By the latter half of 1915, national enthusiasm for enlistment was on the wane, publication of casualty lists and word of the Gallipoli horrors were by then reaching Australia. In response recruiters began to employ a variety of methods to increase numbers. One notable event– part of the ‘snowball marches’ taking place across Queensland and New South Wales– was the March of the Dungarees that took place November 1915 in Queensland.
The March followed a route from Warwick, via Toowoomba and Ipswich, to Brisbane and as the Queensland Recruiting Executive’s instructions state:
The object of the march is to stimulate and encourage recruiting, to facilitate enlistment in country districts; and to draw attention to the call of the Empire as the supreme duty of every citizen.
To maintain order on the march Chaplain David Garland, a Lieutenant Colonel and organising secretary of the march, drafted strict, though sensible, instructions. Key points Chaplain Garland mentions are that:
Candidates will be permitted to join the March at any point, but must submit themselves to medical examination […] if finally passed they must forthwith take the oath and proceed with the March. If rejected they must leave the March.
Successful recruits were issued with a badge that they had to wear prominently throughout the March. Further those without a badge would be unable to walk within the rank.
However the instructions did not end there:
Marchers in Queensland were asked to provide their own light clothes for the march, though they were issued with the white linen hats of the Dungaree uniform.
In retrospect, Queensland recruits were lucky to miss out on the blue dungarees of the New South Wales march as, according to the National Advocate of the day, the dungarees weren’t washed beforehand and tinted the recruits’ skin blue.
As the saying goes, look after your feet and your feet will look after you.
The march was certainly no walk in the park. As the guidelines point out, recruits were under ‘military discipline and needed to refrain from any conduct unworthy of “gentlemen soldiers”’:
The March began in Warwick, with 30 men setting off for Brisbane, via Toowoomba, Laidley and Ipswich, covering an approximate distance of 239km and picking up recruits at each town, finishing with 125 recruits. As the Brisbane Courier noted on Wednesday 1 December 1915:
The men as they entered [Brisbane] looked typical, hardy sons of the country, all in the best of health and spirits, and eager for the fray.
Such were the spirits during the March that the Dungarees even had a marching song. As reported in the Brisbane Courier on Saturday 20 November 1915:
To the tune of Clementine with the words adapted as follows – Come and join us (repeated three times) – just now; we want some more men (three times) – just now; we have plenty of white hats (three times) just now.
This year is the 100th anniversary of the March of the Dungarees, with a number of events across South East Queensland being held to commemorate. For more information and to get involved visit the official March of the Dungarees site.