Category Archives: Research notes

1918 birthday card for James Gerald Cameron

1918 birthday card for James Gerald Cameron

A ‘birthday card’ was presented to Company Sergeant Major James Gerald Cameron by twelve members of the Sergeant’s Mess of A Company, 45th Battalion, at Hastiere-Levaux, Belgium, on December 23rd 1918.

Birthday card presented to James Gerald Cameron, 23rd December 1918 (Photograph courtesy of the Gilgandra Museum & Historical Society)

It was made of four sheets of writing paper joined together, on cardboard, and was donated by his daughter Mrs Beatrice Richards to the Gilgandra Museum and Historical Society in 1983.[1]

The card read:


4747 C.S.M. Cameron J.

Side by side we fought together

Without dreaming, Jim, of fate

And we shared each others troubles

Or tried to, Jim, at any rate.

And now comes the time for pleasure

Your birthday we are keeping up

Although the whiskey bottle’s empty

We have some beer to fill us up.

You remember, Jim, last Xmas

At Peronne in all the snow

How we drank your birthday honours

And our hearts were all aglow.

Sadder times we’ve seen since them, Jim,

Lots of old boys have gone west

Fighting for their Country’s freedom

We have lost some of our best.

But this year has brought us gladness

And we live in peace once more

So we’ll celebrate your birthday

Better than we’ve done before.

So in closing, lads, I ask you

To charge your glasses to the brim

Let’s get full on this occasion

Best of luck lads

 “Cobber” Jim.

With best wishes for a bright and happy birthday

From ‘A’ Coy 45th Btln Sergts Mess

Hastiere Woux, Belgium  December 23rd 1918.’

The names of the 12 sergeants are listed on the card. Two of the sergeants named were Coo-ees:

4745 Sgt S. R. Carver (who joined  the Coo-ee March in the Blue Mountains) and 4787 J. E. Hourigan (who joined at Parramatta).

This photograph below is captioned ‘group portrait of the 45th Battalion on parade  in the snow at Peronne on Boxing Day 1917’ in the Australian War Memorial collection.   The birthday card mentioned that the men drank his ‘birthday honours’ last Christmas ‘at Peronne in all the snow’.  The 45th Battalion was stationed at Haut Allaines camp near Peronne in late December 1917.

‘Group portrait of the 45th Battalion on parade in the snow at Peronne on Boxing Day 1917’ (AWM E01548 26/12/1917)

[1] ‘Memories of a Coo-ee’, The Gilgandra Weekly, 2 November 1983, p. 7.

The most highly decorated Coo-ee – James Gerald Cameron

The most highly decorated Coo-ee – James Gerald Cameron

James Gerald Cameron (Photograph courtesy of his grandson Dennis Richards)

Several of the Coo-ees received Military Medals for their acts of bravery during the First World War.  Only one received the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Wikipedia, ‘Distinguished Conduct Medal’, King George V Version 1

The Distinguished Conduct Medal, with gave recipients the post nominal letters DCM, was created in 1854 by Queen Victoria and awarded to non-commissioned officers and other ranks of the British Army for distinguished conduct in action in the field, until it was discontinued in 1993.  It was also awarded to non-commissioned military personnel of Commonwealth colonies and dominions.  This award was the second highest award after the Victoria Cross for gallantry in action, and was the equivalent of the Distinguished Service Order which was awarded to commissioned officers. [1]

James Gerald Cameron, with the rank of Sergeant at that time, was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions on the 18th September 1918 during an attack near Bellenglise, France.  (He later obtained the rank of Company Sergeant Major).

His recommendation for the Distinguished Conduct Medal dated 25th September 1918 is recorded in his military service record, and reads: ‘For conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty during the attack west of Bellenglise on the 18th September 1918. He was scout N.C.O. On the Battalion reaching the objective he took forward an exploiting patrol with a Lewis gun. He came in touch with three 5.9. Howitzers and their crew. He rushed the crews, six of the enemy being killed and 14 captured. The horses were killed and owing to this the guns were captured.[2]

Notification of James Gerald Cameron’s award was gazetted in Supplement No. 31225 to The London Gazette, 12th March 1919 (page 3392), and was also published in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, 17th June 1919 (page 1012).

The citation below for his Distinguished Conduct Medal was published in Supplement No. 31668 to The London Gazette, 2nd December 1919 (page 14907), and also in The Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. 20, 19th February 1920 (page 191).

‘Awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal … Cameron, No. 4747 Sergeant J. G., 45th Battalion’ (The Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, 19th February 1910, p 191)

Click here to read his full story:


[1] Australian War Memorial, ‘Specimen Distinguished Conduct Medal and Bar’, ; Wikipedia, ‘Distinguished Conduct Medal’,

[2] NAA: B2455, CAMERON J G

Sydney Raymond CARVER

Sydney Raymond CARVER

Per his military service record (regimental no. 4745), Sydney Raymond Carver was born at Hill End, N.S.W.[1]  He gave his age as 30 years and 6 months, his marital status as single, and his occupation as fettler.  His description on his Certificate of Medical Examination form was height 5 feet 6 inches tall, with a dark complexion, brown eyes, and black hair.  His religious denomination was Methodist.  He claimed that he had served for 5 years in the Hill End Rifle Club.

He was attested by Captain A. C. Eade at Katoomba on 5th November 1915 (the day the Coo-ees marched from Mount Victoria to Katoomba).  He did not complete his medical examination until 13th November 1915 at Liverpool.

After completing the Co-ee March he went to Liverpool Camp as reinforcement for the 13th Battalion.

Sydney Raymond Carver was also known as “Tom” Carver.[2]  He was referred to as ‘Private Tom Carver, of the Coo-ees … home on final leave’, in the Lithgow Mercury on 29th December 1915.[3]

The National Advocate reported that Private S. Carver was given a send-off on Thursday night 30th December 1915 in the Royal Hall at Hill End, where he was presented with a wristlet watch.[4]

On his embarkation roll his address at time of enrolment was Hill End, N.S.W., and his next of kin is listed as his father, B. [Benjamin] Carver, Hill End, N.S.W.

On 8th March 1916 Private Carver, along with many of the other Coo-ees, departed Sydney on the HMAT A15 Star of England.  He arrived in Egypt on 11th April 1916.

On 19th April 1916 he was transferred to the 45th Battalion in Egypt.

On 2nd June 1916 Private Carver left Alexandria aboard the transport Kinfauns Castle bound for France arriving at Marseilles on 8th June 1916.

On 4th July 1916 Private Carver was sent to the 4th Australian Field Ambulance suffering from Influenza.  On 7th July 1916 he was sent to the 4th Division Rest Station.  He rejoined the 45th Battalion on 9th July 1916.

On 30th July 1916 Private Carver was promoted to Lance Corporal.

On 24th August 1916 he was promoted to Corporal.

On 6th April 1917 he was promoted to Sergeant.

On 11th April 1917 the 45th Battalion was moving into the front line in the vicinity of Noreuil, France when Sergeant Carver was wounded in action, receiving a shrapnel wound to his left leg.  He was sent to the 4th Australian Field Ambulance, then moved back to the 9th Casualty Clearing Station, then the 56th Casualty Clearing Station.  On 12th April 1917 he was placed aboard the 11th Ambulance Train.  On 13th April 1917 he was admitted to the 1st General Hospital at Entretat, France.

On 25th April 1917 Sergeant Carver was placed aboard a hospital ship for evacuation to England.  On 26th April 1917 he was admitted to the 2nd Southern General Hospital at Bristol, England.

He was discharged from hospital on 21st May 1917, and granted leave to report to the No. 1 Command Depot at Perham Downs on 5th June 1917.

On 26th June 1917 he was transferred to the Overseas Training Brigade.

On 9th December 1917 Sergeant Carver departed Southampton bound for France.  He arrived at the 4th Australian Division Base Depot at Le Harve, France, on 10th December 1917.

He rejoined the 45th Battalion when it was training at Haut Allaines, France, on 16th December 1917.

On 5th April 1918 the 45th Battalion was in action around Dernacourt, France, when Sergeant Carver was wounded in action for the second time, receiving a gunshot wound to his abdomen.  He was sent to the 13th Australian Field Ambulance, then back to the 29th Casualty Clearing Station.  On 6th April 1918 he was placed aboard the 27th Ambulance Train being admitted to the 7th Canadian General Hospital on the 7th of April 1918 at Etaples, France.

On 25th April 1918 he was placed aboard the Hospital Ship Princess Elizabeth for evacuation to England.  On 26th April 1918 he was admitted to the County of Middlesex War Hospital at Napsbury  in England.

On 3rd June 1918 he was transferred to the 1st Australian Auxiliary Hospital at Harefield, England.  He was discharged on 18th June 1918 and sent to the No. 3 Command Depot at Hurdcott, England.

On 3rd July 1918 Sergeant Carver was admitted to the Fovant Military Hospital sick.  He was discharged on 31st July 1918.

On 11th September 1918 Sergeant Carver was transferred to the No. 1 Command Depot at Sutton Veny, England.

On 21st October 1918 Sergeant Carver was sent to the Overseas Training Brigade.

He departed Southampton on 21st November 1918 bound for France.  He arrived at the 4th Australian Division Base Depot at Le Harve, France, on 22nd November 1918.

He rejoined the 45th Battalion in France on 1st December 1918.

On 19th March 1919 Sergeant Carver was sent to the 12th Australian Field Ambulance sick with old abdomen wound.  He was discharged, and rejoined the 45th Battalion, on 25th March 1919.

On 6th April 1919 Sergeant Carver was sent to the Australian Base Depot at Le Harve.

On 11th April 1919 Sergeant Carver was admitted to the 39th General Hospital sick at Le Havre.

On 18th April 1918 he was placed aboard a hospital ship for evacuation to England.  He was admitted to the 1st Australian Dermatological Hospital at Bulford, England, on 19th April 1919.

He was discharged on 4th July 1919 and sent to the No. 2 Depot at Sutton Veny, England.

On 23rd July 1919 Sergeant Carver departed England aboard the H.T. Suevic bound for Australia.

He arrived in Australia 10th September 1919, and was discharged medically unfit on 10th November 1919.

The Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative reported that Sergeant Carver was one of the soldiers who were given a welcome home at a large gathering held at the Royal Hall in Hill End on Friday 3rd October 1919.  Each soldier was given an inscribed gold medal, and a ‘useful bundle of clothing from the ladies’ knitting circle’.[5]

Research note: Sydney Raymond ‘Tom’ Carver was not named in The Blue Mountain Echo as one of ‘the lads who answered the call, and marched out with the Coo-ees’ at Katoomba.[6]  His “Joined on” date on his Attestation Paper is 5th November 1915, so it appears possible that he may have joined the Coo-ees somewhere on that day before they reached Katoomba. The Coo-ees picked up two recruits in Blackheath on route from Mount Victoria to Katoomba.[7]  One of these men was Thomas Walsh.  ‘T. Carver’ and ‘T. Walsh’ are listed together on the Blackheath Roll of Honor published in The Blue Mountain Echo on 13th April 1917.[8]  It appears a possibility that ‘Tom’ Carver may have been the other recruit who joined the Coo-ees at Blackheath.  

[1] NAA: B2455, CARVER S R

[2] ‘CARVER, Sydney Raymond (Tom) : Service Number – 4745’’, Hill End War Memorial,

[3] ‘Hill End’, Lithgow Mercury, 29 December 1915, p. 4. Retrieved March 27, 2017, from

[4] ‘’Hill End Recruits’, National Advocate, 6 January 1916, p. 3. Retrieved March 27, 2017, from

[5] ‘Soldiers’ Welcome Home’, Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative, 9 October 1919, p. 12. Retrieved March 27, 2017, from

[6] ‘March o’er the Mountains’, The Blue Mountain Echo, 12 November 1915, p. 2. Retrieved September 21, 2015, from  [on page 3]

[7] ‘The Route March’, The Farmer and Settler,  9 November 1915, p. 3. Retrieved March 27, 2017, from

[8] ‘Eastertide at Blackheath’, The Blue Mountain Echo, 13 April 1917, p. 3. Retrieved March 29, 2017, from

Photograph of William Hilton Saunders and William Collyer

Photograph of Wongarbon Coo-ees William Hilton Saunders and William Collyer

William Hilton Saunders and WIlliam Collyer, 1916 (Photograph courtesy of Mrs K. Edmonds)

William Hilton Saunders and William Collyer, 1916 (Photograph courtesy of Mrs K. Edmonds)

Mrs K. Edmonds has sent me this studio portrait photograph of her grandfather William Hilton Saunders with another soldier, who she thinks is his friend and fellow Coo-ee from Wongarbon, William Collyer.

Driver William Hilton Saunders is seated on the left in the photograph.

William Hilton Saunders mentioned that both he and William Collyer had grown moustaches in the first letter he sent home to his parents at Wongarbon, after arriving in Egypt:

You would not know Will and I now, we both have moustaches, and I weigh 70 kilogrammes, which is equivalent to about 11 stone, so you see I have put on a considerable amount of flesh already since leaving Australia”.[1]

The backdrop behind the two soldiers in the photograph appears to depict the ruins of St Martin’s Cathedral at Ypres in Belgium.  William Hilton Saunders would have been familiar with this scene.  He noted in his diary on Friday, 29th September, 1916:

‘’I went out with G S W [General Service Wagon] & team to Ypres (about 6 miles) for bricks. Cruel yet interesting sight to witness. A fair town in peace time, but was utterly devoid of life except for soldiers who have to live in old cellars etc. Everything is one mass of ruins & where buildings are not blown right down enormous gaping shell holes mark the billet of some of Fritz’s death messengers.  We got a couple of loads of bricks from the Ypres church & arrived back early this morning, out all night”.[2]

On reading William Hilton Saunder’s 1916 to 1918 diaries, I only found one entry in which he refers to having had his photo taken during this period.

On Sunday, 22nd October 1916, he wrote: “Will Collyer & I went to Poperinghe on leave. Rode our mules & had a good look around. Both had our photos taken. Poperinghe about the size of Dubbo …”.[3]

Driver William Hilton Saunders and Driver William Collyer were both in the 4th Division Ammunition Column, which was stationed in the vicinity of the village of Vlamertinghe at that time, about half way along the road from Ypres to Poperinghe in Belgium. It was about 12.5 km (8 miles) from Ypres to Poperinghe. [4]

It seems likely therefore that this is the photograph of William Hilton Saunders and William Collyer that William Hilton Saunders referred to in his diary.

[1] ‘Australians in Action. Letters from the Front’, Wellington Times, 29 June 1916, p. 3. Retrieved January 23, 2017, from

[2] Saunders, William Hilton, personal diary, 1916. Original diary held by UNSW Canberra, Academy Library Special Collection.

[3] Saunders, William Hilton, personal diary, 1916.

[4] The Great War 1914-1918, ‘Poperinge (Poperinghe),

Hats off to Gilgandra cartoon


'Hats off to Gilgandra', cartoon by Hal Eyre (The Daily Telegraph, 16/10/1915)

‘Hats off to Gilgandra’, cartoon by Hal Eyre (The Daily Telegraph, 16/10/1915)

The ‘Hats off to Gilgandra’ cartoon drawn by Hal Eyre was first published in The Daily Telegraph on Saturday, 16th October, 1915.[1]  This was 6 days after the start of the Coo-ee March at Gilgandra. An article titled ‘Recruiting : an energetic campaign’ which reported on recruiting campaigns and new recruit numbers around the state of New South Wales, was also on the same page.

The Dubbo Dispatch and Wellington Independent later reported that ‘At the time of the Coo-ee’s march, Hal Eyre, of the Sydney “Daily Telegraph” struck the note and illustrated it’, and ‘That drawing made Hal Eyre and Gilgandra famous – it was reproduced in most of the leading journals of Great Britain and America’.[2]

Hal Eyre drew 357 drawings for The Daily Telegraph during the First World War, and these were purchased by the State Library of New South Wales in 1920.

The ‘Hats off to Gilgandra’ cartoon, held in the Mitchell Library collection, has been digitised, and is available to view as one of the 77 images in Volume 09-23: The Daily Telegraph war cartoons, 1915, (Item 62), on the State Library of New South Wales website – to view the digitised image click here

'Hats off to Gilgandra', cartoon by Hal Eyre, in the Mitchell Library collection, State Library of New South Wales, a5773062.

‘Hats off to Gilgandra’, cartoon by Hal Eyre, in the Mitchell Library collection, State Library of New South Wales, Ref. no. a5773062.

The State Library of New South Wales currently has a travelling exhibition Satire in the time of war : cartoons by Hal Eyre 1914-1918, which displays the ‘Hats off to Gilgandra’ cartoon, along with a selection of the cartoonist’s other drawings.

Satire in the time of war : cartoons by Hal Eyre 1914-1918 Exhibition at Dubbo Branch of Macquarie Regional Library (Photograph: H. Thompson 8/12/2016)

‘Hats off to Gilgandra’ cartoon in the Satire in the time of war : cartoons by Hal Eyre 1914-1918 Exhibition at Dubbo Branch of Macquarie Regional Library (Photograph: H. Thompson 8/12/2016)

The cartoons are reproduced on large display boards, which give viewers a great opportunity to study this cartoon up close.

This exhibition, which is being displayed in public libraries around New South Wales, was launched on 1st October 2016 at Glenn Innes, and was displayed at Gilgandra Public Library from 12th to 24 November 2016.

It is currently on display at Dubbo Branch of Macquarie Regional Library until 15th December 2016, then will be at Katoomba from 23rd December 2016 to 12th January 2017.

Further information about this cartoonist, and the exhibition schedule, can be viewed at

[1] ‘Hats off to Gilgandra’, The Daily Telegraph, 16 October 1915, p. 10.

[2] ‘Hats off to Gilgandra’, Dubbo Dispatch and Wellington Independent, 20 June 1919,  p. 1. Retrieved December 9, 2016, from


Gilgandra Begins It : The Marching Song of the Coo-ees


There were several poems and songs written about the Coo-ees during the 1915 Coo-ee March.

First published was a poem written by Del. W. McCay called ‘Gilgandra Begins It’, which was published  two days after the Coo-ee March commenced, in his column ‘The Moving Picture-Show’ in The Sun, on 12th October 1915.[1]

''Gilgandra Begins It' (The Sun, 12/10/1915

”Gilgandra Begins It’ (The Sun, 12/10/1915

Gilgandra Begins It
They are coming from Gilgandra, our soldier-
men to be,
They sing along the Western tracks: “Who’ll
come and fight with me?”
On the country roads they’re coming;
Can you hear the distant drumming,
Can you hear the message humming
Over long, long miles of bushland from Gilgandra to the sea?

The lone selector hears them and shades his
straining eyes
To watch the Great Adventurers go winding
o’er the rise,
Who, from every hill and valley,
From the mulga and the mallee,
To the call of England rally
From the dusty, distant corners where her
Flag of Honor flies.

There are others who will join them as they
make their way along,
And will help to swell the chorus of their
mighty marching song,
For their ranks will keep on growing
More with every mile they’re going,
And they’ll make a gallant showing,
When through the streets of Sydney town
they pass, a thousand strong.

A column from Gilgandra— it has answered
to the call
That rings from far Gallipoli, where brothers fight and fall
When recruiting, sadly slumping.
Stood in need of hefty bumping.
More than all your country-stumping
Was the column from Gilgandra with its
shoulder to the ball.”

The words were re-published in The Blue Mountain Echo on 5th November 1915, with a note that ‘The above verses have been set to music by Rev. A. E. Ferguson, of the local Presbyterian Church, and will be a popular melody during the visit of the Gilgandra “Coo-ees” here, and afterwards at the Front.’[2]

The Blue Mountain Echo reported on 12th November 1915  that this song was sung by the choristers at the concert held for the Coo-ees at Katoomba on Friday night 5th November 1915, and ‘So stirring was it, in fact, that the “Coo-ees” have adopted it as their marching song’.[3]

The Blue Mountain Echo also printed this poem as a broadsheet with the heading Gilgandra Begins It. Words written by Del. W. McCay for the Sydney “Sun”.  A copy of this broadsheet is in the National Library of Australia collection.[4]  A digitised copy can be seen at

Del. W. McCay (1915), Gilgandra begins it, National Library of Australia,

Del. W. McCay (1915), Gilgandra begins it, National Library of Australia,

The National Library of Australia also holds a copy of the printed music score by E. A. Ferguson, titled Gilgandra Begins It : The Marching Song of the Coo-ees.[5]  A digitised copy of this music score can be viewed at  It has an attractive cover, with a photograph of the Coo-ees on it.

[1] ‘The Moving Picture-Show’, The Sun, 12 October 1915, p. 4. Retrieved December 7, 2016, from

[2] ‘Gilgandra Begins It’, The Blue Mountain Echo, 5 November 1915, p. 7. Retrieved December 7, 2016, from

[3] ‘March o’er the mountains, The Blue Mountain Echo,  12 November 1915, p. 3. Retrieved December 8, 2016, from

[4] McCay, Del. W. (1915). Gilgandra begins it.  Retrieved December 8, 2016, from

[5] Ferguson, Ernest Adie & McCay, Del. W. ([191-?]). Gilgandra begins it the marching song of the Coo-ees. Retrieved December 8, 2016, from


Coo-ee article in Journal of the Ashfield & District Historical Society Inc.

‘Coo-ee!’ article in Ashfield History No. 20, Journal of the Ashfield & District Historical Society Inc.

Ashfield History No 20, published by Ashfield & District Historical Society Inc., November 2015.

Ashfield History No 20, published by Ashfield & District Historical Society Inc., November 2015.

A very interesting 31 page article titled ‘Coo-ee’, written by Ann O’Connell, has been published in ‘Ashfield Answers the Call’, Ashfield History No. 20, Journal of the Ashfield and District Historical Society Inc.

Written from an Ashfield perspective, this provides a very informative overview of the 1915 Coo-ee March,  with information about the march from its beginning in Gilgandra to its end in Sydney, and the 22 recruits who joined the Coo-ee March at Ashfield.  The article also includes lots of very interesting illustrations, including some photographs which have not been published before being printed in this article.

These include photographs from the personal family albums of Lieutenant Frank Middenway’s daughters, now held by his granddaughters, Dorothy Clampett and Margaret Murden.  One of these photographs is of the Coo-ees marching in a procession in front of the Bathurst Court House, in Russell Street, Bathurst, and one of the ‘Coo-ees near Wang’, showing local people with pushbikes, horses and sulkies, greeting the Coo-ees on a country road near Wallerawang (both on page 42).

Lieutenant Middenway, from Lithgow Army Camp, accompanied Captain Eade and Staff Sergeant Major Scott from Lithgow to Sydney, to assist with recruitment on the Coo-ee March.[1] His signature as Attesting Officer is on many of the Coo-ees’ Attestation Papers in their service records.

This article also includes photographs of the Ashfield Drill Hall, where the Coo-ees stayed overnight on 11th November 1915.

There is also a photograph of one of the purple Coo-ee “badge” ribbons that has been kept in Lieutenant Middenway’s family album.

This journal issue is available from sale for $20.00 plus $10.00 postage and handling from the Ashfield & District Historical Society, PO Box 20, Ashfield, NSW 1800. See their publications page for further information:

[1] ‘General’, Lithgow Mercury, 3 November 1915, p. 2,


New WWI Timeline webpage

New WWI Timeline page

The story of the Coo-ees did not finish with their arrival in Sydney on 12th November 1915 at the end of the Coo-ee March.

One hundred years ago today, on 16th February 1916, the first group of fifteen Coo-ees embarked overseas on active service from Sydney, on the HMAT Ballarat A70.

Stephen and I plan to provide an overview of the Coo-ees’ involvement in the First World War on a WWI Timeline on this website.

We have spent the past few weeks collating the information we have collected on the Coo-ees to create a timeline of their involvement in WWI – what ships they embarked on from Australia to travel to Egypt or England, and for most, on to France to the Western Front, and the dates for those who were casualties. We are also gathering information for other significant events in their service, including information about those Coo-ees who received military awards for their actions.

We plan to tie these details in to the progress of the First World War in the Timeline.

Each month from February 2016 until the end of the centenary of WWI I aim to write a blog entry containing details for what happened regarding the Coo-ees for that month one hundred years’ previously, and add the entry’s details to the new WWI Timeline webpage at

Where names of the Coo-ees are listed in entries, their names will have hyperlinks to their individual records that I have written to date, for further information about each Coo-ee. (For those Coo-ees where I have not yet added an individual entry, I will update the Timeline with the hyperlink for each mention of their name after I complete their entry).

I will also from time to time add names for further Coo-ees to entries, and/or update other information on the WWI Timeline webpage.

For some entries, I will add hyperlinks to letters from the Coo-ees, or newspaper articles, which relate to that particular event or person, or add quotes to the Timeline from these letters and articles, or other sources.

Information will start being added to the WWI Timeline webpage in the next few days…


Postcard from W. H. Saunders sent from Lithgow

W. H. Saunders’ postcard sent from Lithgow to his mother (advising he was sending his port home with his washing)

I recently received a copy of this wonderful postcard that William Hilton Saunders, who was one of the Wongarbon Coo-ees, sent home to his mother Mrs E. J. Saunders at Wongarbon, while the Coo-ees were at Lithgow.

Postcard sent by W. H. Saunders, courtesy of Mrs K. Edmonds

Postcard sent by W. H. Saunders to his mother, courtesy of Mrs K. Edmonds

Back of postcard sent by W. H. Saunders to his mother, courtesy of Mrs K. Edmonds

Back of postcard sent by W. H. Saunders to his mother, courtesy of Mrs K. Edmonds

His grand-daughter has assisted me to transcribe the handwriting on the back of the postcard as follows:

‘Dear Mother

I am sending my port home to-day with a bit of washing & take all the trousers out & only send the pair of grey ones back. There is some grass in a piece of paper that I got out of the church yard at Wang, also keep poetry. We drilled all day yesterday & are leaving today. We might stay a day at Mt Victoria to see the caves.

Had tea with the Lucas girls last night. Lithgow is a very busy place but very smoky & dusty. We camped in the Trades Hall. Have been having all our meals in the military camp here with the other recruits & the grub is pretty rough. Ask Jack Ryan about our flag as we have not received it yet. All the boys are doing well hoping you’re the same also all the other folk.

Fondest love from your fond son Hilton.

[Written across the top left hand corner]

Will write & tell you where to send my port. We were all issued with Dungarees & white hats yesterday. We all look comical’.

The Coo-ees were at Lithgow from Monday 1st November to Wednesday 3rd November 1915. Based on the information W. Hilton Saunders included in the postcard, he wrote it on Wednesday 3rd November (the day the Coo-ees left Lithgow), and the Coo-ees were issued with their blue dungarees and white hats uniforms on Tuesday 2nd November 1915.

The McGregor brothers at Colyton

The McGregor brothers at Colyton

The Farmer and Settler reported that a recruit that joined the Coo-ee March at the village of Colyton on 10th November 1915 ‘… was one of the family of McGregors that has already given five sons to the Empire. As the family said their brave but tearful farewells to the sixth McGregor, all that witnessed that incident realised the fine loyalty of the McGregors…’.[1]

The Sydney Morning Herald, and The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, both reported that at Colyton ‘Here it was that a young man stepped forward at the call for recruits. He was a member of a family – the McGregors – that had already given five sons to the Empire’s cause, and he was the sixth. A little family group bade him farewell, as with some determination he took his place in the ranks…’.[2]

The Inverell Times, and the Glen Innes Examiner, both printed the following story:

'Last of the MacGregors' (The Inverell Times 19/11/1915)

‘Last of the MacGregors’ (The Inverell Times 19/11/1915)

‘As the Gilgandra “Coo-ees” marched out of the little village of Colyton (near Parramatta), Captain Hitchen remarked that more men were wanted. On the word MacGregor stepped forward. By him stood his mother, in tears, for MacGregor is the “last of his tribe.” The “Coo-ees” already had one MacGregor with them; the other four at the front. It was a tense moment; eyes glistened, and even the “Coo-ees,” who had seen many such partings, swallowed hard or looked round at the scenery. But MacGregor—he must be one of “the” MacGregors—was not moved. He took his place, and the column moved off’.[3]

Andrew McGregor (1858-1910) and Alice Mary McGregor (nee Hunt) (1862-1897), who both had died before the First World War, had six sons: Andrew James McGregor (1882-1938) who joined the Coo-ees at Gilgandra; Arthur Ernest McGregor (1884-1969) who signed up to join the Coo-ees at Springwood; William George McGregor (1889-1941) who enlisted in the AIF on 2nd February 1915 (Service no. 2064); Oscar John McGregor (1891-1932) who enlisted in the AIF on 1st July 1915 (Service no. 2886); Frederick Herbert McGregor (1893- 1939)[who does not appear to have enlisted]; and , Charles Henry McGregor (1896-1916) who enlisted in the AIF on 7th May 1915 (Service no. 2657).

It is not known which McGregor brother was reported in the newspapers to have joined the Coo-ees at Colyton on their way from Penrith to Parramatta on Wednesday 10th November 1915.  There was no official count for any recruits joining the Coo-ee March at Colyton.

Three of the brothers (William George McGegor, Oscar John McGregor, and Charles Henry McGregor) had already enlisted earlier in 1915, before the Coo-ee March.

It may possibly have been one of the two brothers who had already joined the Coo-ee March (Andrew James McGregor or Arthur Ernest McGregor), who may have briefly left the march to say goodbye to his family and/or finalize his affairs in Sydney (where both their next of kin lived), before rejoining the march at Colyton.

Alternatively it could possibly have been Frederick Herbert McGregor who may have stepped forward to try and join up to be with his two brothers who had already enlisted in the Coo-ee March, (and his other three brothers who had enlisted earlier in 1915),  and who may then not have passed the medical examination at Parramatta that evening.  Only 27 of the 41 who presented at Parramatta passed the medical examination.

However, only five of the six McGregor brothers appear to have been successful in enlisting in the AIF in the First World War.

A photograph of the five McGregor brothers who enlisted in the AIF was published in the Daily Telegraph on 22nd September 1916.[4]

The McGregor brothers - 2 were Coo-ees (Daily Telegraph, 22/9/1916)

‘McGregor brothers of Glebe’ (Daily Telegraph, 22/9/1916)

The photograph had the caption: ‘(1) Private Arthur E. McGregor, Australian Army Service Corps; (2) Sergeant-Signaller William McGregor, at the front; (3) Private Oscar J. McGregor, at the front; (4) Pioneer Andrew J. McGregor, at the front; (centre), Signaller Charles McGregor, died of wounds”.

If it was Frederick Herbert McGregor who tried to join his two brothers who had already enlisted in the Coo-ee March at Colyton, there is no mention of him in an article about the Coo-ees that was published a year later in the Sunday Times, which reported that ‘Wee McGregor [Andrew James MacGregor], 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 in the ranks – five from one family’.[5]


[1] ‘The Route March : In the Suburbs of Sydney’, The Farmer and Settler, 12 November 1915, p. 3,

[2] ‘Overland. March of the Gilgandra Recruits. Welcome at Parramatta’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 November 1915, p. 9, ; ‘The March from Penrith’, The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 13 November 1915, p. 11,

[3] ‘Last of the MacGregors’, The Inverell Times, 19 November 1915, p. 4, ; ‘Last of the MacGregors’, . (1915, November 15). Glen Innes Examiner, 15 November 1915, p. 5,

[4] ‘McGregor brothers of Glebe’, Daily Telegraph, 22 September 1916, p. 9.

[5] ‘The Coo-ees en route for Berlin : anniversary of their start’, Sunday Times, 8 October 1916, p. 9,