wagner, both enlisted from Springwood, the only recruits in the march from the township.
Private C. Crease, wounded, joined the Coo-ees in the mountains. He is a brother of Mrs. P. Letham, of Simmons-street, Enmore.
Sgt. T. Thorne, who died of illness in England, was 23 years of age. He was the only son of Mrs. and the late Mr. G. Thorne, of Thorneycroft, Lawson. His father died suddenly from heart failure a month after the boy left for the front.
Private D. S. Stewart was at first reported missing, but has since been traced to a prison camp in Westphalia, where he is a prisoner of war. He is the second son of Mr. and Mrs. A Stewart, of Parkes-street, East Wellington, and was only 16 years and 9 months old when he enlisted. He was the youngest recruit with the Coo-ees. Another brother, who enlisted at 18, is in the trenches.
Private Oliver James Harmon, of Granville, killed in action, was a son of Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Harmon, of Alfred-street, Granville. He joined the Coo-ees, many of whom he had known out West, at Parramatta. His younger brother, Percy, is on H.M.S. Phantom, and another is in camp at Liverpool.
Private C. Marchant, accidentally wounded in Egypt and invalided home, is a son of Mr. and Mrs. E. Marchant, of Gilgandra, at which township he joined the Coo-ees. He was prominent in boxing circles in the West, and also a member of the Gilgandra Waratah Football Club and the League of Wheelmen.
Private Albert Nelson, wounded (second occasion), is the son of Mr. and Mrs. R. Nelson, of Gilgandra. He joined the Coo-ees at Liverpool Camp, and sailed for the front with them on March 8. When he was wounded on the first occasion he remained on duty. This time he was wounded in three places – knee, back and foot.
Private Borton, Lawson (wounded).
Private R. Uhr (invalided home).
Private J. Morris, Parramatta (killed in action).
Private G. Seaman, Bathurst (wounded).
Private W. E. Hunter, Redfern (wounded), enlisted at Geurie, and when the Coo-ees were in Orange he received a letter from his mother stating that his two brothers had been killed at the Dardanelles.
Cpl. W. Smith, who enlisted with the Coo-ees at Geurie, where he was employed as Shire Clerk, was taken from France to England to undergo an operation. From advices received by the last mail he was improving fast. He was a widower with a number of young children, whom he placed in boarding-school before going to the front.’