Tag Archives: Jack Wiggins

Jack Graham WIGGINS

Jack Graham WIGGINS

Pte. J. Wiggins (Sunday Times, 8/10/1916, p. 9)

Per his military service record (regimental no. 4918), Jack Graham Wiggins was born at Springwood, N.S.W.[1]  He gave his age as 21 years, his marital status as single, and his occupation as labourer.  His description on his Certificate of Medical Examination form was height 5 feet 10 inches tall, weight 9 stone 7 lbs., with a dark complexion, dark grey eyes, and dark hair.  His religious denomination was Church of England.  He claimed that he had no previous military service.

His “Joined on” date on his Attestation Paper was recorded as 9th November 1915, the day the Coo-ees marched from Springwood to Penrith.

He completed his medical examination at Springwood on 9th November 1915, but was not attested until 11th November 1915 at Ashfield (when the Coo-ees were at Ashfield).

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

On 4th January 1916 Private Wiggins was charged with being absent without leave for 7 days. He was fined.

On 21st February 1916 he was charged with being absent from Parade on 19th  February 1916. He was fined.

On his embarkation roll his address at time of enrolment was Sassafras Road, Springwood, N.S.W., and his next of kin is listed as his father, E. Wiggins, at the same address.[2]

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

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

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

Private Wiggins served with the 45th Battalion through its first action at Fleurbaix, France, in July 1916, then as it moved to Pozieres in early August 1916.

From the 5th August 1916 until the 8th August 1916 the 45th Battalion was holding front line trenches between Pozieres and Martinpuich, France, until they were relieved, and moved back into support trenches.[3] On 8th August 1916 Private Wiggins was wounded in action, with a gunshot wound to his face.  He was evacuated to the 3rd Casualty Clearing Station on 9th August 1916. On 10th August 1916 he was admitted to the 2nd Australian General Hospital at Wimereux, France.

On 14th August 1916 Private Wiggins was sent by Hospital Ship from Le Havre to England, where he was admitted to the Northampton War Hospital.

On 6th October 1916 he reported back from leave to No. 1 Command Depot at Perham Downs, England.  He then marched in to the 12th Training Battalion camp at Codford.

On 14th October 1916 Private Wiggins departed England for France.

On 5th October 1916 Private Wiggins marched into the 4th Australian Division Base Depot at Etaples, France.

On 29th October 1916 he re-joined the 45th Battalion when it was training at Brucamps, France.

On 5th December 1916 the 45th Battalion was training at Dernacourt, France.[4] On this day Private Wiggins was charged with being absent from parade (fatigue work). He was awarded 168 hours Field Punishment No. 2.

On 23rd December 1916 the 45th Battalion was training at Flesselles, France.[5]  Private Wiggins was charged with being absent without leave from Parade at Dernacourt on 11th December 1916. He was fined 7 days pay.

On 29th December 1916 Private Wiggins was sent to hospital.  On 1st January 1917 the 45th Battalion was still training at Flesselles, France, when Private Wiggins was evacuated to the 8th Australian Field Ambulance with Trench Feet. He re-joined the 45th Battalion on 15th January 1917 when it was manning the front line in the vicinity of Guedecourt, France.

On 12th November 1917 the 45th Battalion was training at Erny St Julien, France.[6] On this day Private Wiggins was charged in a Field General Court Martial with while on active service, deserting his Majesty’s Service. Private Wiggins pleaded not guilty. He was found not guilty of desertion, but guilty of being absent without leave from 10 am on 19th October 1917 to 4 pm on 20th October 1917. The 45th Battalion had been in the front line around Ypres, Belgium, at the time.[7] He was awarded 90 days Field Punishment No. 2 and fined 49 days pay. 65 days of the Field Punishment was later remitted.

On 28th March 1918 the 45th Battalion was in support and front line trenches in the vicinity of Dernacourt, France, during the First Battle of Dernacourt, when Private Wiggins was wounded in action for the second time, receiving a shrapnel wound to his left thigh.[8]  He was admitted to the 13th Australian Field Ambulance. The next day he was moved back to the 56th Casualty Clearing Station, then admitted  to the 20th General Hospital at Camiers, France.

On 1st April 1918 Private Wiggins was placed aboard the Hospital Ship Ville De Liege for evacuation to England. Upon arrival he was admitted to the Norfolk War Hospital at Norwich, England.

On 9th May 1918 Private Wiggins was discharged from hospital, and granted leave to report to the No. 1 Command Depot at Sutton Veny, England, on 23rd May 1918.

On 16th June 1918 Private Wiggins was admitted to the Sutton Veny Military Hospital suffering Influenza. He was discharged on 24th June 1918.

On 6th July 1918 Private Wiggins was transferred to the Overseas Training Brigade at Longbridge Deverill, England. On 3rd August 1918 Private Wiggins departed Folkestone, England, bound for France. On 5th August 1918 he marched into the 4th Australian Division Base Depot at Le Harve, France.

On 11th August 1918 Private Wiggins re-joined the 45th Battalion when it was resting in the vicinity of Sailly-Laurette, France.[9]

On 20th January 1919 the 45th Battalion was at Hastiere, Belgium, when Private Wiggins was charged with using insolent language Towards an NCO. He was awarded 14 days Field Punishment No. 2 and fined 14 days pay.

On 30th January 1919 Private Wiggins was one of a party of 50 men from the 45th Battalion sent to the 4th Australian Division Base Depot at Le Harve, France, to commence the journey to Australia for demobilisation.

On 10th February 1918 Private Wiggins departed Le Harve for England, arriving at Weymouth on 11th February 1919, where he marched into the 3rd Training Brigade.

On 31st March 1919 Private Wiggins was declared an Illegal Absentee, having been absent without leave from 3rd March 1919.

On3rd July 1919 a court martial was held where Private Wiggins was charged with being absent without leave from 0001 3rd March 1919 till reporting back at 1700 on 11th June 1919. He was found guilty and sentenced to 4 months detention. On 28th July 1919 Private Wiggins was admitted to the Lewes Detention Barracks, England.

On 21st August 1919 Private Wiggins was discharged from the Lewes Detention Barracks, with the remainder of his sentence remitted.

On 22nd August 1919 Private Wiggins departed England bound for Australia aboard the HMAT  Anchises.

He arrived in Sydney on 13th October 1919, and was discharged the same day Services No Longer Required.

A welcome home concert was held for ‘J. Wiggins’ and several other local soldiers at Springwood on  27th December 1919.[10]



[2] Australian War Memorial. First World War Embarkation Roll, Jack Graham Wiggins, 4918.

[3] Australian Imperial Force unit war diaries, 1914-18 War – AWM4 Subclass 23/62 – 45th Infantry Battalion, August 1916.

[4] Australian Imperial Force unit war diaries, 1914-18 War – AWM4 Subclass 23/62 – 45th Infantry Battalion, December 1916.

[5] Australian Imperial Force unit war diaries, 1914-18 War – AWM4 Subclass 23/62 – 45th Infantry Battalion, December 1916.

[6] Australian Imperial Force unit war diaries, 1914-18 War – AWM4 Subclass 23/62 – 45th Infantry Battalion, November 1917.

[7] Australian Imperial Force unit war diaries, 1914-18 War – AWM4 Subclass 23/62 – 45th Infantry Battalion, October 1917.

[8] Australian Imperial Force unit war diaries, 1914-18 War – AWM4 Subclass 23/62 – 45th Infantry Battalion, March 1918.

[9] Australian Imperial Force unit war diaries, 1914-18 War – AWM4 Subclass 23/62 – 45th Infantry Battalion, August 1918.

[10] SPRINGWOOD. (1919, December 26). The Blue Mountain Echo (NSW : 1909 – 1928), p. 7. Retrieved January 26, 2018, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108249963


The 22 Ashfield recruits

Who were the 22 Ashfield recruits?

The Coo-ees held a recruiting meeting, and stayed the night at the Drill Hall at Ashfield on Thursday, 11th November, 1915 – their last night of the Coo-ee March on their long route from Gilgandra to Sydney.

This is now the site of the Ashfield Boys High School gymnasium, and a new car park named Coo-ee Car Park in memory of the 1915 Coo-ee March built recently by the Wests Ashfield Leagues Club.  A plaque about the Coo-ees at Ashfield was unveiled at the Coo-ee Car Park on 21st April 2015.

Plaque at Coo-ee Car Park, Ashfield (Photograph: S. & H. Thompson, 23/4/2015)

Plaque at Coo-ee Car Park, Ashfield (Photograph: S. & H. Thompson, 23/4/2015)

A plaque on an obelisk is situated in the grounds of the Ashfield Boys High School. It has been there for some time. On it are the words: “Celebrating Gilgandra Coo-ee Marchers 11 November 1915 22 Ashfield men joined with the Coo-ee marches here on this day”.

Coo-ee March obelisk at Ashfield Boys High School (Photograph: S. & H. Thompson 3/3/2014)

Coo-ee March obelisk at Ashfield Boys High School (Photograph: S. & H. Thompson 3/3/2014)

Although the “official” count for the total number of Coo-ees recruited on the 1915 Gilgandra to Sydney Coo-ee March per newspaper articles of the time was 263, with Ashfield having a total of 22 recruits, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on 13th November 1915 (p. 19) that ‘the contingent left the western suburb’ of Ashfield ‘about 263 strong, but there are others now to be sworn in – men who joined the little army yesterday.’ The Farmer and Settler reported about Coo-ees numbers on 21st December 1915 (p. 3) that ‘there were no fewer than 277 men on their last pay sheet in camp’.

We have found the following names of 23 men who were attested at Ashfield at the time the Coo-ees were recruiting at Ashfield. We note that one (Bert Kilduff) had paperwork dating only from 12th November 1915 in his service record, so perhaps the ”official” count of 22 recruits was taken the night before at Ashfield, and he was not included.  Although two others also completed their medical examination and signed their attestation paper at Ashfield on the 12th November 1915 (Thomas Edward Bow and Charles Seal), they had both signed the bottom of the first page in their ‘Attestation paper of persons enlisted for service abroad’ on the 11th November 1915.

Attested 11th November 1915 at Ashfield

Robert AYRES (service no. 4729)

Richard John CROCKER (no service no.)

Edward Lewis CUDDEFORD (service no. 5352)

Harold Brooks DAVIS (service no. 4759)

Edgar DAWSON (no service no.)

Thomas DELANEY (service no. 4764)

William ELLERY (service no. 4769)

Richard EVANS (service no. 5368)

Joseph Jacob John HERRINGE (service no. 5700)

Robert Michael HICKEY (service no. 5099)

Albert HULBERT (no service no.)

Hector LEE (service no. Depot)

Thomas LIPSCOMBE (service no. 4826)

Sam LUKE (service no. 4830)

Joseph Raymond MCGUIRE (service no. 4857)

Selby George MEGARRITY (service no. 4841)

William Allen Luther PHILPOT/PHILPOTT (service no. 5164)

William WEBBER (service no. 4917)

Jack Graham WIGGINS (service no. 4918)

Joseph John WILLIAMS (service no. 4912)

Attested 12th November 1915 at Ashfield the (the day the Coo-ees left Ashfield and the last day of the Coo-ee March)

Charles Edward BOW (service no. 4735)

Bert KILDUFF (service no. 4818)

Thomas SEAL (service no. 4895)

Not all of these men were local to the Ashfield area. Some were men who had joined the Coo-ees earlier in the march, or caught up with them at Ashfield, who signed their attestation paper to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force at Ashfield.

William Ellery was reported to be a long term resident of the Dunedoo area before he left to join the Coo-ees.  Edgar Dawson started filling out his paperwork in his service record in Bathurst.  Jack Wiggins was known as a Springwood recruit. Sam Luke joined the Coo-ees at St Marys. Selby Megarrity undertook his medical at Penrith, the day before the Coo-ees arrived at Ashfield.

Fourteen of the Ashfield recruits embarked overseas with the majority of the Coo-ees on the transport  HMAT A15 Star of England on the 8th March 1916.  Five more embarked on other ships soon after.

An individual blog entry will be added to this website for each of the above named Coo-ees.

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.’