Wednesday, 4 September 2013


Fighting the Kaiser

Fighting the Kaiser, fighting the Kaiser,
Who'll come a-fighting the Kaiser with me?
And we'll drink all his beer, and eat up all his sausages,
Who'll come a fighting the Kaiser with me!

This popular parody of Waltzing Matilda is not only a call to arms, but an expression of the Australian attitude to the First World War. Over a thousand volunteers with connections to Coburg answered that call and went 'a-fighting the Kaiser'. Of those, about 200 died. 

This blog aims to tell the stories of those volunteers and explore the impact of war on the Town of Coburg during the war years and immediately afterwards.

Please consider sharing your connection to Coburg during the First World War on this blog.

Artist: Norman Lindsay, c. 1915-1918. Image courtesy of State Library of Victoria

When Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914, it was inevitable that Australia would follow. Recruitment began on 10 August and by 14 August, Coburg had held its first patriotic meeting. (Brunswick and Coburg Star, 14 August 1914)

Among the 'living stream' of volunteers that poured into Victoria Barracks and local drill halls were a number of Coburg volunteers. (Brunswick and Coburg Star, 21 August 1914)

According to the Brunswick and Coburg Star, the Coburg recruits included Hector McKay, resident of Campbell Street, Coburg, 'son of the late Robert McKay and grandson of the late "Sandy" Ellis, the one-time famous jockey, and nephew to Mr Mat Ellis, well-known horse owner.' (Brunswick and Coburg Star, 28 August 1914)

I thought it would be easy to find Hector McKay in the Embarkation Rolls and the NAA soldier dossiers, but so far I have not been able to locate him. There is a Hector McKay, but he's from Colac. As I've discovered, names were routinely misspelled or even completely wrong and I've searched under McKay and Mackay for a Hector from Coburg, without success. 

Is there anyone out there who can tell me more about Hector, his father Robert, his uncle "Sandy" Ellis or cousin Mat Ellis? 


  1. Great start to a blog - will follow with interest!

  2. Thanks, Linda. I hope you continue to enjoy the blog. I'm happy to post entries on any topic related to the War, so please feel free to put in a request!