History of the Snowball recruitment marches

TWO Jindabyne women have taken a quirky piece of war history to Cooma - and locals might be surprised to learn about an unusual approach to recruiting men to the war effort after the Gallipoli debacle in World War I.

Rosemary Stewart-Beardsley and Greta Lynette Jones from the Snowy Alpine Heritage Association in Jindabyne have put together a display at the Monaro Regional Library on a recruitment method that was popular during the First World War called the 'snowball' recruiting march.

One of these marches was 'The Men From Snowy River' march which started at Delegate, near the New South Wales / Victorian border, to the training camp at Goulburn, a distance of some 350 kilometres, over 23 days.

Ms Stewart-Beardsley and Ms Lynette Jones have put together a display of memorabilia and a powerpoint presentation and taken them to the Jindabyne CWA, the Dalgety Womens' Day, the Berridale Historical Society and the Berridale Hostel.

A professional historian, Ms Stewart-Beardsley said researching the WW1 "Men From Snowy River" march came about in the first instance as a result of the Snowy Alpine Heritage Association being awarded a $1000 grant from the NSW Department of Environment and Heritage to investigate and record the stories of the men from the Snowy River Shire who had participated in this event.

From there, the field of research has widened to encompass those volunteers who came from families living within Cooma-Monaro shire.

Research on "The men from Snowy River" has been done by Ms Jones and Ms Stewart-Beardsley.

"For a great many years, Greta has been doing research into the lives of the men from Snowy River Shire who did not return from the two World Wars, Ms Stewart-Beardsley said.

"My speciality is rural social history and we would like to acknowledge the generosity of the many family members of the men who participated in the 'Men From Snowy River March' who have so freely shared their stories, photographs and documents."

Ms Stewart-Beardsley said the route followed the railway for much of the way.

"Some of the clever ones got on the train, rather than march all the way to Goulburn in the heat of the summer," Ms Stewart-Beardsley said.

Ms Stewart-Beardsley said following the appalling loss of life at Gallipoli, the Australian government promised Britain it would provide 5,000 extra soldiers a month for the war in Europe.

"In an effort to meet this pledge so-called "snowball" recruitment marches were organised throughout New South Wales.

"The basic premise behind these marches was that as they progressed along their chosen route, extra recruits joined at each stop along the way.

"One of these recruitment marches was the "Men From Snowy River" march which left Delegate on January 6, 1916 to march to Goulburn. "The men marched along what is now known as the Monaro Highway, the Old Cooma Road, through Queanbeyan and Tarago to the military training camp in Goulburn where they arrived on January 29, a distance of roughly 350 kilometres."

The march began with 12 volunteers and by the time they entered Goulburn camp their number was 140.

They were accompanied by four full-time Army staff personnel.

Ms Stewart-Beardsley said 45 of these volunteers gave their home address as either within the Snowy River Shire (back then known as the Dalgety Shire) or Cooma-Monaro Shire.

"Almost all of then were drafted into the 4th Reinforcements for the 55th Battalion, A.I.F., which served on the Western Front from the later quarter of 1916 until the end of the war in 1918.

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