Tag Archives: Ernest May

Letter from W. H. Saunders to his sister

Extract from a letter written by William Hilton Saunders sent to his sister Doris in Wongarbon, which was published in an article titled ‘Letters from the Front. Driver H. Saunders’ in the Wellington Times, 16 October, 1916, p. 2.

From Driver H. Saunders, (“Somewhere in France,” 13th August, 1916), to his sister, Miss Saunders, at Wongarbon:—
This is only my second letter from France, although I have sent several field service cards and a packet of fancy P.C.’s. I feel almost ashamed of myself to think I have been about two months over here and only written twice because I can just imagine how you all watch the incoming mails for a letter from “someone in France.” I hope you have received all my letters O.K. I wrote one from Serapeum, containing 17 pages; let me know if you got it alright. The only mail I have received since coming to France was a couple of papers on July 2nd and about three days ago three letters from Australia, all dated 11th July. I can tell you, Dot, I was some pleased, and felt about six months younger. I had just read the letters, and walked down the village, when who should I meet but Will Collyer. He had just arrived from England with some reinforcements, and was getting fixed up at headquarters. He looks well and was very pleased to see me. He was in England for about two months, and has had a good time.

… I saw Don Stewart and a few more of the 13th boys, including Les Anelzark [sic] and Will Robinson, also saw Mr. McKillop, one of our 13th Batt. Lieutenants. Well, Doris, we have been in action, and I had my first experience of shell fire. Fritz shelled four of our waggons one day, and one of our mules was hit in the leg and destroyed. ‘Twas in broad daylight, and when we started to get away a high explosive landed on the road 2 feet behind our waggon. It was fairly close, but although we got covered in mud and dirt, and the explosion lifted the timber about 2 feet in the air, nobody was hurt. It made my ears ring for a while, but although I have been up amongst the batteries with a bombardment in full swing, I have not felt the slightest effect. It is a very pretty and fascinating sight to watch the star shells and shrapnel bursting at night time; the sky is as bright as day, and it always reminds me of some gigantic industrial enterprise with the roaring of the cannon and rattle of machine guns representing the machinery. Our job is not a very dangerous one, but the closer we are to the line the more interesting it becomes. We are now a good many miles away from the roar of the big guns, in a quiet and secluded little village, about 10 miles from anywhere   and somewhere in France, so now, you, by that detailed description of our position, should know exactly where we are camped. (Rats.) We are resting, but expect to be doing another “shove” in the “big push” before very long, and although we have a fair weight to push, the muscle of our chaps will tell in the end, and you will be laying the table for five instead of four as is now the case. Ernie May is still with us, and looks splendid. He is quite fat and looks better now than I have ever seen him. There is no doubt this is a great life, and a healthy one. I will get my photo taken one of these days and send you a couple.

… Mack is in one of the mortar batteries, but I have not had a line from him. I have not received the parcel Mum mentioned, but I suppose it will turn up some day. How are all the home folk? I hope they are all well. I believe it is very cold at home this winter. The weather is lovely in beautiful France, but of course it is summer time now. Well, Doris, I must close now as space is limited. Best wishes to all my friends.”

Click here to view this article in Trove:http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article137408900

 [Note: William Collyer, “Mack” Wilfred Ernest McDonald, and Ernest May were other Coo-ees from Wongarbon. Donald Stewart was a Coo-ee from Wellington. Leslie Anlezark was a Coo-ee from Orange].

Wilfred Ernest MCDONALD

Wilfred Ernest MCDONALD

W. Hilton Saunders, Ernest May, and Wilfred McDonald, at Dubbo, ca. Dec. 1915 (Photograph courtesy of Macquarie Regional Library)

W. Hilton Saunders, Ernest May, and Wilfred McDonald, at Dubbo, ca. Dec. 1915 (Photograph courtesy of Macquarie Regional Library)

Per his military service record (regimental no. 4858), Wilfred Ernest McDonald was born at Dubbo, N.S.W. He gave his age as 21 years and 1 month, his marital status as single, and his occupation as laborer. He claimed that he had no previous military service. His description on his medical was height 5 feet 6 ½ inches tall, weight 9 stone 2 lbs., with a fair complexion, greenish grey eyes, and fair hair. His religious denomination was Anglican. He completed his medical on the 8th October at Gilgandra before the beginning of the march.

He was one of the thirteen men who stepped forward and gave his name, ‘either to march under Captain Nicholas, or to come after harvest’, when the Coo-ees recruited in Wongarbon on 14th October 1915.[1] He was attested at Stuart Town on 19th October 1915.

After completing the march he went to Liverpool Camp as reinforcement for the 13th Battalion.

On his embarkation roll his address at time of enrolment was Wongarbon, N.S.W., and his next of kin is listed as his father, H. G. McDonald, Wongarbon, N.S.W.

Private McDonald departed Sydney on the HMAT Star of England on the 8th of March 1916. He arrived in Egypt on the 11th of April 1916. On the 16th of April 1916 he transferred to the 4th Division Artillery at Telelkebir. On the 27th May 1916 he was taken on strength of the 4th Division Ammunition Column.

On the 6th June 1916 Gunner McDonald left Alexandria aboard HMT Oriana, bound for France, arriving at Marseille on the 13th June 1916.

On the 25th June 1916 Gunner McDonald was transferred to the V4 Heavy Trench Mortar Battery.

On the 10th October 1916 Gunner McDonald was admitted to the 4th Australian Field Ambulance with conjunctivitis to his right eye. He was sent back to the 3rd Casualty Clearance station on the 11th October 1916 then to the 15th Casualty Clearance Station at Hazebrouck on the 12th October 1916. On the 20th October 1916 he was sent back to the 13th Stationary Hospital at Boulogne. On the 26th October 1916 Gunner McDonald was admitted to the 26th General Hospital at Etaples suffering a corneal ulcer. On the 10th November 1916 he was transferred to the 6th Convalescent Depot also at Etaples then on the 23rd November 1916 he was readmitted to the 26th General Hospital with Influenza. On the 27th November 1916 he was sent back to the 6th Convalescent Depot then on the 1st December 1916 he was transferred to the 5th Convalescent Depot at Cayeux. On the 22nd December 1916 Gunner McDonald rejoined his Unit.

On the 2nd of February 1917 Gunner McDonald was charged with ‘’Disobeying in such a manner as to show a wilful defiance of authority a lawful command given personally by his superior officer in the execution of his office’’. A Field General Court Martial was held on the 17th February 1917 where Gunner McDonald was found guilty. He was sentenced to Five years Penal Servitude. On the 25th February 1917 the sentence was suspended.

On the 3rd of May 1917 Gunner McDonald was with his unit occupying a position between Ecoust and Bullecourt in France, preparing to support an attack, when they came under heavy German artillery fire. The store of mortar bombs was struck during this bombardment and exploded, destroying all the battery weapons and equipment. A total of 9 men were killed, 14 were wounded, 8 suffered shell shock and 16 were reported Missing In Action. Gunner McDonald was amongst the missing. This status was later amended to Killed In Action. His name is listed on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial.

His name is also listed on the Dubbo War Memorial, and the Wongarbon Soldiers Memorial.

[1] ‘The Route March’, The Farmer and Settler, 19 October 1915, p. 3.

Bombardier E. C. N. May – letter home

Extract from a letter titled ‘Bombar[d]ier E. C. N. May’, published in the Wellington Times, 14 September, 1916, p. 3.


Bombardier E. C. N. May writes to his parents and sisters at Wongarbon from France (9/7/16) as follows:— Received your welcome letter, dated 19/4/16, also one from Mr. W. Moore, and two from Ida. I am always pleased to hear from my friends, but I am sure the majority of my letters go astray or are probably lying in some base.

Well, parents, I have been in France now nearly a month, and I am now well within the war zone area. The 4th D.A.C. are doing their bit. I have experienced shell fire while taking ammunition to the battery, and so far came off lucky. …

I’ve just been away drawing rations. I saw H. Saunders, he is O.K.; he is in No. 1 section. A. Eschelon. Aeroplanes are a common sight here, and are seen at all times during the day, and at night the bursting shrapnel in the sky denotes that aircraft are busy. I have sent you many French post cards and curios, and have others already on the way home. Kindly remember me to all enquiring friends. I am quite well and pray you are all the same at home, and that you still keep hopeful of my return. I may add we are now moving off again, and I’ve no time for writing more, so now, dear parents and sisters, farewell.”

Click here to view the article on Trove: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article137416072

Ernest Charles Norman MAY

Ernest Charles Norman MAY

Ernest May (Photograph courtesy of  M. Baxter)

Ernest May (Photograph courtesy of Mrs M. Baxter)

Per his military service record (regimental no. 4851), Ernest Charles Norman May was born at Wongarbon, N.S.W. He gave his age as 23 years, his marital status as single, and his occupation as laborer. His description on his medical was height 5 feet 8 inches tall, weight 145 lbs., with a fair complexion, brown eyes, and brown hair. His religious denomination was Church of England. He was one of the thirteen men who stepped forward and gave his name, ‘either to march under Captain Nicholas, or to come after harvest’, when the Coo-ees recruited in Wongarbon on 14th October 1915.[1] However, he did not undertake his medical until 24th of October 1915 at Orange, where he also was attested. A note on the top of his service record said he ‘presented at Orange 24/10/15’. He claimed previous military service as a member of the Wongarbon Rifle Club.

After completing the remainder of the march he went to Liverpool Camp as reinforcement for the 13th Battalion.

On his embarkation roll his address at time of enrolment was Wongarbon, N.S.W., and his next of kin is listed as his father, C. May, Wongarbon, N.S.W.

Private May departed Sydney on the HMAT Star of England on the 8th of March 1916. He arrived in Egypt on the 11th of April 1916. On the 16th of April 1916 he transferred to the 4th Division Artillery at Telelkebir, and was taken on strength of the 10th Field Artillery Brigade. On the 23rd of May 1916 he was taken on strength of the 4th Division Ammunition Column. On the 27th of May 1916 he was promoted to Bombardier.

On the 6th of June 1916 Bombardier May left Alexandria aboard HMT Oriana, bound for France, arriving at Marseille on the 13th June 1916.

On the 21st February 1917 Bombardier May transferred to the 1st Ammunition Sub Park and was reclassified a Private. On the 27th September 1917 he was reclassified a Driver Motor Transport.

On the 25th February 1918 Driver May was granted leave to the United Kingdom. He re-joined his unit in France on the 11th March 1918.

On the 12th March 1918 Driver May was taken on strength of the 1st Australian Division Motor Transport Company.

On the 7th March 1919 he was promoted to Lance Corporal. On the 23rd March 1919 he was promoted to Corporal. On the 9th April 1919. Corporal May was granted leave to the United Kingdom. He returned to his unit on the 21st April 1919. On the 20th May 1919 Corporal May was transferred to the 2nd Division Motor Transport Company.

On the 8th June 1919 Corporal May was admitted to the 20th Casualty Clearance Station sick with herpes zoster (shingles). On the 15th June 1919 he was transferred to the 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital. On the 18th June 1919 Corporal May was granted leave. On the 2nd July 1919 Corporal May reported to Headquarters Number 2 Group Sutton Veny.

Corporal May returned to Australia aboard the transport Takada, leaving England on the 18th July 1919, and disembarking at Sydney on the 7th September 1919. He was discharged on the 25th November 1919.

[1] ‘The Route March’, The Farmer and Settler, 19 October 1915, p. 3.

Letter from W. H. Saunders about HMAT Star of England voyage and arrival in Egypt 1916

Letter from W. H. Saunders about his voyage on HMAT A15 Star of England ,and arrival in Egypt, 1916

Most of the Coo-ees were transported from Sydney to Egypt on the troopship HMAT A15 Star of England, which embarked from Sydney on the 8th March 1916.  A photograph of the ship from an earlier voyage is pictured below.

Details about this voyage were included in a letter William Hilton Saunders (a Coo-ee from Wongarbon) wrote to his parents, which has been transcribed below. The undated letter was published in an article titled ‘Australians in Action. Letters from the Front’ in the Wellington Times, 29 June 1916, p. 3.

Troopship, HMAT A15 Star of England at the docks, 1914 [on an earlier voyage]. Photo courtesy of: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Image number: APE-039-01-0009

 ‘Australians in Action.
Letters from the Front.
… Driver Hilton Saunders, son of Mr. and Mrs. E. J. Saunders, of Wongarbon, writes as follows to his parents:—
I am still O.K., and still enjoying the happy-go-lucky life of an Australian soldier. I have now settled down to camp life after having had a most enjoyable trip over the water from Sydney. There is no doubt it was a lovely trip from the very day we left Sydney till we landed in Port Said. I will try and give you a brief description of some of some of our experiences and the sight we saw.

To begin with I will give you an idea of how calm the sea is in the tropics at times. Well at times it has the appearance of a very calm lake with not even a ripple on the surface except those made by the troopship. I was simply entranced when I first noticed it, and I began to imagine I was once again out on one of the Great Western Plains with a mirage dancing before my eyes; for such it resembled. You have not the slightest idea of what it looks like. The whole spectacle was a revelation to me, because I did not think the restless ocean could be so calm and placid. Then towards evening one sees more grandeur presented by nature in the form of sunset. One sunset in particular presented a very fine spectacle. Viewed from the troopship it looked like a vast work of art featuring an undulating landscape dotted with spreading trees, vegetation, lakes, and rivers. At first the whole scene was of a greyish tinge, but gradually changed to a reddish glow; giving the appearance of a bush fire raging amongst the timber in its midst. Certainly one of the most picturesque sights that has come my way since leaving Sydney. Well, mother dear, I will not weary you with descriptions of tropical sunsets, etc., but will tell you a few of the happenings on the way to Ceylon. Well, after leaving Sydney, we hugged the coast for a few days, and then lost sight of land till we hit the West Australian coast, somewhere about Cape Leeuwin. We only got a glimpse of the hazy coast line, and many were the speculations regarding our chances of landing at Fremantle. However, we were doomed to disappointment, for when we looked out next morning (Thursday 16th), all that met our gaze was an endless waste of water. Nothing very eventful happened on the way to Colombo, not even when crossing the “line” because the Colonel, for certain reasons, would not allow any celebrations to take place. On Saturday, 25th, at about 8 a.m., we sighted the coast of Ceylon. Everyone was happy and excited, because it meant, to most of us, our first glimpse of foreign land. We hugged the coast all day and dropped anchor inside the breakwater at sundown. All along the coast are to be seen hundreds of natives out in their little boats catching fish. These boats are very comical little structures cut out of a log of wood. They are about as long as one of our rowing boats at home, and just wide enough for the natives to sit in, which means about 14 or 15 inches. They have another piece of wood the same length as the boat itself, and this is lashed to the side with two pieces of bamboo and some rope. They are said to be very safe even in very heavy weather. Nearly all of them carry from two to eleven natives. Colombo has not a natural harbour, so three breakwaters had to be built at a total expenditure of £1,000, 000, and no doubt it is a wonderful piece of engineering. We were hardly stationary before the native coolies were swarming round the boat on barges loaded with coal. Of course, they don’t load coal in Columbo with the assistance of machinery the same as they do in Newcastle, but everything has to be done by black labor. These follows are a very dirty low-bred class of men, very small and thin, but very wiry. They bring 50 tons of coal in each barge, and it is all packed in bags, just the same as onion bags. The barges are brought up along-side the ship by a tug and made fast then after a lot of jabbering the loading begins. A kind of staging or scaffolding is rigged on the ship’s side in tiers, two men standing on each tier.
Each bag is lifted separately from the barge to the men on the lower stage, and so on till it reaches the deck, then two more men place it on the shoulders of a native, who carries it to the bunker hatch, and drops it in. Simple enough on paper, but in practice very hard work, and I, for one, would not care about taking it on for twenty times as much as the nigger gets (about 1s. per day). This coaling was carried on all day and all night for two nights and a day from either side of the ship, so you can guess what a state everything was in from coal dust. It seemed to penetrate everything on board, and we were continually washing ourselves, but were always dirty; in fact, it was with difficulty that our officers picked us out from the Cin- galese. On Sunday morning we all had an early breakfast, and half the boys went ashore in lighters towed by a tug at 7.30 a.m. The remainder including the Coo-ees, went off at 10 a.m., when the others came back. We were marched round the town through the main streets, and down past the military barracks along the promenade to the Grand Hotel. Then we turned round and marched back again to the barracks, were we broke off for about three-quarters of an hour, and were treated to cool drinks. We were not allowed to leave the grounds, but there were dozens of natives selling fruits, silks, postcards, curios, etc. Fruit is very cheap, and bananas can be bought about ten dozen on a bunch for 1s., cocoanuts and pineapples 1d. each. Needless to say we all speculated to a great extent in fruit, which was a welcome luxury to us after being so long without it. Nearly all the Ceylon goods are fairly cheap, but anything of English manufacture is dear. The natives have their own way of doing business, and deal very much the same as the Arabs of Egypt. They will ask 8s. for an article which can be bought after a little barnying for about 1s. 6d.   Cigars can be bought in Columbo from ls. 6d. to 5s. per box of 50, and they are real good one’s too. Everybody has something to sell from the oldest man down to the smallest boy. They are also the greatest “hums” under the sun, and I think they are taught to beg before they are out of their cradles, and thieves is no name for them; why they would steal the milk out of your tea while you were looking on. Well, when we had had a rest and eaten nearly all the fruit about the town, we were marched back to the wharf and taken back to our ship (2.30 p.m.). Everybody was disappointed at not be-ing given a free hand to see the town, and a lot of them managed to get back to shore the same night in coal barges, although a strict watch was kept by officers, guards, and native harbour police. I myself was down in the middle of a dirty old coal barge once or twice, but was always shrewd enough to get caught and hunted back on the beat. Next morning I went for a swim alongside the troopship, and among others got very sunburnt on the shoulders and arms. After lunch Mac, Ernie, Will Collyer, and a lot more of us got down a rope (very much against the rules) on to a water barge which was just about to leave for the shore for another supply of water. Once on shore again we began to look about and enjoy ourselves. First of all we had a look around the Customs Offices and wharves; everything here is done by the natives; office work and every-thing. Then we made our way down to the markets, which are a series of shops ranging in size from a small room about 4 by 4 feet to larger and better kept places. The streets leading through the markets are only about 14 or 15 feet wide, and are lined from one end to the other with carts or drays drawn by oxen which are very different to the cattle of our climes; they are only about the size of an 18-months’ old steer, and have a small hump on the top of their shoulders, very much resembling a buffalo in miniature. They are capable of pulling a fairly large load, and if there is one of these oxen-drawn carts in Columbo, well there must be two or three hundred. Everything imaginable is sold in these markets, fruit, vegetables, nuts, flowers, curios, drinks, clothing, birds, monkeys, etc. We did not speculate in the wares because the shops are absolutely filthy in general; so filthy that we had to hold our noses while walking past some of the shops. Of course, there are some as fine shops as I have seen anywhere. One, for instance, Cargills, Ltd., which is situated on a corner just up about 100 yards from the wharf is just as up-to-date as Anthony Hordern’s, only, of course, it is not as big. Almost anything can be bought at Cargills, including all the goods and luxuries specially manufactured for the tropics. The labor employed is mostly white, and there are hundreds of large electric fans running all day to keep the building cool. Then there is the Bristol Hotel, which was built about 200 years ago by the Spaniards, and is a beautiful big building and very comfortable inside. There is also the Grand Hotel, which is situated about 60 yards from the beach, and overlooking the Indian ocean; no doubt a beautiful hotel, and equal in comforts and cuisine to any hotel in Sydney. After seeing a few more of the principal buildings such as the post office, Mosque, Town Hall, etc., we went to the railway station and saw a train go out. From there we went and had a ride in one of the electric trams, which are very much the same as our own with the exception that they are driven by niggers (instead of whites), who are dressed in a kind of light khaki uniform. Charlie Gardiner and I then hired a rickshaw each and went for a ride all over the town again. The day being very hot, my nag began to perspire very freely, but nothing daunted kept up his steady trot, and when he happened to slacken down a little I would break a banana off the bunch I had with me, and hit him in the middle of the back. Off he’d dart again as if stung by a hornet or some other equally venomous insect. To see these fellows trotting down the street they look for all the world like emus, and many were the memories recalled to mind of the Western Plains, when I saw them for the first time. Most of the niggers who pull a rickshaw are very fine indeed, and it is almost possible to hear your pal change his mind on the opposite side of one of them. On our arrival back at the wharf we were making preparations to go aboard when lo and behold! and much to our dismay, the Star of England was just clearing the breakwater. The niggers absolutely refused to take us outside the breakwater to her, so we did not know what to do. We could see the boat outside the harbour steaming slowly, but did not know whether she was going to wait for us, or go straight on, so after a bit of consultation among ourselves we came to the conclusion that she would not wait because a troopship before us had gone off leaving over a hundred men behind to be taken on by another steamer following in a few days. Damp were our spirits, but “ne use for to cry,” so we decided to make the best of a bad thing, and contented ourselves by eating bananas and dried-figs, and discussing the future. However, after going out about a mile our ship “hove to” and dropped anchor (much to our joy), and we were taken out to her in a pilot launch. Our names were taken, but nothing happened to any of our company, although a few of another company were carpeted and fined £5 or 28 days’ detention for breaking ship. After everything turned out alright I was, in a way, glad that we missed the boat, because it gave us a bit of a lesson in punctuality. We left Columbo about 1 a.m. on Tuesday, and passed Aden about lunch time on April 4th, but did not call. The sun was very hot on April 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th, just as we were entering the Red Sea. I think the passage is called “Hell’s Gates,” and it is well named. After passing well into the Red Sea the weather began to get very much cooler. On Sunday morning, the 9th, we arrived at Suez at about 5.30 a.m., and left the same afternoon at sundown for Port Said, where we arrived early on the morning of the 10th, on Dorrie’s birthday. We had the bad luck to go through the Suez Canal at night time, and, of course, could not see very much of the scenery if there is any, but I think all that is to be seen is sand, and, of course, the bitter lakes. As soon as we dropped anchor the niggers commenced coaling, but they work very differently to the Cingalese. The coal is brought to the ship’s side in barges, and two long planks are laid from the barge to the ship; the coal is shovelled into baskets which are just the same as a carpenter’s tool carrier, and then these baskets are carried up one plank on the shoulders of coolies, who tip the coal down into the bunker hatch, and race back as quickly as possible down the other plank for another load, which is already waiting for them. They are yelling the whole time this is going on, and it is hard to hear yourself speak where they are working. They remind one of black ants, as they rush backwards and forwards with their grimy loads, but they are great workers, and do twice as much work as the Cingalese. Port Said is said to be the fastest coaling port in the world, and I don’t doubt it the way these niggers work. We were taken ashore on Tuesday morning, and taken straight to camp at Tel-el-Kebir, where we were quartered for a week only. While there I met Corporal Jack Clements when he arrived from Australia, also met Jack Hives in the Light Horse Camp. He looks well, and seems quite contented. We had a long yarn. Since coming here I have met several Dubbo chaps. There is one chap in our tent named Arthur Kidby from ‘Wait-a-While,’ just out of Dubbo, also another chap who was out on Condon’s place when Mr. Condon first came to Wongarbon. He brought his horses over for him. Aubrey Field is also in the 46th battery. I saw Len Butcher here to-day. He brought some horses from Luna Park at Heliopolis to our battery. Roy Stanbridge, who used to be with Dick Skuthorpe, was with Len, and they both look well. Roy is breaking in horses and mules in the remount unit. A couple of days ago somo artillery chaps came here from Cairo, and amongst them was Arthur Roche, who after being wounded, was sent to England, where he has been for the last eight months, and only came back about three weeks ago. He is in one of the batteries, and wishes to be re-membered to Uncle J. Dunn, etc. On Sunday afternoon I walked into the coffee canteen, and who should be there but Alf. McLean, of Orange. He went down to Sydney with us, and afterwards joined the 1st A.L.H. He came over since we did, and was up here visiting his brother. I have not struck Roy Bowling or Uel Armstrong, Lou Lassers, or the Spencer boys yet, but I know where Lou and Norman Levett are, and may get a chance to see them later. They are about twelve miles from here, and Norman has a commission in the 54th battalion. Len Butcher says he saw Jim Olsen about five or six days ago in Cairo. Try and send me the full address of Roy, Uel, and the Spencer boys next time you write, and I will try and look them up. You would not know Wil 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. I have not received any papers from home yet, but got two letters from you.

We are now camped away out in the desert, surrounded by sand and myriads of flies, but we don’t do much work, and I am perfectly satisfied with the camp and quite contented. There is nothing here to worry about except news, and we don’t get much of that. We had about 100 mules to look after for about a week, and it was great sport watching some of the lads trying to stick them. There were a good many of them who did not have much of a grip of how to ride, but usually had a better grip of the sand. We have not many horses now, and no mules, and I am glad they are gone, for although they are wonderful pullers I have no time for them; they seem silly animals, and they can kick a fellow from any angle of the compass. Why I’ve seen mules kick mosquitoes off their ears without ducking their heads. “I love those mules and donkeys, but give me a horse.” There are any amount of camels about here, and the other day about a thousand went past the camp; it took the “train” about an hour to pass. The railway trains over here have three classes. The lst is very comfortable and more elaborate than the 1st class of the western line. The carriages have no breaks on them; the engines are the only parts with breaks, and the trucks are all red the same as the carriages. One of our cooks is a brother of a J. Macnamara, of Dubbo. Remember me to all Wongarbon friends.

Click here to view this article on Trove: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article137412087


Day 30, Monday, 8 November, 1915, Lawson to Springwood

Transcription of an extract from an article titled ‘The Route March : In the Suburbs of Sydney’ in The Farmer and Settler, 12 November, 1915, p. 3 [1 of 3 parts]

In the Suburbs of Sydney

Before this issue of the “Farmer and Settler” reaches the great majority of its readers, the Great Western Route March will have ended, the “Coo-ees” will have been welcomed in the heart of Sydney by assembled thousands of the people, and will have gone into camp to complete their training.

In many respects the last week on the road was the roughest of the whole thirty two days’ march, and the greatest test of the physical stamina and the temper of the men.

When the column left Lawson on Monday morning, the mountains were swathed in the smoke of bush fires, and as the miles brought them nearer the capital the men found the roads growing rougher and dustier, the humid heat more oppressive, and the flies and the smoke twin plagues to complete their discomfort. The other side of the picture was the cheery courage of the men themselves, and the enthusiasm and generosity of the people at every wayside town and hamlet.

As the army approached Hazelbrook it was met by the school children and practically the whole population. Gifts of cigarettes and other comforts were made, the children sang the National Anthem, and the troops marched through, cheered by the “motto” that had been stretched across the road: “God-speed, and a safe return — Hazelbrook to the Coo-ees.”

One of the interesting episodes of the Hazelbrook welcome was the presence of an Afghanistan and South African veteran, Lieut. E. G. Facey, who could not resist the impulse to step it out to the martial music of the Leura band.

A warm welcome awaited the column at Woodford. Under the trees a cold luncheon had been spread, and while the men refreshed themselves, Captain Dakin and Mr. G. J. Waterhouse voiced the good wishes of the people.

Australian Ensign flag donated to the Coo-ees at Woodford, now on display at the Coo-ee Heritage Centre, Gilgandra (Photograph: H. Thompson)

Australian Ensign flag given to the Coo-ees by wounded soldiers at Woodford, now on display at the Coo-ee Heritage Centre, Gilgandra. Donated by the family of Ernie May, a Coo-ee from Wongarbon who kept the flag after the Coo-ee March (Photograph: H. Thompson)

A ceremony that touched the boys was the presentation of an Australian flag by Private Nutting, on behalf of his comrades of the local military convalescent home, Professor David’s house, lent to the Government for the use of the returned soldiers. A contingent of the wounded soldiers assembled and cheered the “Coo-ees,” and this was a compliment that went to the hearts of all; they carried that Anzac-Australian flag in the place of honor through townships passed through later.

Linden and Faulconbridge.
From Woodford to Linden was down hill, on a road that twisted between blackened patches of recently burned timber. Linden was a non-stop station, so, helped along by the cheers of the residents, the column forged ahead.

Soon after noon the hamlet of Faulconbridge, the last resting place of Sir Henry Parkes, came into view. An escort of mounted troopers joined the column here, but there was no halt until Springwood was reached.

Coo-ees nearing Springwood (Photograph courtesy of Gilgandra Historical Society)

Coo-ees nearing Springwood (Photograph courtesy of Gilgandra Historical Society)

The procession that entered Springwood consisted of the “Coo-ees,” Leura band, mounted troopers, a squad of local riflemen and a piper specially sent by the Highland Society. Springwood was en fete, flags flew everywhere, and banners of welcome hung across the road. A charming tableau was presented by the school children, the boys dressed in khaki as soldiers and tho girls garbed as nurses. After a parade of the township the army camped at Homedale estate, dined and rested — all except a squad ordered out at the double to take a bridge head of the enemy, an advancing tongue of bush fire.

At night a thousand persons attended a promenade concert and listened to fine recruiting speeches by Mr. H. Blackett and the local clergy.’

… [Cont.]

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