The original 515 km (320 miles) Coo-ee recruitment march left Gilgandra with 26 marchers on 10th October 1915, and arrived in Sydney on 12th November 1915, with its numbers increased to 263 marchers. The success of this route recruiting march started a snowball of other similar recruitment marches in late 1915 and early 1916 in New South Wales and Queensland: the Waratahs, Kangaroos, Wallabies, Dungarees, Men from Snowy River, Kurrajongs, Kookaburras, North Coast Boomerangs, and Central West Boomerangs.
A 1987 Coo-ee March Reenactment was held with great success from 24th October to 14th November 1987, 72 years after the original march, with 24 reenactor marchers, commemorating the original march with ceremonies in the small villages and towns where the original Coo-ees stopped and recruited men to join up and enlist in the Australian Army during the First World War.
Coo-ee March 2015 Inc. (Gilgandra Sub-Committee) is organising a 2015 reenactment of the 1915 Coo-ee March, and is a not for profit group with an interest in commemorating the centenary of this historic event. Two of the three organisers of the 1987 re-enactment march, and several of the reenactment marchers from this event, are part of the committee.
This event, as part of the 2015 Anzac centenary commemorations, will commemorate the original recruitment march being held 100 years ago, which had been planned and executed by Bill Hitchen and others, as a means of increasing recruits to fight for King and Country in the Great War, following the devastating casualties of the Gallipoli Campaign.
In the 1987 Coo-ee March reenactment, Gilgandra Shire Council and local community groups themselves ‘re-enacted the events leading up to the official send off’, including a ball, church service, farewell speech by the Shire President, street procession, and 21 gun salute. Two busloads of Gilgandra residents dressed up in period costume and travelled to Sydney to follow the reenactment marchers as they marched into Martin Place in Sydney at the end of the march. Local press, radio, television, and Film Australia, covered the marchers’ progress each day. They were greeted by crowds of school children and other spectators, and formal memorial ceremonies were held with local government officials, other dignitaries, and members of the general public at cenotaphs and other places in the towns and villages. Stories were told to the reenactors and the media by elderly members of the public who had seen the original marchers pass by in 1915.
Hopefully the 2015 reenactment will generate the same sort of spirit and enthusiasm in local communities along the route of the march, and a wider audience, and engage a new generation of Australian school children in re-living this historical event, and realizing it’s significance in the history of their local communities.
The Sydney Morning Herald in 1915 reported the following official figures of the men who 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.
The planned 2015 reenactment commemorating the 1915 recruitment march is significant therefore to every community in which the march stopped, to remember all of the young men who stepped into the ranks of the “Coo-ees” following the recruiting speeches and calls of “Who will join us?”, and the support that their local community provided during the march. All of these communities have names on their rolls of honour and war memorials, and commemorative plaques (such as the one at “Coo-ee Park” in Molong, and Coo-ee Memorial at Meadow Flat), which recognises their contributions to the war effort in supply of their local men.
A large part of the success of the 2015 “Coo-ee” re-enactment march, which will end in Sydney on Remembrance Day 11th November 2015, will depend upon each community being encouraged to take ownership and contribute to their town or village’s reception of the Coo-ee reenactment marchers as they pass through their area.
 Gilgandra Council, ‘Coo-ee Re-enactment March’, http://www.gilgandra.nsw.gov.au/index.cfm?objectId=4C0D6C98-FEA3-0007-8241200444781560, accessed 28th October 2014.
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