A plaque and associated flag staff commemorating the coo-ee recruitment marches of World War 1 and the army camp is located in front of the Beau Brown Pavilion at Bathurst Showgrounds.
In 1915 in the Central West of NSW a movement began known as the ‘Gilgandra snowball’.
Under the leadership of W.T. Hitchen, plumber and rifleman of that town, about 20 men from that district began to march to Sydney to enlist in the armed forces for WW1.
As they passed through villages and towns, other men joined the ranks and they were given sustenance by local people. By the time they reached Sydney, their numbers had swelled to 263.
There were about 10 such marches from various regional centres between October 1915 and March 1916 with names like the Coo-ees, Dungarees, Boomerangs, Kangaroos and Men from Snowy River. The Central West marches inevitably came through Bathurst and many either camped or terminated here.
Bill Hitchen also gave his services to the Kookaburra march from Tooraweenah which ended here and the Wallaby march from Narrabri to Newcastle.
The plaque at the showgrounds commemorates the army training camp that operated on site during 1916. It also records the closure of the camp (in December of that year) due to flooding in October.
The plaque goes on to note the special significance of the site as the end point or rest point for some recruiting marches.
There is considerably more detail on the memorial, which was erected by the Bathurst RSL Sub-branch.
Needless to say, many of the recruitment march men are buried in battlefields overseas, especially in France at VC Corner Cemetery, Menin Gate and Menin Road Cemeteries, La Clytte and Melcombe Regis.