Tag Archives: Joseph Armstrong

TIMELINE February 1916

Wednesday, 16th February 1916

The first group of Coo-ees embarked from Sydney for overseas active service, on the HMAT Ballarat A70.

HMAT Ballarat A70, 18/2/1916. Photograph from the AWM Collection PB0182.

HMAT Ballarat A70, 18/2/1916. Photograph from the AWM Collection PB0182.

These included: Joseph ARMSTRONG, Percy George BROWN, Charles William Gordon CONROYEdwin Joseph FULLER, John MARTIN, Donald Singleton STEWART, John TARLINGTON,  John William THOMPSON,  William Charles WALKER, Joseph Patrick WALLIS, and Colin David WREN.

It was reported in the Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate that Percy George Brown had written “The first batch of the Gilgandra “Coo-ees” to leave for the front will sail at the end of the present week. About 15 men, including four who enlisted at Dubbo, have been transferred into an earlier reinforcement of the same battalion, which the rest of the “Coo-ees” are in”.[1]

[1] ‘Our Soldiers’, The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate, 4 February 1916, p. 4, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77604424

Letters home and family photographs

A daughter of Donald Stewart (who joined the Coo-ees at Wellington) contacted me recently via the blog, so I have posted transcriptions of some of the letters he wrote home to his family while he was a prisoner of war in a German prison camp during the First World War, which were published in the family’s local newspaper The Wellington Times.

We are discovering through our research on the Coo-ees that several of them were held as prisoners of war during the First World War, including Donald Stewart from Wellington, Joseph Armstrong who joined the Coo-ees at Dubbo, and Allan Collquhoun and Cecil Roy McMillan, who both joined the Coo-ees at Parramatta.

Letters sent home to family and friends by the Coo-ees – whether they were training in camp, on a troopship, prisoners of war, fighting on the front, or behind the lines – provided information about their experiences during the war, and their thoughts and feelings at the time.  It is great that some of these letters were published in local newspapers during the First World War, so that we can read about their experiences today.

Some family members have also sent me a photograph of their Coo-ee relative, with permission to include it on the individual blog entry for their Coo-ee, and it is fantastic to be able to be able to put a face to the name of individual Coo-ees.

Newspapers also published individual photographs of some of the Coo-ees during the war years, which I have been collecting, but I may not have found all of these yet.  If more photographs become available, I will add these to each individual Coo-ees blog entry.

If anyone has personal letters, diaries, or photographs of the Coo-ees, I would very much like to hear from you. Please email me at cooeemarch1915@gmail.com.



Per his military service record (regimental no. 4430), Joseph Armstrong was born at Bally-Bofey, Ireland. He gave his age as 43 years and 5 months, his marital status as single, and his occupation as labourer. He did a preliminary medical examination at Condobolin on 8th October 1915, then completed his medical, and attestation, at Parkes on 12th October, 1915. His description on his medical was height 5 feet 7 ½ inches tall, weight 162 lbs., with a fresh complexion, blue grey eyes, and light brown hair. His religious denomination was Church of England. He claimed to have served in the 3rd N.S.W. Imperial Bushmen for 2 ½ years in the Boer War.

Private Armstrong was one of two recruits (along with Reginald Henry Chamberlain who joined at Parkes on the 11th October 1915), who travelled to Dubbo on the morning on Wednesday 13th October 1915, along with three others who entered Dubbo Military Camp (Western Champion, 14/10/1915, p. 18).

It was reported in The Western Champion (21/10/1915, p. 17) that the Parkes Recruiting Association had held a recruiting meeting ‘for the purpose of enrolling recruits who were willing to join the volunteers now on the way, by road, from Gilgandra to Sydney’, and that ‘five men had mounted the lorry in response to the appeal’, and that ‘one of them went on to Dubbo’, with the remaining four planning to proceed to Molong to join the contingent.

However, the recruit who was sent to Dubbo by Parkes Recruiting Association to join the Coo-ees is not named anywhere in newspaper reports or in the official correspondence of the march held in the Mitchell Library. It appears one of them (Armstrong or Chamberlain) had a change of heart and decided to join the Coo-ees on their march to Sydney, instead of entering Dubbo Military Camp.

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

On his embarkation roll his address at time of enrolment was 125 Flinders Street, Sydney, N.S.W., and his next of kin is listed as his cousin, Mrs E. Phillips, 125 Flinders Street, Sydney, N.S.W.

Private Armstrong departed Sydney on the HMAT A70 Ballarat on 16th February 1916 as 14th Reinforcement for the 13th Battalion. He arrived in Egypt on the 22nd March 1916. On the 1st April 1916 he was transferred to the 54th Battalion.

He embarked on the HT Caledonian at Alexandria on 19th June 1916, and disembarked at Marseilles, France, on 29th June 1916.

He was initially reported killed in action on 19th July 1916 at the Battle of Fromelles in France.  However he had been wounded with a bullet wound to the buttock and thigh during this battle, and taken a prisoner by the Germans. On 19th October 1916  he was officially reported as a Prisoner of War, at Wurzburg, Germany.

After the end of the war he was repatriated, arriving in England on 30th December 1918. He then returned to Australia leaving Weymouth on the transport Karoa on 28th March 1919, arriving in Australia on 10th May 1919.  He was medically discharged on 24th June 1919.