HITCHEN, William Thomas

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HITCHEN, William Thomas

Enlistment Address

Gilgandra, NSW

Service Number

1677

Unit

45th Battalion, 2nd Reinforcement

Comment

Organiser of Gilgandra Coo-ees

Fate

Died of Disease, 3.9.1916

Information

Corporal William Thomas Hitchen 1677

William Hitchen was born near Mudgee NSW and was a plumber in Gilgadra when he enlisted on October 10, 1915. He stated his age as 44 but he was 51 at the time. William marched with the Coo-ees to Sydney but afterwards remained in Bathurst to help organise the Kookaburra Recruitment March from Tooraweenah to Bathurst. At the medical examination at Bathurst in February 1916 he was described as 5’7 1/2”, 180lbs (81kgs), medium complexion, light brown eyes, fair hair and religion, Roman Catholic.

He embarked from Sydney on the HMAT Ceramic on April 14, 1916 and arrived in Plymouth via Egypt on June 16 on the transport Franconia. William had reported sick with tonsillitis while on board the Franconia and was admitted to hospital from the ship on June 16, 1916. He gradually grew weaker and died on September 3, 1916 in Harefield Hospital. He was buried in the St Marys Churchyard, Harefield with full military honours in the presence of a French priest, the Officers, Doctors, sisters, orderlies, patients, and Mr and Mrs Charles Billyard-Leake, the Australian owners of Harefield House. The schoolchildren of Harefield have placed flowers on the graves annually since the 1920’s.

William and his brother Richard were the instigators and organisers of the Coo-ee March. It was the first recruitment march of its kind. When the march left Gilgandra Williams 14 year old son, Cob, and a friend accompanied them as scout dispatch riders and buglers. His older son, William James Hitchen had enlisted earlier and was overseas by the time the march arrived in Sydney. Bill, as he was known, was recalled from the Western Front to spend time with his father before he died.

His possessions were returned to his wife, Emma Jane Hitchen and included a purse, identity disc, Masonic Badge, 2 religious charms, diary, Devotional Book, balaclava, gloves, razors strop and comb. When she received the Memorial Scroll and Kings Message she wrote to Major McLean and said she ‘was glad to have it’. Emma had moved from Bridge St Gilgandra to Kensington Sydney NSW and called her house ‘Cooee’.

William is commemorated on the Gulargambone War Memorial, the Gilgandra War Memorial and the Cooee Gateway Memorial. There is a W Hitchen on the Masonic Memorial at Baulkham Hills that may be William.

William was issued the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.