Tag Archives: Gilgandra

1987 and 2015 Coo-ee March Re-enactments Reunion and unveiling of Coo-ee March Roll of Honour Plaque

1987 and 2015 Coo-ee March Re-enactments Reunion and unveiling of Coo-ee March Roll of Honour Plaque

Marchers from the 1987 and 2015 Coo-ee March Re-enactments met in Gilgandra for a special reunion over the October Long Weekend, in memory of the 1915 Coo-ees, and to mark the 30th Anniversary of the 1987 Coo-ee March Re-enactment.

Around 40 former marchers and support people gathered at the Tattersalls Hotel in Gilgandra on Friday evening, 29th September 2017, to begin the weekend’s activities.

The main event was a street parade by the marchers on Saturday morning 30th September 2017 from Bridge Street along Miller Street (the main street), then, after a short stop for reflection at the Gilgandra War Memorial wall, the marchers marched along the Windmill Walk along the Castlereagh River to the Coo-ee March Memorial Gateway at the Coo-ee Heritage Centre, for a commemorative service.

Marchers formed up at Cairn in Bridge Street, Gilgandra, 30/9/2017 (Photograph courtesy John Tibben)

The marchers formed up to begin the parade at the commemorative Cairn in Bridge Street at 10.45 am for a welcome by Gilgandra Shire Council Acting Mayor Ashley Walker.

This Cairn marks the spot where the Gilgandra to Sydney Coo-ee Recruitment March started 102 years ago, on 10th October 1915.

50 years later, in 1965 seven of the original Coo-ees reunited in Gilgandra, to unveil this commemorative Cairn.

The 1987 Coo-ee March Re-enactment and the 2015 Coo-ee March Re-enactment both started at this commemorative Cairn.

Parade along Miller Street, Gilgandra 30/9/2017 (Photograph courtesy of John Tibben)

Marchers stopped at Gilgandra War Memorial 30/9/2017 (Photograph courtesy of John Tibben)

Marchers on Windmill Walk next to the Castlereagh River Gilgandra 30/9/2017 (Photograph courtesy of John Tibben)

At the commemorative service held at the Coo-ee March Memorial Gateway, the names of the 35 Gilgandra Coo-ees were read out by Coo-ee descendant  and 2015 Coo-ee March Re-enactment marcher Deborah Hitchen, and 2015 marchers Eric McCutcheon and Paul Mann.

A Coo-ee March Roll of Honour plaque, listing the name of the 41 Coo-ees who died while on active service overseas during the First World War, was then unveiled.

Unveiling of the Coo-ee March Roll of Honour plaque at Gilgandra 30/9/2017 (Photograph courtesy of John Tibben)

The plaque was prepared by Coo-ee March 2015 Inc. (Gilgandra Sub-Committee) in memory of the 41 fallen Coo-ees.  It was unveiled by Gilgandra Shire Council Acting Mayor Ashley Walker, Gilgandra Historical Society President Graeme Purvis, Brian Bywater OAM, one of the organisers of both the 1987 and 2015 Coo-ee March Re-enactments, and President of Coo-ee March 2015 Inc., and myself (Helen Thompson, Researcher for Coo-ee March 2015 Inc. (Gilgandra Sub-Committee).

Coo-ee March Roll of Honour plaque (Photograph courtesy of John Tibben)

The plaque was blessed by 2015 marcher and local Anglican minister, Father Grahame Yager.

It was very moving when the MC Richard Salcole read out the names of the 41 fallen Coo-ees, and each marcher present from the 1987 and 2015 Re-enactments moved forward to lay a poppy in bowls of sand that were placed with the wreaths in remembrance of these men, as each name was read.

Plaque, wreaths, and poppies at Gilgandra 30/9/2017 (Photograph courtesy of John Tibben)

The red poppy wreath with the purple Coo-ee March 1915-2015 ribbon on it travelled with Stephen and me when we visited the graves of the fallen Coo-ees, or the memorials where their names are remembered, in France, Belgium and England last year.

1902 British Military Saddle donated by Major Stewart Thompson to Giglandra Museum and Historical Society (Photograph courtesy of John Tibben)

This 1902 British Military Saddle, accompanied by an 1898 replica pattern bridle, on display at the service, was the type of saddle used by the Australian Light Horse during the First World War.  It was donated to the Gilgandra Museum and Historical Society during the service. This saddle was used by Major Stewart Thompson (retired) OAM when he accompanied the marchers on his horse as an Australian Light Horse re-enactor on the 1987 Coo-ee March Re-enactment.

After the commemorative service, the marchers adjourned to the Gilgandra Bowling Club for a BBQ lunch. It was a great day to remember the 1915 Coo-ees, and catch up with the 1987 and 2015 marchers.

A special service was held at St Ambrose Church in Gilgandra, in memory of the Coo-ees, on Sunday morning 1st October, 2017.

The names of the 41 Coo-ees who died while on active service overseas during the First World War. Information about the 41 Coo-ees who died while on active service overseas during the First World War can be found on this website on the Honour Roll page https://cooeemarch1915.com/honour-roll/

Walter James WATTS

Walter James WATTS

Per his military service record (Depot), Walter James Watts was born at Hay, N.S.W.[1]  He gave his age as 38 years, his marital status as married, and his occupation as labourer. His description on his Certificate of Medical Examination form was height 5 feet 6 inches tall, weight 10 stone, with a dark complexion, blue eyes, and dark hair. His religious denomination was recorded as being Anglican.  He claimed that he had no previous military service.

His next of kin was recorded on his Australian Imperial Force Attestation Paper of Persons Enlisted for Service Abroad form as Mrs E. M. Watts, C/o J. Dumbrell, Walla Walla N.S.W.

He completed his medical examination at Gilgandra on 14th October 1915 (4 days after the Coo-ees left Gilgandra).  He travelled to Dubbo Army Camp – the nearest place he could enlist, and was attested at Dubbo on 17th October 1915.

The Gilgandra Weekly reported on 3rd December 1915 that prior to enlisting Watts had been ‘employed by Mr Utley, a district sawmiller’, and that ‘he left Gilgandra for the Dubbo Depot Camp, where he enlisted on October 16. The next day he entrained to Wellington and joined the Coo-ees’.[2]

The Coo-ees had a rest day in Wellington on 17th October 1915.

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

On 17th November 1915 Private Watts of the “Coo-ees” went before a Medical Board at Liverpool Camp, where he was found to be unfit for active service due to varicose veins.

Private Watts was discharged medically unfit on 29th November 1915.



[2] ‘An aftermath’, Gilgandra Weekly, 3 December 1915, p. 10. Retrieved August 11, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article119922362


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  http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/exhibitions/satire-time-war-1914-1918-tour-nsw

[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 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article228358235


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



Coo-ee March: Introduction

Gilgandra Route March (Daily Telegraph, 16 Oct. 1915)

Route of the March (Daily Telegraph 16/10/1915)

The  320 miles (515 km) “Coo-ee” recruitment march left Gilgandra with 25 marchers on Sunday, 10th October, 1915, stopping in each town and village along the route to be welcomed by local officials and members of each community, and to hold recruiting speeches to increase their ranks, and arrived in Sydney on Friday, 12th November, 1915 with its numbers increased to 263 marchers.  This march started a snowball of other similar recruitment marches in late 1915 and early 1916.

The Sydney Morning Herald  (13 November 1915, p. 20) reported the following official figures ‘of the men who actually signed on (after medical examination), between Gilgandra and Sydney:- Gilgandra, 35; Dubbo, 13; Wongarbon, 12; Geurie, 6; Wellington, 31; Stuart Town, 1; Euchareena, 1; Molong, 4; Parkes, 5; Orange, 19; Millthorpe, 2; Blayney, 11; Bathurst, 17; Glanmire, 1; Yetholme, 1; Wallerawang, 3; Lithgow, 19; Blackheath, 2; Katoomba, 11; Leura, 1; Lawson, 10; Springwood, 5; Penrith, 4; Parramatta, 27; Ashfield, 22; total, 263’.

Following is the route and timetable of the march: Sunday, Oct. 10,  Balladoran ; Monday, Oct. 11,  Eumungerie ; Tuesday, Oct. 12,  Mogriguy ; Wednesday, Oct. 13,  Dubbo ; Thursday, Oct. 14,  Wongarbon ; Friday, Oct. 15,  Geurie ; Saturday, Oct. 16-Sunday, Oct. 17,  Wellington ; Monday, Oct. 18,  Dripstone ; Tuesday, Oct. 19,  Stuart Town ; Wednesday, Oct. 20,  Euchareena ; Thursday, Oct. 21,  Boomey ; Friday, Oct. 22,  Molong ; Saturday, Oct. 23-Sunday, Oct. 24,  Orange ; Monday, Oct. 25,  Milthorpe ; Tuesday, Oct. 26,  Blayney ; Wednesday, Oct. 27,  Bathampton ; Thursday, Oct. 28,  Bathurst ; Friday, Oct. 29,  Yetholme ; Saturday, Oct. 30-Sunday, Oct. 31, Wallerawang ; Monday, Nov. 1-Tuesday, Nov. 2,  Lithgow ; Wednesday Nov. 3, Little Hartley ; Thursday, Nov. 4,  Mt. Victoria ; Friday, Nov. 5,  Katoomba ; Saturday, Nov. 6-Sunday, Nov. 7,  Lawson, Monday, Nov. 8,  Springwood ; Tuesday, Nov. 9,   Penrith ; Wednesday, Nov. 10, Parramatta ; Thursday, Nov. 11, Ashfield ; Friday, Nov. 12, Sydney.

An account of the march on a day by day basis will follow initially in this blog.  It will be based mostly on articles from The Farmer and Settler, which were provided by Stanley E. Stephens, who was the son of the editor of this newspaper sent to be the official correspondent to cover the march, and who also joined the Coo-ees as a recruit at Gilgandra.