Harley Cohen

Sydney born Harley Cohen was one of the first to enlist in WWI. His  service number in the 4th Battalion  was a very low 37.  He was a slight figure,  only 5′ 3″ tall  and weighing in at a shade over 8 stone. He was university educated and had a great interest in the arts, especially music. His civilian  occupation was listed as clerk, but he had also worked in the pastoral industry.

Private Cohen was at the landing at Anzac Cove on April 25. He was  interviewed about that day by The Sydney Morning Herald the following year;

At the horrific Battle of Lone Pine, Cohen was hit by shrapnel in the face and right eye. He lost  sight in the eye, and was medically discharged.

Harley Cohen - notification of wound while serving at Gallipoli.

While he was recuperating in hospital back home in Sydney, the sacrifice of his mates was very much on Harley’s mind.  He wrote a song in their honour, which became known as, They Were There, There, There. The music was composed by Mr Bert Rache.

Soon afterwards Harley and another veteran founded a musical group. Initially known as The Anzac Concert Party, it later became The Gallipoli Strollers. There is Harley  on the far right; hard to miss with his eye patch.  All eight members had been wounded, and ruled unfit for further  active service.

Gallipoli Srtollers
The Gallipoli Strollers

The group toured the country, entertaining  audiences but also promoting patriotic spirit. Heavy  casualties at Gallipoli and in France had reduced the number of volunteers. Harley  Cohen contributed many other  songs, including Women You Have Nobly Done Your Share.  He also wrote poems (often very amusing) which he performed as monologues.

The original song, They Were There, There, There,  remained very popular.

Score of They Were There, There, There.
Score of They Were There, There, There.

Here is the first verse and chorus.

Lyrics of They Were There, There, There, inspired by the Gallipoli campaign.
Lyrics of They Were There, There, There.

It was recorded by the well known Australian baritone, Peter Dawson.

Peter Dawson, who recorded Cohen's Gallipoli song.
Peter Dawson

Harley’s signature appears on the  bottom RHS of the image below, ‘With best compliments from your friend the composer…’

Harley Cohen's Gallipoli Song.

Harley  Cohen  became quite famous in his own right. I was amused to see that he was signed up as a celebrity  product endorser.


Harley Cohen - Gallipoli veteran and Celebrity Product Endorser

The performances by the Gallipoli Strollers were a mixture of pathos and humour. Here is an example of Harley’s sense of mischief. It was published in the Dungog Chronicle;


Fun at the Gallipoli Strollers entertainment is always hilarious, but last night at Grafton there was an unrehearsed item that caused no end of fun. Each night the company for one item groups itself on and round a table on the stage. During this item Pte. Hector Gray puts in sideplay, during which he bites Pte. Harley Cohen’s ear. Harley had on one or two occasions received a nasty nip, so he decided to stop it, and for that purpose covered his ear with bitter aloes. When Gray gave his usual bite, consternation spread over his face and he immediately commenced spitting, while the members of the company and those of the audience who had been let into the joke fairly bubbled over with mirth. It is safe to assume that ear-chewing will be cut out by Pte. Gray.

Harley Cohen’s contribution to the war effort  was very impressive, and in so many ways. He died in 1971.

1 Comment
  1. Thanks, wonderful story.

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