William Aubrey Collyer was born in Wongarbon in 1896, the first of five children born to Thomas William Collyer and his wife Flora Jane (nee Dewar).
William was working as a butcher in Wongarbon when WWI was declared. The 19 year old was one of twenty men who joined the Coo-ees when they arrived in Orange on Saturday, 23 October 1915.
Conceived by Captain “Bill” Hitchen of Gilgandra, the Coo-ee March was a recruitment drive in response to dwindling enlistments following the heavy casualties sustained on the Gallipoli Peninsula and in the trenches of France. On 10 October 1915 Hitchen left Gilgandra with 25 men to march the 515km to Sydney, collecting recruits along the way. A total of 264 recruits reached Martin Place in Sydney at noon on Friday 12 November, where they were greeted by Prime Minister Billy Hughes and a crowd of 100,000 people.
William proceeded to Liverpool camp for training, embarking with his fellow coo-ees on the Star of England from Sydney on 8 March 1916. William served in France and England as a Private in the 13th Battalion, 15th Reinforcements, later as a Driver and then Gunner.
In May 1919 William embarked from England to return to Australia. He settled in the Richmond River district and, in 1922, married Jessie Martha McDonough. The couple had seven children. William worked as a stock inspector for the NSW Tick Department for many years, until he was forced to resign due to ill-health as a result of his war service.
William Aubrey Collyer died in Lismore Base Hospital on 20 August 1937. He was afforded a military funeral by the Lismore branch of the Returned Soldiers’ League, with returned soldiers forming a guard of honour at St Andrew’s Church of England and East Lismore Cemetery.
William is commemorated on the Wongarbon Soldiers’ Memorial and the Wellington Cenotaph in Cameron Park, Wellington.
The Brusilov Offensive grinds to a halt on the Eastern Front, following the loss of nearly a million men. The humiliating withdrawal from the hard-won areas lowers morale and fuels political and social unrest in Russia.
The German-Bulgarian Army under the command of Prussian General August von Mackensen is repulsed in the Dobrudja province of Romania
Essad Pasha establishes the Albanian government in Salonika
The Greek Government demands the return of the 4th Army Corps from Germany
Manfred von Richthofen, the “Red Baron”, Nicola Perscheid, c1917. Image courtesy Postkartenvertrieb W Sanke.
Day 783 of the war. World War I is at its midpoint. 62 men from Orange have already died in service; a further 174 will die before the declaration of peace on 11 November 1918.
Prime Minister Hughes appeals to the Australian public to support the Military Service Referendum Bill. He declares:
Australia is called upon to face the supreme test of nationhood. We, boasting our freedom, are called upon to prove ourselves worthy to be free…Now is the hour Australia is called upon to gird up her loins and make her great effort…This is a war to the death – a fight to a finish. The future of Australia and the hopes of Australian democracy hang on victory…Your kinsmen and your Allies across the sea look to you to do your duty. Your comrades in the Australian armies, whose glorious valor has covered the name of Australia with undying lustre, call to you to come and stand by their side…In the name of Australia, I abjure every man and woman in the Commonwealth to vote “YES.”
German air ace Manfred von Richthofen, the “Red Baron”, shoots down his first of many Allied aircraft. Royal Flying Corps airmen Lionel Morris, aged 19, and Tom Rees, 21, are killed when von Richthofen shoots down their plane following an air raid. The Red Baron – Manfred von Richthofen
British forces attack Bir el Mazar in Sinai; Turkish troops withdraw to El Arish
General Paul von Hindenburg issues orders to strengthen German defenses on the Western Front. The Hindenburg Line, as it would become known, was a heavily fortified zone running several kilometres behind the active front between the north coast of France and Verdun, near the border between France and Belgium.
The British front advances almost one kilometre near Courcelette on the Somme
British naval forces occupy the port of Lindi in southern German East Africa
From a young age Malcolm Herbert Stewart was driven by a desire to serve his community and country. As a boy he served in the Cadets for more than seven years; when World War I broke out in August 1914 Malcolm was one of the first to enlist. After the war Malcolm became a foundation member of Orange sub-branch of the RSL and its president for many years. He worked for Orange City Council for more than 40 years and was an active member of the Manchester Unity Oddfellows Lodge and Ophir Lodge.
Born in Orange in 1892, Malcolm was one of six children born to Malcolm John Stewart and his wife Mary (nee Beckenham). The family was particularly civic minded and displayed a keen interest in Orange and its townspeople; they were actively involved with St John’s Presbyterian Church.
Malcolm was educated at Orange Public School, where he served four years in Junior Cadets, three years in Senor Cadets , six months in Coronation Cadets and two and a half years as a Senior Cadet Officer.
At age 18, Malcolm was selected as one of the Australian Commonwealth Coronation Contingent of New South Wales Senior Cadets to participate in the coronation celebrations for King George V held at Westminster Abbey on 22 June 1911.
Malcolm later joined the staff at Buckham and Wilson’s grocery store on the south western corner of Summer Street and Lords Place (where the Commonwealth Bank now stands). At the time of his enlistment in the First World War, on 18 August 1914, Malcolm was employed as a grocer at Dalton Brothers.
Malcolm joined the 3rd Battalion, F Company, and was assigned the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. He embarked HMAT A14 Euripides in Sydney on 20 October 1914. Lieutenant Stewart joined the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in April 1915 and landed at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. He was admitted to No 1 Stationary Hospital, Lemnos, in May, suffering from influenza; he rejoined his unit the following month.
On 6 August 1915 Lieutenant Stewart’s unit fought in the Battle of Lone Pine. Malcolm sustained gunshot wounds to the left arm and right leg and was evacuated to the hospital ship Delta, and later admitted to the 19th General Hospital at Alexandria. He was transferred to the 4th Auxiliary Hospital at Abbassia and the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital at Cairo before being admitted to Helouan convalescent camp in late October 1915.
Malcolm returned to service in November 1915, when he was placed on light duties. In January 1916 he was appointed Company Sergeant Major at Tel-el-Kebir in Egypt. In July that year he was again admitted to hospital, suffering from ankylosis of the elbow. On 16 August 1916 Malcolm embarked from Cairo, to be invalided home. He arrived in Sydney a month later, and was afforded a public reception when he arrived in Orange on 20 September 1916.
Later that year Malcolm joined the clerical staff at Orange City Council. He served as a rates clerk for more than 40 years, until his retirement in September 1957. He was a popular and highly respected employee. In 1919 he was appointed Deputy Town Clerk and Secretary of the local Repatriation Committee.
In 1925 Malcolm married Isabella Clarke. The couple had three children – Peter, Jean and Max, who was later a famous racing car driver.
As a foundation member of Orange sub-branch of the RSL Malcolm worked tirelessly to ensure that the contribution of the district’s WWI soldiers was acknowledged by a suitable memorial. During the Second World War Malcolm was in charge of the Orange Voluntary Defence Corps. He also served as Western Districts Councillor to the RSL for 12 years, and was the Chairman of the Western Districts Conference.
Malcolm Herbert Stewart died in Orange on 6 July 1968, aged 75. He is commemorated on the St John’s Presbyterian Church Orange Honour Roll.
Prime Minister Hughes reads the Military Service Referendum Bill to Parliament for the second time, confirming that soldiers on active service will be entitled to vote. Conscription
The A Company of the 42nd Infantry is advised that they will depart Orange on the 2.30am train to camp in Sydney. Recruits are to present at the Drill Hall at 11pm and are to bring their own crockery and cutlery, toiletries and linen as well as a candle and a spare set of bootlaces. Roseberry Camp
The New Zealand Division takes part in its first major action near Flers on the Somme. The division suffers 7,000 casualties, including more than 1,500 killed over the next 23 days. New Zealand and The Battle of The Somme
Tanks are used for the first time in WWI. The British artillery unleashes 828,000 shells and 12 divisions of men advance at Flers Courcelette on the Somme, aided by their secret weapon, 48 Mark I tanks. Many of the tanks break down, with only 21 making it to the front line. The British advance 2.5kms, finally taking High Wood, but sustaining 29,000 casualties in the process. Tank Development in World War I
Italian troops with a captured Austrian machine gun during the Seventh Battle of the Isonzo. Image courtesy Italian Army Historic Photogallery.
The Seventh Battle of the Isonzo begins as Italian troops launch a short, concentrated attack on Austro-Hungarian positions near the Isonzo River in north-eastern Italy. Italy sustains 17,000 casualties during the four day battle, Austria-Hungary 15,000
British forces storm German trenches along a 1km front to the south-east of Thiepval
British troops gain ground towards Machukova in Macedonia
Bulgarian troops occupy Kavalla in Greek Macedonia