Recreating History - The Gilgandra Coo-ee March 2005
On the 03rd July 2005 three companies of new recruits for the Australian Imperial Force marched out of the history books and through the streets of Sydney. The 10th Battalion of Reinforcements was raised in order to re-enact the famous Gilgandra Coo-ee March from 1915. In period uniforms and civilian attire the ‘Coo-ees’ formed up in College St, marched past Saint Mary’s Cathedral and the Albert Memorial then up Macquarie Street behind the RAA Band. At Parliament house they gave an eyes right for Her Excellency the Governor of NSW, the new Chief of Defence Force and the Prime Minister’s Representative. Veterans and members of the public cheered, clapped & Coo-eed as they marched by in column of route.
The Coo-ee March was part of the National Parade for Reserve Forces Day 2005.
The re-enactment was the result of months of planning & preparation. It brought together Army Reservists, AIF re-enactors and civilian volunteers from the SES, NSWFB and other community groups from towns along the route of the original march. Many of the recruits had never before marched in a parade. To their credit the period civilians really looked the part and marched well after only one day of training by drill instructors from UNSWR.
Our CO, Major John Gallagher was the grandson of Bill Hitchens, the Gilgandra butcher who led the original March in 1915. This was the first of many such recruiting marches to replace the men killed or injured in the fighting on Gallipoli and later the Western Front. The original march started in Gilgandra with only 35 men and finished in Sydney 320 miles and five weeks later with 263 recruits. Many of the Coo-ees joined the newly formed Second Division. One in three of those that enlisted never returned to Australia. Two out of three became casualties and many of those were wounded more than once.
Training for the re-enactment began on the Friday morning when the AIF re-enactors from the Australian Great War Association and other groups began erecting bell tents on ANZAC Rifle Range in Malabar. Here they established a period encampment with tent lines and an admin area. During the course of the day they conducted dress and weapon inspections then rifle drill. In the afternoon members of AGWA delivered lessons on the Organization of the Infantry Platoon followed by Target Indications and Fire Control Orders. This led up to a patrol to practice platoon formations.
Saturday involved a full day of training with the Coo-ees. This included briefings, company drill and the opportunity for the volunteers to walk through the period encampment and talk to the re-enactors. Members of AGWA delivered lessons on the SMLE service rifle, load bearing equipment, army rations and signalling in a bullring exercise. A final rehearsal with the band and a squadron of Light Horse in the afternoon brought everything together.
Sunday was bright & sunny. All three Companies formed up opposite the National Museum in College Street. Major Gallagher gave the command to open order march and the Governor and her entourage inspected the Battalion. At 1100h the Battalion turned into column of route and stepped off into history. It was a moving experience for all of the participants and an honour to represent the AIF.
Reserve Forces Day highlights the contribution & sacrifice made by Defence Volunteers then and now. The AIF was made up of citizen soldiers who volunteered to enlist in what became known as the Great War. This conflict saw our loss of innocence as a nation but also the birth of our national identity & the ANZAC legend. As an AIF re-enactor and an Army Reservist I was proud to participate in the National Parade and would like to thank all of those involved for their enthusiasm and commitment
LT S.E.J. McCurdy
Australian Great War Association Inc.
This page was last updated 5th Feb 2005
It is dedicated to the generation who fought, died, survived the "War to end all Wars"
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