Call out to join centenary march

The Town Band will strike up a march to lead volunteers through Forbes in a re-enactment of the recruitment march that rallied young men to fight for their country in World War I.

A century ago, enlistment for World War I service had dwindled following Gallipoli and heavy casualties in France.

Two Gilgandra men organised a march of local volunteers to Sydney, enlisting men in each town along the route. Twenty six men left Gilgandra, they arrived in Sydney with 263 recruits.

The Coo-ees, as they were known, captured the imagination of the public and became national heroes.

Their example was soon followed by others, including the Boomerang March which departed Parkes for Daroobalgie by train, then marched to Donaghey’s Hill, Forbes, Yamma Station, Eugowra, Gooloogong, Canowindra, and eventually on to Bathurst.

The march arrived in Forbes 71 strong on 19 January 1916 and left Forbes 92 strong two days later.

This October, you’re invited to re-trace their steps. 

A group of marchers will depart Parkes by train on Saturday, October 31 on a 1920s motor rail coach courtesy Lachlan Valley Railway.

The Forbes Town Band will meet the marchers at Forbes Railway Station and lead them to the cenotaph, then on to Lake Forbes.

Marchers will be the guests of the Kalari River Arts Festival for lunch.

They will march out of Forbes and drive to Eugowra to camp overnight. 

Forbes Town Band bandmaster Justin Screen said the band members were keen to be part of the re-enactment, following on from the centenary of the Gallipoli landing and local commemorations. 

“We have just been part of the centenary of Gallipoli landing but it didn’t end there,” he said.

“Six months later they needed more people to enlist because so many had died.

“If you look at the history of the Boomerangs, to re-create the march the town band needs to lead the volunteers into town where they were given a feed.”

Forbes Town Band has received $500 from Northparkes Mines’ Community Investment Program for new marching equipment to lead the Boomerangs. 

With the town band signed up for the occasion, volunteer marchers are needed to be part of the re-enactment. 

Anybody aged 18 and over can be a marcher, for all or part of the march.

Men and women are encouraged to join and do need to be moderately fit, with comfortable footwear and clothing appropriate to the era.

For more information or to register as a marcher go to

The Advocate acknowledges historic information about the Coo-ee march from John Meredith’s book “The Coo-ee March” and the Australian War Memorial website.