Coo-ee March 1915
The following information and photographs are extracted from
John Meredith’s book The Coo-ee March, 1986, and can be
purchased for $15 (inc postage and handling) from the
Gilgandra Visitor Centre.
Email us to
order a copy.
the disaster of Gallipoli and the heavy casualties in France
in the latter half of 1915, recruiting figures for enlistment
in World War I had dwindled. Numerous recruiting rallies
became increasingly ineffective. It was at this dark hour that
Gilgandra's butcher, R.G. Hitchen and his brother Bill, the
local plumber, had the idea of organising a route march of
volunteers to Sydney, enlisting recruits as they marched.
The idea caught the imagination of the public, and the Coo-ees
(as the volunteers were known) became national heroes. The
action of "Hitchen's Own" and the subsequent
marches, which followed, were responsible for a dramatic
upturn in recruitment figures.
Twenty six men left the little Western town on the Castlereagh
River. They were feted at each town on the route, and the
stirring story of their march has become part of the official
war history of Australia. Recruitment meetings were held in
each centre and their number increased to 263 by the time they
in the country in 1915 were vastly different from those today.
Meredith describes: The unsealed roads were made of
dirt, or perhaps, in a town, of crushed stone or blue metal.
In dry weather traffic was coincidental with clouds of
dust; when it rained the roads became ribbons of mud.
Considered against this background a march of 320 miles
over those rough roads was a much greater undertaking than it
would be under today’s conditions.
The feats of cooking, transporting and servicing the
food provided for the Coo-ees at each camp place, and even
assembling of welcoming crowds were huge accomplishments.
to the right show a portion of the immense crowd which
stretched from Newtown to the Sydney Domain to welcome the
Coo-ees at the end of their historic march. This is just
the Martin Place block between Pitt and George Street.
October 1987 to 14 November 1987
A band of brave men revisited our past and followed the
footsteps of the 1915 Coo-ee March from Gilgandra to Sydney.
As with the original march three men organised this
re-enactment, Brian Bywater, Kimlyn Templeton and Robert
McLean, who were relying on the generosity of private citizens
in towns and cities along the route.
Gilgandra contributed 40% of those who left Gilgandra as
marchers and supporters. 72 years after Gilgandra's sons first
left for war, the community still remembers efforts of the
marchers and they came out in force to support and farewell
Gilgandra re-enacted the events leading up to the official
Thursday night a provisions and farewell was hosted by Apex at
the Royal Hotel with a barbeque and bush band and a warm
welcome to all visitors.
On Friday Australia Post launched Gilgandra's Permanent
Pictorial Postmark depicting and commemorating the 1915 Coo-ee
Friday evening Gilgandra Entertainers hosted the Grand Ball.
This was a memorable evening - most attired in period costume
were entertained with the songs and footage of soldiers
boarding ships destined for Gallipoli.
Saturday morning Quota ladies put on an Aussie Breakfast in
Quota Park followed by a morning service and blessing from
Bishop Goldsworthy at St. Ambrose Church.
The Shire President delivered the farewell speech in Bridge
Street and the march moved off at 10 a.m.
They were led out of Gilgandra by two horsemen in Light Horse
Regalia, seven ladies on horses, the flags, the Shire
President and twenty four marchers with banners followed by
our R.S.L. Club, Returned Servicemen, Clubs, Scouts, citizens,
vintage cars and horse drawn vehicles.
This procession was followed by thousands of Gilgandra
residents to Coo-ee March Memorial Park for a memorial service
and a 21 gun salute by the Rifle Club at Boberah Bridge was
This march continued on to Sydney via the route of the
original march and received a rousing reception in Sydney some
22 days later.
Film Australia captured the story of these Coo-ees for all to
see in a movie, which received nominations for the Sydney and
Melbourne Film Festivals.
The premiere of this documentary took place in Gilgandra on
16th July 1988.
Leader of the Coo-ee's
men leaving Gilgandra
at Martin Place
in front of Orange
Post Office 23rd November 1915
8th December 1915
towards Husson's Walls
the Royal Hotel - Little Hartley
4th December 1915
taken at Orange
24th December 1915
West of Little Hartley