Charles William Gordon Conroy was born in Thames, New Zealand in about 1874. It seems that he remained for some time in the area; according to his attestation papers he served in the Rifle Corps at Waihi for a period of six months. He later completed a six-year apprenticeship with the Thames chemist, Frederick James Ray.
Charles later moved to Australia. In 1909 he married Mary Jane Pendergast in Orange. The couple settled in the town; it seems that they did not have any children. Charles’ nephew, AM Huntley, also lived in Orange.
Charles was one of twenty-two 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.
After completing the Coo-ee March Private Conroy went to Liverpool Camp as reinforcement for the 13th Battalion. He embarked from Sydney on 16 February 1916 and arrived in Egypt on 22 March. The following month he was transferred to the 54th Battalion. In June Charles joined the British Expeditionary Force in France. Less than a month later, on 19 July, Private Conroy was reported missing during the Battle of Fromelles.
According to eyewitnesses Conroy was struck in the left side of the chest by a piece of shell between the 1st and 2nd lines of the German trenches. He has no known grave.
Charles Conroy is commemorated on VC Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial at Fromelles, France.
1915 Coo-ee March – Charles William Gordon Conroy