Speak of war and the flashes of blazing machine guns, thundering tanks and whistling missiles pass through our minds. Wounded and dead soldiers, bloody battle fields, shrill cries of agony and pain – it’s a horror that has kept coming back to us again and again and again… Someone wins and someone loses. The Emu War or better known as the Great Emu War was no different! One side own, the other lost but with a whole different twist that you probably cannot even think of in your wildest dreams! Let us learn 25 interesting Emu War facts that will simply blow away your mind!
Interesting Emu War Facts: 1-10
1. The Great Emu War was a fierce battle between the machine gun armed Australian soldiers and the large Emu birds. Yeah, yeah, you read it right! It was a war between the Emus and the Australian soldiers.
PRELUDE TO THE WAR: As the history goes – every war is a result of a series of events and the Emu War was no different!
2. It was after WWI that many British veterans and Australian soldiers picked up farming in Western Australia.
3. Then came the Great Depression of 1929 when the government of Australia asked the farmers to increase their production of wheat and promised to pay subsidies for the same. As expected, the government failed to keep the promise.
4. Increased production, no subsidies – the result was a steep and continuous fall in prices of wheat and by October 1932, the farmers prepped up for harvesting the crops but at the same time refused to load the wheat.
5. As if the problems weren’t already enough, in an unfortunate twist of events, an awfully big flock of 20,000 Emus descended down towards the coastal areas into the cultivated lands.
6. This migration of the Emus from inland to coastal areas was a result of their post-breeding-season hunt for fresh water and significant food supplies.
7. The Emus went on a rampage and ate the crops and destroyed the fields. As if they weren’t happy with what they did, they even left gaps – large gaps in fences, giving easy entrance to rabbits that brought down further destruction.
8. It was a major concern for the farmers. An ex-soldiers’ deputation met Sir George Pearce, the Minister of Defence. These soldiers were pretty much aware of the power of machine guns because of their WWI experience and asked for the deployment of the same in order to combat the Emus.
9. Sir George Pearce agreed but gave conditions – (a) only military personnel will be handling the machine guns, (b) the Western Australian Government will be financing the troop transport and (c) ammunition payment, accommodation and food will be the responsibility of the farmers. Yet another reason why the minister agreed was that the killing Emus will help with target practice.
10. Military involvement was supposed to start in October 1932 but heavy rainfall delayed the operation and troops were deployed on November 2, 1932. The troop actually included 2 soldiers carrying 2 Lewis Automatic Machine Guns along with 10,000 rounds of machine gun ammunition.
Interesting Emu War Facts: 11-20
11. The troop was under the command of Major G.P.W. Meredith of Seventh Heavy Battery of Royal Australian Artillery. The soldiers were instructed to bring back 100 Emu skins so that the feathers on the skins could be used for making hats for Australian light horsemen.
Emu War Facts: THE WAR BEGINS
12. On November 2, 1932, 50 Emus were sighted at Campion. The soldiers went there but the birds were out of range and hence, the local people tried herding the Emus into an ambush. The birds were cunning enough and broke into small groups and ran. Two more attempts were made that day and the soldiers managed to kill nearly a dozen emus.
13. The next major assault was on November 4. A 1,000 Emus were seen approaching a dam and an ambush was set. The soldiers did not open fire until the birds were in point blank range. As the Emus fell in trap, the soldiers opened fire but the gun jammed soon. The soldiers managed to kill only 12 birds and the rest ran off not to be seen for the rest of the day.
14. Major Meredith once decided in the following days of the war to mount a machine gun on a truck and chase and hunt the Emus. That was one super bad idea because the Emus outran the truck and the ride was way too bumpy to take clean shots and the gunner could not manage to hit any target.
15. By 8th November 1932, the soldiers managed to kill some 50 birds at the cost of 2,500 rounds of ammunition. The locals however said that the bird casualties ranged between 200 and 500.
The Emu command had evidently ordered guerrilla tactics
16. Dominic Serventy, an ornithologist made the following comment: “The machine-gunners’ dreams of point blank fire into serried masses of Emus were soon dissipated. The Emu command had evidently ordered guerrilla tactics, and its unwieldy army soon split up into innumerable small units that made use of the military equipment uneconomic. A crestfallen field force therefore withdrew from the combat area after about a month.”
17. The result was clean and simple. Minister Pearce withdrew the military personnel on the grounds that only a few Emus were killed.
Emu War Facts: THE WAR ENDS AND RESTARTS
18. Once the assault from Australian soldiers ended, the Emus reverted back to their rampage, triggering another round of appeal for military support by the farmers. The Premier of Western Australia, Mr. James Mitchell was in strong support for military involvement. Additionally, a report of 300 Emu casualties by the Base Commander successfully reinstated the military operation.
19. The operation was resumed on 13th November 1932 once again under the command of Major Meredith. The first two days were a success followed by a less successful day on the third day of the second round of operation.
20. By December 2, on an average 100 Emus were killed per week. On 10th December Meredith was recalled and he submitted a report where he stated that 986 Emus were killed at the cost of 9,860 rounds of ammunition, i.e. one confirmed kill for every 10 rounds.
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Interesting Emu War Facts: 21-25
21. Meredith however claimed that the operations led to the death of 2,500 additionally died because of bullet wounds.
THE EMU VICTORY
22. Military operations ended on 10th of December 1932 but the problem did not end that year. The farmers asked for assistance in 1934, 1943 and 1948. Each time their request was declined.
23. Instead, the bounty system that was instigated in 1923 turned out to be much more fruitful. In 1934 alone, over a period of 6 months, 57,034 bounties were collected.
24. The term ‘Emu War’ had spread like wild fire by end of 1932 and the news even reached Great Britain.
25. The end result of the Emu War was that the flightless birds prevailed and humans with their mighty firepower lost the war. The Emus did eventually leave not because they succumbed to the machine guns but because the crops were harvested and there was nothing left for them to eat.