Coo-ees

The Gilgandra Coo-ee March

The outbreak of war in August 1914 was greeted in Australia, as in many other places, with great enthusiasm. Young men went off to fight for King and Country, to have an adventure and to see the world. Some men enlisted because the pay was enough to support their families. So the early recruitment drive was successful and the army was only picking the healthiest men to serve.

In the Gilgandra district 20 men had enlisted by the end of August 1914 and over 60 men by the end of December 1914.

However, as the war went on, and Gallipoli claimed many lives, the casualty rates increased and the number of volunteers declined.

It was against this background that the Hitchen brothers, Richard Gware Hitchen, a butcher, and his brother William Thomas Hitchen, a plumber, thought of a plan which would encourage men from Gilgandra and other towns to join the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF).

It was Richard’s idea to organise a recruiting march but after the military authorities had rejected the plan, it was William who finally put the plan into action. He was assisted by Mr Alex Halden Miller, who acted as secretary.

At the last minute the authorities realised the recruiting march would be a success, with or without them, so they sent Captain Nicholas of Dubbo to command the men.

John Robert Lee was a local farmer who had been the Methodist minister in Gilgandra, was a skilled orator and he made stirring speeches that encouraged the men to enlist.

After rousing celebrations, on Sunday October 10, 1915, the men set off on the 320 miles or 515 kms journey to Sydney with the aim of encouraging recruits along the way.

It was very successful and encouraged many other Recruitment Marches throughout the nation. The Gilgandra Coo-ee March was the most successful and raised 263 men for training.

Thirty five men are commemorated on the Gilgandra Coo-ee Gateway Memorial. Their stories are can be accessed on this site through the Database page or the Coo-ee Database page.

 

 

Service Number

Name

1086

William Alston

4730

Harold Baxter

4732

Sidney Bennett

4747

James Cameron

5996

Robert Clyde Campbell

4753

James Crawford

6289

Charles Finn

4783

Leslie Greenleaf

1677

William Thomas Hitchen

4802

William Howard

1887

Frank Humphrey

4806

Jack Henry Hunt

4805

William Hunt

Ltn

John Robert Lee

4834

Alfred Rupert Lingstrom AKA Lynne

4847

James Maher

4848

Charles Edward Marchant

4855

Andrew James McGregor

4840

Laurence Leslie Maguire

4862

James McKeown

Depot

John McNamare

6296

Albert Warren Pearce

4881

John Quinn

4880

Victor Quinton

Depot

Tyson Ryan

Depot

Ernest Simpson

4602

William Smith

6320

Stanley Everard Stephens

5644

Leo Ambrose Stinson

4902

Thomas Henry Turvey

4908

Alfred Wardrop

5777

Richard Charlie Wheeler

66805

Francis Noel White

2404

Peter Wilson

Depot

Richard Gilbert Clarence Wrigley

 

 

Who were these men? And where did they come from?

The youngest was Leslie Greenleaf who stated he was 18 but he was 16. The oldest was Bill Hitchen who stated he was 44 but he was actually 51.

23 men gave Gilgandra or the local area as their address. The men were mainly labourers or farmers.

 

Previous Service. Several had seen action before. Frank Humphrey, James McKeown and John McNamara had all seen action in South Africa.

Stanley Stephens first saw action when the Australian Navy, under British control, was sent to seize German New Guinea and the New Britain Archipelago on September 11, 1914.

Andrew McGregor had spent 10 years in the Colonial Force

John Lee, Alfred Lingstrom and James Maher belonged to the Rifle Club, which was regarded by the Army as a type of Army Reserve. William Hitchen was the Captain of the Gilgandra Rifle Club. Richard Wrigley, a horse breaker, had been in the Gilgandra Light Horse.

 

What Happened to The Coo-ees after the March