The Great Emu War

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The Great Emu War was a military operation taking place in 1932 in Western Australia, dozens of local farming communities, already suffering the hardships of worldwide economic depression, had come under attack by ravenous hoards of flightless invaders, who were hell bent on property damage, destruction and mayhem. These proud communities made up of decorated military veterans banded together and entreated their government for help, this is that story.

Extract from the diary of Major GPW Meredith- Late Royal Australian Artillery 

” Word came down from above, all the way from the Minister, that useless toad Pearce, that me and a detachment are being sent to the arse end of nowhere, a place called Campion, because a couple of the local yocal’s are having problems with a the wildlife becoming a bit to wild. It’ll probably be nothing, we go in make some noise scare away a couple of birds, then bang, back home in time for tea.”

After the local community appealed to the Minister of Defence Sir George Pearce, the Seventh Heavy Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery was dispatched to Campion, under the command of Major GPW Meredith, the battery armed with two Lewis Guns was sent to relieve the locals of their avian aggressors.

Extract from the diary of Major GPW Meredith- Late Royal Australian Artillery 

Day one in this hell hole, we spotted about fifty or so of the targets near to where we had set up the guns, they were a little bit out of range so some of the locals thought they would  be “helpful” and try to herd the beasts towards us, it’s safe to say the locals don’t even have the brains of an emu, what does it say when a whole town cant even herd a group of giant birds into a trap? we got a couple, but nowhere near enough, we spotted about a dozen or so later that day and managed to pick them off, but it was not a good day.” 

After failing to make a significant dent in the emu hoards insurmountable numbers during his first few days of operations Major Meredith and his men moved south towards the local dam where over 1000 emus had set up base.

Extract from the diary of Major GPW Meredith- Late Royal Australian Artillery 

“we set up position near the local watering hole. a dam not far from Campion, a load of those damn brutes were coming toward our position, forward estimates and scouting parties put the number up there at over a thousand, and they were coming right for us, we didn’t make the same mistakes as day one, we waited until their beady little eyes were in sight, then, BANG, we let of rounds left right and centre picking off targets all over the place, that is util the blasted gun jammed after managing to fire off about 20 rounds, it was enough to make those blessed nuisances scarper, and left me and the lads with a bit of egg on our face, especially as that chap from the Argus keeps poking his nose about”

After little success Major Meredith moved further south picking off stray targets along the way, but was still frustrated by the terrain and the speed of their quarry.

Extract from the diary of Major GPW Meredith- Late Royal Australian Artillery 

Day six of the operation, we’ve got through about a quarter of the ammunition we were supplied with, and the whole thing has been one damn frustrating mess since the beginning, first we can’t find them, then the gun jams, then they run, I’ve even had the lads try strapping the guns onto a jeep, but the land is so rocky, even if they could’ve got off a shot, they’d probably would have hit themselves, it’s no wonder the muckity mucks back in parliament have decided to call off the show, the lads put the number of dead birds around 250, I put in the official report to HQ about 500, but its probably closer to 50. That bloke from the Argus wanted a quote, so I said to him ‘If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds it would face any army in the world… They can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks. They are like Zulus whom even dum-dum bullets could not stop.’ He said they probably wouldn’t print it though. “

On 8 November, representatives in the Australian House of Representatives discussed the operation. Following the negative coverage of the events in the local media, that included claims that “only a few” emus had died, Minister of Defence Sir George Pearce withdrew the military personnel on 8th  November.

After the withdrawal of the military, the emu attacks on crops continued. Farmers again asked for support, citing the hot weather and drought that made emus invade farms in their thousands. Acting on the requests of locals on the 12th November the Minister of Defence agreed to resume military efforts in Western Australia. He defended the decision in the senate, explaining why the soldiers were necessary to combat the serious agricultural threat of the large emu population. Major Meredith was once again placed in the field due to an apparent lack of experienced machine gunners in the state.

Extract from the diary of Major GPW Meredith- Late Royal Australian Artillery 

“I can’t believe that rat Pearce is sending us back in to this mess, I think this is one of those times were tactics and subtlety are going to have to go out the window. Looking at todays figures we picked off about 40 or 50 of the blighters, but were going to have to ramp it up a bit if we wan’t to be home in time for Christmas” 

Over the following three weeks Major Meredith’s men killed almost 1000 emus directly, with another 2500 or so birds dying of their wounds after the fact.  Major Meredith was recalled on 10 December, and in his report he claimed 986 kills with 9,860 rounds, at a rate of exactly 10 rounds per confirmed kill. He also reported that his unit suffered no noteworthy casualties.

Extract from the diary of Major GPW Meredith- Late Royal Australian Artillery 

” So they’re finally sending us home from this god forsaken place, to my dying day I will be cursed with what I’ve seen and cursed with what I’ve done” 

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*Authors Note, Whilst Major GPW Meredith was the operational leader of the Emu War, the diary excerpts used in this post are entirely fictional and were written, by yours truly, to make a mildly amusing, but otherwise dry historical anecdote somewhat more amusing. 


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