Tag Archives: Charles E. Marchant

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:


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


Charles Edmond MARCHANT

Charles Edmond MARCHANT


Private Charles Marchant (Sunday Times, 8/10/1916)

Private Charles Marchant (Sunday Times, 8/10/1916)

Per his military service record (regimental no. 4848), Charles Edmond Marchant was born at Mundooran, N.S.W. He gave his age as 21 years and 9 months, his marital status as single, and his occupation as farmer. His description on his medical was height 5 feet 8 inches tall, weight 11 stone 4 lbs., with a dark complexion, grey or brown eyes, and dark hair. His religious denomination was Anglican. He claimed that he had no previous military service. He completed his medical on the 9th October 1915 at Gilgandra, and was attested at Gilgandra by Captain Nicholas on the 9th October 1915.

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

On his embarkation roll his name is listed as Charles Edward Marchant. His address as time of enrolment was Warrenderi, Tooraweemah [Tooraweenah] Road, Gilgandra N.S.W., and his next of kin is listed as his father, E. Marchant, Warrenderi, Tooraweemah Road, Gilgandra, N.S.W.

On 8th March 1916 Private Marchant departed Sydney with many of the other Coo-ees on the HMAT Star of England, arriving in Egypt on the 11th April 1916.

On the 19th April 1916 he was taken on strength of the 45th Battalion.

Private Marchant received an accidental gun shot wound to the left elbow at Serapeum in Egypt on the 14th May 1916. According to an article in the Dubbo Liberal (29/8/1916, p. 2), While in Egypt he has the misfortune to meet with an accident two days before he was to have left for France. He was in the act of taking his rifle from the parapet, when it caught in a sand-bag and accidentally exploded, the bullet striking him on the left arm, splintering the bone.

He was hospitalized at No. 1 Australian Stationary Hospital at Ismailia on 15th May 1916, then sent to No. 3 Australian General Hospital at Abbassia on the 19th May 1916. He was then transferred to the Hospital Ship Karoola on the 5th July 1916 with a compound fracture of left humerus involving elbow joint, and returned to Australia.

He was medically discharged on the 13th September 1916.

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.’


Ernest SIMPSON (aka C. A. SIMPSON)

Ernest Simpson (aka C. A. Simpson)

One of the men who lined up to join the Coo-ee March at Gilgandra has been listed as “C. A. Simpson” on the Cooee March Memorial Park gateway in Gilgandra, and in the book The Coo-ee March by John Meredith (1981).

Simpson was incorrectly named as “C. Simpson” in a photo published in the Daily Telegraph (pictured on left below), which possibly lead to the incorrect initials being assigned to him.


Paraded for medical inspection … (left to right): Messrs. C. Simpson, C. Finn, C. Marchant, and J. R. Lee (Daily Telegraph, 11/10/1915)

An article in The Farmer and Settler (19 October 1915, p. 3) reported that ‘In addition to the men sworn in at Gilgandra and at towns en route, the great march column numbers: … Simpson, temporarily unfit, but hoping to pass the doctor in Sydney’.[1]  Further down the same page is reported: ‘One of the men marching to Sydney has failed to pass the doctor. He waited for three weeks in Gilgandra, paying his own hotel expenses, and then when he stripped off for the medical inspection he was “turned down” for hernia. He is physically the strongest man that has offered, and, is otherwise “as sound as a bell”. He intends to march to Sydney, undergo an operation upon arrival, and submit himself again’.[2]

A chance review last week of a document held in the official correspondence from the march held in the Mitchell Library, which lists an “E. Simpson” with a period of enlistment from “9/10 to 11/11/15” with other Coo-ees still waiting for payment for their period of service who had been rejected as medically unfit on arrival at Liverpool Camp,  has enabled his identity to be established.[3]

Knowing the correct initial for his first name, and that he had actually enlisted,  allowed for his service record to be located on the National Archives of Australia website. He is listed under the name Ernest Simpson, joining on 9th October 1915, at Gilgandra. He was born in Horsham, Victoria, and gave his age as 33 years, and his occupation as labourer. There are no details entered for his description on his medical certificate form in his service record papers.  His next of kin is listed as his father, Duncan Simpson, Renmark, South Australia.

On the ‘Detailed medical history of an invalid’ form in his service record dated 17th November 1915 at Liverpool, he was found by the medical board to have a double inguinal hernia, and to be unfit for military service.  He was medically discharged on 29th November 1915.

[1] ‘Route March notes’, The Farmer and Settler, 19 October, 1915, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116648915

[2] ‘Failed to pass the doctor’, The Farmer and Settler, 19 October, 1915, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116648912

[3] The Alex Halden (Joe) Miller papers mainly relating to the Gilgandra Coo-ee Recruitment March, New South Wales, 1912-1921, 1939, MLMSS 5081


Day 1, Sunday, 10th October, 1915, Gilgandra to Balladoran

The start at Gilgandra (Daily Telegraph 12/10/1915)

The start at Gilgandra (Daily Telegraph 12/10/1915)

Transcribed from The Farmer and Settler, 12 October, 1915, p. 3.


Gilgandra’s greatest of all events, the start of the route march, became a fact of history on Sunday last, when the contingent after a simple religious ceremony stepped out on its long march to the coast.

On Saturday, when the ‘Farmer and Settler’ special reporter, who will march to Sydney, arrived at Gilgandra, he found Captain Nicholas and Drs. Burkitt and Cooper, of Dubbo, on the ground. Captain Nicholas has been appointed to take charge of the contingent, and be will be their leader and instructor all the way through to Sydney.

On Saturday afternoon twenty-five recruits were sworn in. Two failed to pass the doctor, but they will march through to the coast nevertheless. The number of recruits would have been double if the recruiting association had not been compelled to wait so long for the permission of the military authorities, the result being that many men grew tired of waiting, and went into camp. The doctor said that the Gilgandra men were as fine a body of recruits as he had seen, with good feet and sound constitutions. On Saturday night a torchlight procession paraded the town, headed by the band. The recruits were followed by the rifle club and the boy scouts. In the interval of a picture show, Major Winn, of Sydney, and Private Lee, the ex-clergyman recruit, made special appeals to the young men to volunteer.

There were fully three thousand persons, almost the whole population of the district, at the open-air consecration service on Sunday morning, when the Rev. W. Jenkins commended the men to their Creator.

The shire president, Mr. Barden, said he was sure that the twenty-five starting out would be five hundred at the end of the long march. Almost the whole of the people, the largest gathering ever seen at Gilgandra, accompanied the march to Boberah, where a general programme of hand-shaking took place. A guard of honor of young horsewomen   rode at the head of the procession, and the local recruiting association and shire councillors took part. Captain Nicholas formed up his little force — grown already to thirty-one men; and Mr. W. T. Hitchens had the honor of giving the first words of command–‘Quick march.’ Amid resounding cheers the route march had begun, and it was followed for several miles of its long journey, by a great cavalcade of horses and vehicles. Then there was a halt, with more good-byes, more cheers, and the rifle club fired a parting volley.

The heat was intense, and the dust hung over the troops like a pillar of cloud — a fiery cloud, so that when the first stop, Marthaguy, was reached, all were grateful for the lunch spread by the residents, and not less for the facilities provided for a wash and a freshen up. At Marthaguy one new recruit fell in. Many of the Gilgandra folk still followed the column. The young daughter of a prominent citizen left her car and marched alongside the men for some distance; she announced her intention of being present in Martin Place at the finish, and declared that if she had been a boy she would have marched all the way, and gone to the front with the contingent. It is a pity that some of the boys have not the spirit of the girls.

Patriotic sons of the West. A 320 mile march (Sydney Mail 20/10/1915)

‘Patriotic sons of the West. A 320 mile march’ – Coo-ees on the road to Balladoran (Sydney Mail 20/10/1915)

At Balladoran the townspeople met the column a mile out of town and escorted them to their camp with banners, and gave them a hearty welcome. The camp was reached at five o’clock, and here another recruit joined the column.

Following are the names of the first twenty-five to enlist:–

John Quinn, John Macnamara, Stanley E. Stephens, Jack Hunt, William L. Hunt, Albert W. Pearce, Leslie W. Greenleaf, Arthur C. Finn, Francis N. White, Alfred Wardroffe, Victor Quinton, William Alston, Sidney Bennett, John R. Lee, Harold Baxter, Charles R. Wheeler, E. T. Hitchen, James McKeown, James Crowford, Charles E. Marchant, Andrew J. MacGregor, Lawrence L. McGuire, Robert C. Campbell, Peter Wilson, and Frank Humphrey.’

Click here to view the article on Trove: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116668904