Tag Archives: Arthur Ernest McGregor

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, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116652489

[2] ‘Overland. March of the Gilgandra Recruits. Welcome at Parramatta’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 November 1915, p. 9, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15624001 ; ‘The March from Penrith’, The Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 13 November 1915, p. 11, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article86101787

[3] ‘Last of the MacGregors’, The Inverell Times, 19 November 1915, p. 4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article185649407 ; ‘Last of the MacGregors’, . (1915, November 15). Glen Innes Examiner, 15 November 1915, p. 5, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article184175444

[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, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article121335018


Arthur Ernest MCGREGOR

Arthur Ernest MCGREGOR

Arthur Ernest McGregor (Daily Telegraph 22/9/1916)

Arthur Ernest McGregor (Daily Telegraph 22/9/1916)

Per his military service record (regimental no. 10156), Arthur Ernest McGregor was born at Newtown, N.S.W. He gave his age as 31 years, his marital status as married, and his occupation as baker. His description on his medical was height 5 feet 9 inches tall, weight 10 stone, with a dark complexion, dark blue eyes, and dark hair. His religious denomination was Church of England. He claimed that he had no previous military service. He as attested at Springwood on the 5th November, 1915, then completed his medical at Springwood on the 8th November 1915. The Coo-ees were in Springwood on the night of the 8th November 1915, where they gained 5 recruits, and this date was listed as the “joined on” date on his attestation paper, and also on his embarkation nominal roll.

His older brother Andrew James McGregor was already a recruit on the march, having joined the Coo-ees at the start at Gilgandra. He too was a baker, who had sold his business in Gilgandra to join the Coo-ees.

After completing the march Andrew James McGregor went to Liverpool Camp as reinforcement for the 13th Battalion until 18th February 1916, when he transferred to the 6th Reinforcements for 19th Army Service Corps Company 2nd Field Bakery.

On his embarkation roll his address at time of enrolment was 10 Fairmount Street, Petersham N.S.W., and his next of kin is listed as his Aunt, Mrs. B. H. Campbell, at the same address.

On 5th May 1916 Private McGregor departed Sydney on the HMAT Karroo A10, arriving in Egypt on the 7th June 1916.

On the 10th July 1916 he embarked for Marseilles on the transport Tunisean, arriving on 16th July 1916. He marched into 2nd Division B Depot at Etaples on 19th July 1916.

On the 29th July 1916 he was taken on strength as reinforcement to the 2nd Field Bakery at Calais.

On 21st November he was admitted to hospital sick, and evacuated to England on 5th December 1916. He was admitted to the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital in England on 14th December 1915. He was discharged to Perham Downs on furlough from 29th December 1916 to 13th January 1917.

On 30th January 1917 he marched in from No. 1 Command Depot to R.S.C. Training Depot at Parkhouse. He proceeded overseas with A.S.C. reinforcements from Folkstone on 25th February 1917, and marched into No. 2 Base Supply Depot at Etaples on 27th February 1917. On 30th March 1917 he was posted to the 2nd Field Bakery at Rouen.

On 8th July 1917 he proceeded on leave to the United Kingdom.  He rejoined his unit in France on 19th July 1917.

He went on leave again to the UK from 12th September 1918 to 26th September 1918.

On 12th December 1918 he went to hospital at Rouen sick, then was discharged to duty on 14th December 1918.

On 12th March 1919 he left Havre in France for England.

He was granted leave from 9th April 1919 to 9th September 1919 to make confectionary in London (non military employment), however this leave was cancelled on 12th June 1919, and he returned to 2nd Field Bakery on 8th July 1919.

He began his return to Australia on HT Persic on 13th July 1919, arriving in Australia on 2nd September 1919. He was discharged on 1st February 1920.

The Coo-ees at Colyton (on their way from Penrith to Parramatta)

The Coo-ees at Colyton (on their way from Penrith to Parramatta)

On Wednesday 10th November 1915, the Coo-ees left Penrith to march the four miles to St. Marys, arriving at about 8.30 am.[1]  There they ate an elaborate breakfast on tables under the shade of the trees in Victoria Park, prepared by the ladies of St. Marys. Here they gained another recruit, Samuel Luke, a 38 year old single labourer who had lived on Mamre Road with his mother and stepfather.[2] (His name is listed on the St. Marys War Memorial in Victoria Park in St. Marys).

At 10 am the Coo-ees left St. Marys and travelled down the historic Western Road (now the Great Western Highway) to the village of Colyton, where they were presented with a sum of money which had been collected by the Colyton school children, and presented with a tanned sheepskin vest which the headmaster Mr Aston had arranged.[3]

The Nepean Times reported that at Colyton ‘another recruit, viz Mr J Barnett, joined’.[4] I found no service record for a J. Barnett joining the Coo-ees at Colyton, but did find a 1919 article in the Nepean Times which reports on a welcome home speech for a returned soldier – Driver Clarrie Barnett – given by Mr J Aston, headmaster of Colyton Public School where the returned soldier had been a student, whom he described as having ‘linked up with the Coo-ees when they passed through Colyton’.[5] Clarrie (Clarence Roy) Barnett, who had been a 21 year old bank teller from Mount Druitt, had signed his attestation paper in his service record at Liverpool on the 10th November 1915. So it appears he was a Coo-ee “for a day”, marching out of Colyton with the Coo-ees when they left that village, then making his own way further down the road to Liverpool Camp to enlist that same day.

The Farmer and Settler reported that a recruit that joined at Colyton ‘was one of the family of McGregors that has already given five sons to the Empire, and that ‘as the family said their brave but tearful farewells to the sixth McGregor, all that witnessed the incident realised the fine loyalty of the McGregors’.[6]

I have only found service records for five of these six McGregor brothers, who were the sons of Andrew and Alice M. McGregor. The photograph below shows the five sons who enlisted.

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

The McGregor brothers – 2 were Coo-ees [top left, bottom right]  (Daily Telegraph, 22/9/1916)

Two of these brothers joined the Coo-ee March – Arthur Ernest McGregor who signed his attestation paper at Springwood on the 8th November 1915 (when the Coo-ees were at Springwood), and Andrew James McGregor (the eldest), who joined the Coo-ees at the start of the march at Gilgandra. Both were married, and both their families were living in Sydney at the time, so it appears that one of them left the march temporarily and then rejoined the march at Colyton, accompanied by some family members to see them off.

After leaving Colyton the Coo-ees marched to Eastern Creek, where they were met by the President of Blacktown Shire Council, Col. Pringle, and Cr. James Angus, who was president of the local recruiting committee, and had lunch provided by the ladies of Rooty Hill and Eastern Creek in the Walgrove school grounds.[7]

The Coo-ees then proceeded to Prospect and on to Parramatta.


[1] ‘St. Marys’, Nepean Times, 13 November, 1915, p. 6, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article86168744

[2] ‘The St. Marys Fatality’, Nepean Times, 24 January, 1914, p. 8, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article86169108

[3] ‘St. Marys’, Nepean Times, 13 November, 1915, p. 6, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article86168744

[4] ‘St. Marys’, Nepean Times, 13 November, 1915, p. 6, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article86168744

[5] ‘Mount Druitt’, Nepean Times, 9 August, 1919, p. 4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article86190825

[6] ‘The Route March : In the suburbs of Sydney’, The Farmer and Settler, 12 November, 1915, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116652489

[7] 1915 ‘The Route March : In the suburbs of Sydney’, The Farmer and Settler (Sydney, NSW : 1906 – 1957), 12 November, p. 3, viewed 21 April, 2015, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116652489


Anniversary of their start

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

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.

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.

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.

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.’