Australian Military Defeat

Australia has been involved in a number of wars in its short history as a country, but only one that took place entirely within its own borders. That war, which took place in November and December of 1932, was one of the strangest wars in recorded history. The location – Western Australia. The Australian force – The Seventh Heavy Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery. The enemy – 20,000 emus supported by guerrilla rabbit squads. This was the Great Emu War.

In war, it's often difficult to say who was wrong, who was the aggressor, but in this case – it was them. One could argue that machine guns were an overreaction, but successful diplomacy seems unlikely with creatures who know neither mercy nor reason, and furthermore, can't actually speak or negotiate. And anyway, they started it.

These emus had been in the habit of migrating to the coast each year, but that all changed when Australians began farming further inland. These greedy emus saw the land the farmers had cultivated and decided that it appealed to them more than the coast, and so they began their invasion. The farmers were overwhelmed and appealed to the government for assistance, and the government responded by providing one truck, two soldiers with machine guns and 10,000 bullets, and Major G.P.W. Meredith of the Royal Australian Artillery. Three against 20,000 may seem long odds, even factoring in the machine guns, but the major was confident. Too confident, as it turned out. Although, in hindsight, perhaps it was a little unreasonable to expect each bullet to account for two kills.

Experienced though they were in trench warfare and the latest military tactics, the RAA had never encountered an enemy so scattered, so mobile. On the first day only 50 emus were sighted, and hardly any casualties noted. The emus were even able to outrun the Australians' truck. An ambush was planned a couple of days later for around 1,000 of the enemy, but even this was a dismal failure as only a dozen emus fell. Equipment failure was blamed, but can hardly account for the many failures that followed; In this first week of warfare less than 300 emus were killed. Although the Australians suffered no casualties, the retreat was sounded and the RAA forces withdrew.

For some days the emus were free to continue their campaign of terror. The Australians could not allow this to stand, and so Major Meredith once again took to the field. For almost another month the war waged on, the Australians firing almost all of their 10,000 bullets – but to little avail. Estimates put emu casualties somewhere between 1,000 and 3,500 (of their total force of 20,000), and having no more bullets, the Australians could fight no longer. The war was over and Australia had lost.

Arthur, Jay Mary. The Default Country: A Lexical Cartography of Twentieth-century Australia. UNSW Press, 2003. Print.
“Emu War Again.” The Canberra Times 12 November 1932. p. 1. Print.
“'Emu War' Defended”. The Argus 19 November 1932. p. 22. Print.
Gill, Frank B. Ornithology. Macmillan, 2007. Print.
Johnson, Murray “'Feathered foes': soldier settlers and Western Australia's 'Emu War' of 1932.” Journal of Australian Studies 88 (2006): 147–157. Print.
“Rain Scatters Emus.” The Argus 18 October 1932. p. 7. Print.
Robin, Libby, Leo Joseph, and Rob Heinshohn. Boom and Bust: Bird Stories For a Dry Country. CSIRO Publishing, 2009. Print.

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