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.
Northern Star, 21 August 1937, p. 8.
Obituary – Mr WA Collyer
Northern Star, 23 August 1937, p. 5.
Mr WA Collyer