Thursday, June 2, 2016

Welcome Home at Koo-Wee-Rup

This photograph from the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society shows the welcome home given to local boys, Les Cochrane, Bill Gilchrist and Billy McGree.

Les Cochrane (Service Number 2162) had enlisted May 2, 1916 at the age of 21. Les served in France and was twice wounded in action.  He Returned to Australia on February 15, 1918. Mr Cochrane later became a Cranbourne Shire Councillor and a Member of the Legislative Assembly - you can read more about him here.

William John Gilchrist, known as Bill (Service Number 1648) enlisted on January 13, 1916 at the age of 26. He was a farmer from Koo-Wee-Rup. After serving overseas,  Corporal Gilchrist Returned to Australia on January 31, 1918.  He was discharged on medical grounds on May 25, 1918 - his disability was listed as Myocarditis. Bill applied for a Soldier Settler block and was granted 40 acres (Allotments 106 and 119, Section 0, Parish of Koo-Wee-Rup East, off Little Road in Iona) in May 1921 but had to give up  the land due to his on-going ill health two years later. His application form said that he was receiving a pension of 14 shillings per week due to shell shock. You can read his full application here on the Public Records Office of Victoria Battle to Farm Soldier Settlement Records  website -

Bill married Minnie Mary Ellen Forsyth in 1920. Bill lived to the age of 86 and died June 23, 1975;  Minnie died at the age of 81 August 9, 1983.

The third man in the photograph is William Francis McGree (Service Number 3110) Billy had enlisted on February 2, 1917 aged 23. He was a farm labourer and had been born in Launceston. Billy served overseas and was wounded in action (gun shot wound to left leg) in France. He Returned to Australia on February 15, 1918. Billy was given a Soldier Settlement Farm in 1918 and like William Gilchrist, had to give up his land in July 1921 due to ill health. His land was of 84 acres, Allotment 23a, Section J, Parish of Koo-Wee-Rup - off the Pakenham-Koo-Wee-Rup Road. You can see his full soldier settlement file at

Billy married Elizabeth Margaret (Maggie) Neal in 1919.  Billy died in Ararat in 1957 aged 63. I can't find any reference to the death of Maggie.

This is the report from the Lang Lang Guardian of May 4, 1918 of the homecoming of  
Les Cochrane, Bill Gilchrist and Billy McGree.

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