THE centenary of the famous Waratahs World War I recruiting march will be marked with a re-enacted starting in Nowra on Sunday, November 29.
On Tuesday, November 30, 1915, 50 men left Nowra, marching for Sydney as part of a recruitment drive for World War I.
Those 50 men formed the nucleus of what became known as the March of the Waratahs.
Along the way, the group visited towns and villages, recruiting volunteers and by the time it reached Sydney had swelled to 120.
To mark the centenary, prolific local history author Alan Clark has produced a centenary edition of his popular book, The Waratahs.
Mr Clark produced his first book on the historic march in 1994 and has been gathering additional information ever since.
“While producing other books, I have been gathering more information and contacts,” he said.
In the past 18-months, while working on Early Years of Nowra District Pubs, which was released in June this year, Mr Clark also gained more information on the Waratah March.
“I always had an eye on producing an updated version of the book for the centenary,” he said.
The result, a 140-page book, compared to his previous 60-page publication.
“There is a lot of new information,” Mr Clark said.
“I have been able to put together detailed profiles on a lot of the Waratahs. I have about 105 of the people who marched.
“Every man had a different story to tell.”
Like Ludwig Andreassen, who originally came to Jervis Bay on a Norwegian whaling ship.
He deserted ship and was befriended by South Shoalhaven Mayor, Hugh MacKenzie, and given a job on his Terara estate before joining the march and going to war.
Then there were the Black brothers, Donald and William, who were both working at Huskisson as surveyors and signed up on the same day, yet their service was far apart, leaving for the front at different times.
Mr Clark has even managed to track down a photograph of an inscribed watch belonging to Donald “presented by his Huskisson friends” which is now in a private collection in Yorkshire.
“There are more photographs in this book, particularly of the march itself,” he said.
“I contacted a lot of the historical societies along the journey and get input and local knowledge to make sure it was as accurate as possible.”
Many of the men’s stories have been brought to life through their letters.
“I have been able to access a number of their letters. Their wonderful stories were told in their letters home,” he said.
Of the 120 who went to war, 30 were killed.
A few others died prematurely before the Second World War due to the various health issues they brought home.
Bert Rauch, the son of local newspaper man Henry, wrote numerous letters home, many of them published in the Shoalhaven Telegraph.
“He always seemed to mention some of the local soldiers, which certainly sparked plenty of interest,” Mr Clark said.
Rauch returned home in February 1919. He went into business with Thomas Marriott Jnr and married Mary Boot, but died suddenly aged 33 in 1926, leaving his wife and two small children.
Henry Rawlinson came home in 1919 and played in the victorious Nowra Warriors premiership side the same year.
“I have been able to go into greater detail and learnt about some of their tragic stories. A number didn’t have very good lives when they came back,” he said.
“Others took in their stride and lived long and fruitful lives.
“Norma Irwin’s father, Reg Cashman, lived longer than anyone else at 89, despite being wounded in the head by shrapnel, which the family still has today.”
Then there is the mystery of Edward McCarthy King or should that be Ring?
He was born in Victoria as Edward McCarthy Ring but enlisted in Kiama as “McCarthy King” and went through the whole war by that name.
Even his wife, Mary Elsie McDonell, who he married just prior to embarking signed her letters Elsie King.
Three of the Waratahs also came home with wives from England.
The South Coast Waratahs Recruiting March 1915 Centenary Edition will be officially launched on Friday, November 27 at the Nowra RSL Sub-Branch rooms in Junction Street, Nowra by president Fred Dawson at 7pm.
The book will cost $20.
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