Tag Archives: Lithgow

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


Postcard from W. H. Saunders sent from Lithgow

W. H. Saunders’ postcard sent from Lithgow to his mother (advising he was sending his port home with his washing)

I recently received a copy of this wonderful postcard that William Hilton Saunders, who was one of the Wongarbon Coo-ees, sent home to his mother Mrs E. J. Saunders at Wongarbon, while the Coo-ees were at Lithgow.

Postcard sent by W. H. Saunders, courtesy of Mrs K. Edmonds

Postcard sent by W. H. Saunders to his mother, courtesy of Mrs K. Edmonds

Back of postcard sent by W. H. Saunders to his mother, courtesy of Mrs K. Edmonds

Back of postcard sent by W. H. Saunders to his mother, courtesy of Mrs K. Edmonds

His grand-daughter has assisted me to transcribe the handwriting on the back of the postcard as follows:

‘Dear Mother

I am sending my port home to-day with a bit of washing & take all the trousers out & only send the pair of grey ones back. There is some grass in a piece of paper that I got out of the church yard at Wang, also keep poetry. We drilled all day yesterday & are leaving today. We might stay a day at Mt Victoria to see the caves.

Had tea with the Lucas girls last night. Lithgow is a very busy place but very smoky & dusty. We camped in the Trades Hall. Have been having all our meals in the military camp here with the other recruits & the grub is pretty rough. Ask Jack Ryan about our flag as we have not received it yet. All the boys are doing well hoping you’re the same also all the other folk.

Fondest love from your fond son Hilton.

[Written across the top left hand corner]

Will write & tell you where to send my port. We were all issued with Dungarees & white hats yesterday. We all look comical’.

The Coo-ees were at Lithgow from Monday 1st November to Wednesday 3rd November 1915. Based on the information W. Hilton Saunders included in the postcard, he wrote it on Wednesday 3rd November (the day the Coo-ees left Lithgow), and the Coo-ees were issued with their blue dungarees and white hats uniforms on Tuesday 2nd November 1915.

Lithgow Ribbon

Lithgow Coo-ee Ribbon

The purple Coo-ee Badge was not the only ribbon given to the Coo-ees.

It was reported in The Farmer and Settler on 5th November 1915 that ‘Lithgow turned out in force to see the last of the “Coo-ees,” and each man was given a tri-color ribbon bearing the inscription, “Lithgow, 3/11/15. ‘Coo-ee!’ Good Luck!” as a souvenir of the occasion’.[1]

I was recently sent a photograph (below) of one of these ribbons that was presented to the Coo-ee March recruits at Lithgow.

Ribbon presented to the Coo-ees at Lithgow 3/11/1815

Ribbon presented to the Coo-ees at Lithgow

[1] ‘The Route March through Lithgow District’, The Farmer and Settler, 5 November 1915, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116680017



The “Gilgandra barber” and the Coo-ees welcomed in Lithgow

Article titled “Coo-ees Welcomed” from the Democrat, 6th November 1915, p. 2.

‘“Coo-ees” Welcomed.

The Gilgandra braves — the “Coo-ees” — were accorded an enthusiastic reception on Monday last. They left Wallerawang at 9.30 a.m., and marched to Middle River, where they halted. They were met there by the men of the Lithgow camp and a right royal time was spent. It is an offence to have long hair, and as the laws of the Medes and Persians altereth not, neither do the laws according to the Gilgandra recruits alter. At least six of the Lithgow boys needed tonsorial attention and the “Gilgandra barber,” who sat as judge, declared them guilty and sentenced them to be shorn of their curly locks. Despite protests, the chief executioner carried out his duties to the satisfaction of all but the six. These latter have now cool heads — it will prevent them from becoming hot-headed.

“’Fall in” was then sounded, and the two squads of soldiers marched to Bowenfels, where they halted to await the welcome ceremonies.

An Al Fresco lunch at Bowenfels (Sydney Mail 10/11/1915)

An Al Fresco lunch at Bowenfels (Sydney Mail, 10/11/1915)

The visitors looked in the pink of condition and were as hard as nails. They had increased their number by five at Wallerawang.  

The welcome arrangements were admirably carried out by the chief marshals (Messrs. A. E. Roper and Saunderson). There was not a hitch anywhere. This is as it should be and the gentlemen concerned are to be congratulated.


The Cooerwull school children sang “Advance Australia Fair” capitally, while the Lithgow children also did well.     


The Town Band played at the meeting place, and played beautifully.

The Mayor (Ald. Pillans) then welcomed the “Coo-ees” to Lithgow in a speech admirably suited to the occasion — being short, concise, and good. Major Wynne responded on behalf of the visitors. 

The procession was then formed, the mounted police in front, then the aldermen, the Progress Association and prominent townspeople, then came the Lithgow recruits, followed the Town Band, and then came the “Coo-ees,”‘ each town being represented by their respective units — a flag with the name or the town being the line of demarkation. Then we had our own cadets, with trumpeters playing smartly and briskly. Patrols of Boy Scouts, under Scout-master Lamb, were also in evidence and added considerably to the success of the procession. The civilians also joined in as well as scores of motor cars, buggies, ‘busses, etc. The procession wended its way along Main-street, across Eskbank bridge, up Railway Parade, and into the Trades Hall, which had been kindly loaned for the occasion.


At six o’clock the braves were entertained at luncheon at the Town Hall. This over, it had been intended to have a smoke social, but as the Oddfellows Hall proprietary had kindly granted a free pass for their picture show to the men, they all preferred that, and a splendid programme was screened to the enjoyment of the vast audience present.


On Tuesday advantage was taken of having squad drill, after which general leave was granted. The men were also given white hats and dungarees and they looked more like soldiers than they did in civilian costume.


The squad has two mascots — a young cattle dog and a fox. The young recruit who had charge of them said, “Now I’ve got them over the worst of their trouble, all the others want to collar them, but they won’t get them. They’re mine.”’

Click here to access the article on Trove:http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article103569195

The Coo-ee mascots [cropped photograph] (Daily Telegraph, 30/10/1915)

The Coo-ee mascots [cropped photograph] (Daily Telegraph, 30/10/1915)

Note: According to a docket in the official correspondence of the march, Thomas Dowd, a recruit from Wongarbon, was paid for 21 days barbering services on the march, so he appears to have been the “Gilgandra barber” in the above article.

Day 25, Wednesday, 3 November, 1915, Lithgow to Hartley

Transcription of an extract from an article titled ‘The Route March : Through Lithgow District’ in The Farmer and Settler, 5 November, 1915, p. 3 [part 3 of 4]
… [Continued]

Under the shadow of Hassan's Walls (Sydney Mail 10/11/1915)

Under the shadow of Hassan’s Walls (Sydney Mail 10/11/1915)


Lithgow turned out in force to see the last of the “Coo-ees,” and each man was given a tri-color ribbon bearing the inscription, “Lithgow, 3/11/15. ‘Coo-ee!’ Good Luck!” as a souvenir of the occasion. Some ladies also attended with a bag of sweets for each man. The Lithgow camp  recruits marched out with the Gilgandra column as far as the Cooerwull Academy, where a brief halt was made. The boys of the academy had rigged flags across the road, and they met the march with cheers. The boys also presented the column with a kettledrum.

Al fresco lunch at Bowenfells (Sydney Mail 10/11/1915)

Al fresco lunch at Bowenfells (Sydney Mail 10/11/1915)

Lunch was laid at Bowenfells, under the trees opposite the oldest Methodist Church west of the Mountains, Nearby stand an old lock-up and hotel, both dating back to the earliest convict days. There was a surprisingly large assemblage of our friends from Lithgow and other towns further in the Mountains, together with chance tourists that had heard of the approach of the “Coo-ees,” and had come along to see them. Lunch was alfresco, with full and plenty, and it was speedily demolished by the hungry boys, for the walk had been warm and the way hilly.

Only five miles remained for the afternoon’s march, and as the country sloped downwards once more, an hour or two was spent in chatting with the visitors. A little diversion was caused by the discovery that one of the “Coo-ees” had   hitherto escaped the barber, and had a fine crop of curly hair. He was quickly captured by his mates, the camp barber was summoned, and the offending locks removed forthwith.

Reception at Hartley Vale (Sydney Mail 10/11/1915)

Reception at Hartley Vale (Sydney Mail 10/11/1915)


The column made its way into Hartley, headed by a battery of motor-cars, and the road was lined by school children, waving flags. It was strange to see the old courthouse, erected in the early thirties, with all its suggestions of the triangle and leg irons; It was strange to see this old building, the scene of many a convict tragedy, turned into a banquet hall in honor of the boys of the near west, who were going out to battle for the country.

The “Coo-ees” were warmly welcomed by the residents, and afterwards tea was accounted for, and blankets spread under the stars for the night’s bivouac.

Mr. J. McGarry, one of the most enthusiastic workers in entertaining the recruits, is the grandson of old John Mc-Garry, who had the Royal Hotel in the forties. The hotel has been in the hands of the family for three generations, and the place is an excellent example of the architecture of the old colonial days.’

Click here to access the article on Trove: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116680017

Day 24, Tuesday, 2 November, 1915, Lithgow

Transcription of an extract from an article titled ‘The Route March : Through Lithgow District’ in The Farmer and Settler, 5 November, 1915, p. 3 [part 2 of 4]
… [Continued]

‘On Tuesday the “Coo-ees” spent the major portion of the day at squad drill, and in the afternoon a cricket match was played against the local camp boys, resulting in a win for the latter after a hard struggle. Dungaree overalls and   white hats were issued, and advantage was taken of the spare day to overhaul the foot gear of the contingent. A large quantity of new boots was purchased, and three repairers were kept at work all day. Meals were served at the camp, and the men began to think they had been living “high” on the march, when they had to sit down to stew for dinner and bread and marmalade for tea. The Lithgow camp is a drill hall, with an ample area of ground, and is in charge of Captain Eade, who is accompanying the Gilgandra men to Sydney. It is well equipped, and has all the essentials of   larger camps, everything being in good order.

A recruiting meeting was held after tea, the Mayor presiding. The usual appeal was made, but only five responded – a disappointing number from so large a district. But perhaps this should be considered very fair, when it is taken into consideration that Lithgow is an industrial town, where the majority of the men are employed in work that is of   vital importance to the nation in the present crisis. At the same time, when one or two of the “Coo-ees” were being shown over the Lithgow Small Arms Factory, they could not fail to note that much of the work at present being done, by able-bodied young men, could be satisfactorily performed by female labor, thus liberating a number of eligibles for service at the front.

During the evening, the headmaster of the district school, Major Reay, made a presentation to Captain Hitchens of a sum of money raised by the school children from the sale of roses.

Wednesday’s march is one of the most interesting of the whole journey from Gilgandra onward. The country along the route abounds in places of historic interest, and the route lay along one of   the beautiful mountain roads beloved of the tourist.’

Click here to access the article on Trove: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116680017

Day 23, Monday, 1 November, 1915, Wallerawang to Lithgow

Transcription of an extract from an article titled ‘The Route March : Through Lithgow District’ in The Farmer and Settler, 5 November, 1915, p. 3 [part 1 of 4]

Through Lithgow District.

Last Monday morning the Great Western Route March passed on from hospitable Wallerawang, a large number of the people assembling to wish the men “God-speed.” There were volleys of hurrahs in the place of votes of thanks and other expressions of goodwill, and the order “quick march,” and Wallerawang’s reception was over, and Lithgow’s almost begun.


The first mile of the journey up the hill in the sunshine made warm going, but good time was made to Marrangarroo, where lunch was prepared on the banks of Middle River. A company of recruits from the Lithgow camp, numbering about 100 men, under their own officers, met their Gilgandra comrades here. They were on their mettle, and they presented a fine appearance as they marched. When the Coo-ees have been uniformed in the dungarees and hats that are ready for them in Lithgow, however, there will not be much to choose between them, notwithstanding the Lithgow lads’ longer training. The two contingents were paraded, and cheers exchanged.


After dinner and a smoke-ho the road was taken once more, with the Lithgow boys in the lead. Dunn’s Comer was reached at 4 p.m.; where a large crowd had assembled to greet the column. The mayor, Ald. Pillans, in his brief welcome speech, said that it was a working man’s welcome to working men that were going to do the work of the Empire, he trusted, like men. Equipped with flags, the school children sang patriotic songs, and then, headed by the Lithgow Town Band, the town was entered, and the main street, lined by thousands of people, was paraded by the force.

The setting was like that of a play, the road winding down the valley to the town with the great blast furnaces silhouetting against the sky and covering the valley with a pall of smoke. The small arms factory guard turned out to the salute, and whistles from the factory and from the near-by railway yards cock-a-doodle-dooed like the ferry steamers on Sydney Harbor when a transport is sailing. All tho population of the country-side was here to welcome the growing army, and they cheered and cheered again.

The march, which included the town band, the local militia, and the boy scouts, concluded at the Trades Hall, where the men camped during their two nights’ stay in Lithgow, and after still more cheers the “dismiss” was given and the quarters were occupied.

Later the “Coo-ees” were the guests of the recruiting association at dinner in the Town Hall, and, general leave having been granted, a free picture show was provided in the Oddfellows’ Hall. During the intermission Captain Hitchens on behalf of the force was given £20, donated by the workmen of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory for the purpose of providing comforts.’

Click here to access the article on Trove: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116680017

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.