There’s a distinction between e-book good and bar good. You is probably not e-book good, however this collection can make you appear educated and attention-grabbing from a barstool. So, stomach up, pour your self a glass of one thing good and take psychological notes as we take a look at the primary and solely continent-wide army operation in opposition to the second-tallest fowl species on this planet.

The enemy emerged from the tree line and marched in direction of Gunner O’Halloran’s hid place. Lots of the practically 1,000 troopers stood over six toes excessive. They had been sturdy and quick, they usually’d ravaged Western Australian farms and ranches for tons of of sq. miles.

O’Halloran tightened his grip on his Lewis gun, a WWI-era mild machine gun chambered in .303 British. The enemy troopers had been inside vary, however he didn’t hearth. Earlier skirmishes had taught him to be affected person, and he wished to take down as lots of the long-legged legionaries as potential.

Lastly, once they had been inside 100 yards, he pulled the set off. The primary volley took down about 12 combatants, however then the unthinkable occurred: the Lewis gun jammed. O’Halloran’s males struggled frantically to get the gun again in motion, nevertheless it was too late. The enemy fled, leaving greater than a pillow’s value of black and grey feathers of their wake.

So went the second skirmish in Western Australia’s Nice Emu Struggle of 1932. The Nice Emu Struggle is maybe the world’s solely formally sanctioned army operation in opposition to a local fowl species, and the entire marketing campaign went about in addition to that preliminary foray.

Drought, Melancholy, and Emus

Why would the Australian army launch an all-out warfare in opposition to one in every of its personal animals? The troubles began with a post-WWI-era program meant to assist returning troopers begin their very own farms. This “soldier settler” scheme sounded good in idea. However in observe, it was a catastrophe, particularly within the arid farmland of Western Australia.

By the early Thirties, Western Australian settlers had been attempting to eke out a residing as wheat farmers confronted a trifecta of drought, plummeting commodity costs, and rabbit infestations, in accordance with historian Murray Johnson. Johnson is an honorary analysis senior fellow in historical past at The College of Queensland, and his 2006 article revealed within the “Journal of Australia Research” is probably the most authoritative account of the Nice Emu Struggle.

Emus often migrate in direction of the Western Australian coast after breeding in drier inland areas. However they don’t transfer throughout common intervals like mule deer or elk. They transfer primarily based on the place they’ll discover meals and water, they usually’ve been identified to observe rain-bearing clouds for tons of of miles to seek out assets.

So, when as many as 20,000 emus descended on the wheat fields round Campion and Walgoolan, simply east of Merredin, the previous troopers hatched a scheme born of desperation.

“Recalling their experiences of warfare, they decided that there is perhaps one technique of destroying the hordes in opposition to which they had been confronted,” Murray writes. “A deputation of soldier settlers accordingly waited on the federal Minister for Defence, Sir George Pearce, in Perth, requesting machine weapons to launch a counter-attack.”

The Marketing campaign: Section I

It’s unclear why the Australian army determined this is able to be a good suggestion. Pearce didn’t inform the Navy Board in Canberra earlier than giving the go-ahead, so there’s that. Murray additionally factors out that the contingent tasked with mowing down Emus was accompanied by a cinematographer. Pearce could have hoped to make use of the “Emu Struggle” as a PR marketing campaign to exhibit to the disgruntled wheat farmers that the federal government was, in reality, doing one thing.

Regardless of the cause, Main G. P. W. Meredith was put answerable for the troops on the bottom, and the marketing campaign commenced on the morning of November 2, 1932.

They arrived in Campion and instantly spied a flock of 40 to 50 emus. Sergeant McMurray and Gunner O’Halloran introduced the Lewis weapons to bear, however they quickly realized that the flock was effectively out of vary. Meredith tried to have among the soldier settlers circle behind the birds and drive them in direction of the machine weapons, however the birds, as Meredith would uncover repeatedly throughout the course of the subsequent few weeks, didn’t adjust to being massacred.

The emus scattered into the close by bushes, and whereas the Lewis weapons had been in a position to take out a number of birds at 1,000 meters, most of them escaped.

Meredith had imagined going toe-to-toe with huge herds of emus, however the birds nearly by no means gathered in such massive numbers. As an alternative, Meredith was compelled to arrange ambushes round water sources and look ahead to smaller teams to reach. This tactic netted about 200 birds by November 8 (in accordance with Meredith), however the troopers used 2,500 rounds of ammunition to do it.

Excuses, Excuses

That bullet-to-kill ratio didn’t sit proper with the bigwigs again within the Australian parliament, and the “Emu Struggle” was being panned within the media. The machine gunners had been recalled, and Meredith was compelled to account for a way he was bested by the gangly, flightless birds. His cause? The rattling birds didn’t keep nonetheless.

“It have to be realised that an emu full out can do 45 miles per hour, consequently the goal is, after the primary burst, a really quickly shifting one, and is just seen for a really brief time,” he complained in a letter to his superiors.

Emus typically choose a lookout to warn the flock of hazard, and even when the troopers did handle to sneak inside rifle vary, the birds might take a success. Meredith reported seeing a fowl run a half-mile whereas mortally wounded, he as soon as in contrast the birds to tanks.

“If we had a army division with the bullet-carrying capability of those birds, it could face any military on this planet. They may face machine weapons with the invulnerability of tanks,” he wrote.

Whereas Meredith had cause to decorate the skills of his enemy, he additionally had cause to be impressed. He spoke with one farmer who informed him that after chasing down an emu in his truck, the farmer discovered 5 bullets within the fowl’s physique “which had evidently been there for the reason that first operations.”

The Marketing campaign: Section II

Regardless of the army’s preliminary lack of success, the emus continued wreaking havoc on the world’s already fragile wheat fields. Meredith reported that the harm had “to be seen to be believed.” The birds completely flattened crops over massive areas, and a discipline that beforehand returned six baggage per acre solely returned two baggage.

So, “Meredith and his merry males” (because the newspapers had taken to calling them) discovered themselves again in Campion simply 5 days after their first retreat. Murray reviews that this second marketing campaign “fared solely marginally higher.”

They killed about twenty birds the primary day, however by this time the birds had turn out to be extraordinarily cautious. The emus had found out the efficient vary of the Lewis weapons, they usually typically stayed simply past it.

Happily, the continued drought made the birds “frantic for need of water,” in accordance with Meredith. Sitting close to water sources proved to be probably the most profitable technique, and by December 2 the foremost reported that they had been killing about 100 birds each week.

The farmers could have been grateful to take away even that small proportion of the entire inhabitants, however the success was blended. “It’s extremely possible,” Murray reviews, “that the machine-gunners really exacerbated the crop losses, for each time the weapons had been in a position to open hearth the birds scattered broadly, trampling the maturing wheat as they desperately sought cowl.”

A 1953 newspaper account of the emu downside reported that the birds trample 100 vegetation for each one plant they eat, making their toes, slightly than their stomachs, the actual hazard to wheat crops.


When the wheat crops had lastly been harvested and the Nice Emu Struggle ended on December 10, 1932, Meredith reported the enemy casualties at 986 birds.

The key referred to as these “particular kills,” however unusually (and conveniently), 986 was precisely 10% of the variety of bullets used within the warfare (9,860). This allowed Meredith to say one kill for each ten rounds of ammunition, which he referred to as an “terribly excessive proportion.” He might need additionally referred to as it “a very unlikely coincidence,” and the world could by no means know for certain precisely what number of emus fell throughout these weeks.

The warfare in opposition to the emus continued in subsequent many years, however the army was by no means once more dispatched to the sector. The soldier-settlers discovered that rifles had been far simpler deterrents, and 284, 704 birds had been killed in Western Australia between 1945 and 1960, respectively.

Regardless of these casualties, it is protected to say that the Aussies misplaced the Nice Emu Struggle. However we could all be higher for it. In contrast to passenger pigeons, bison, and wolves, emus managed to thrive alongside agriculture and settlement, and the Nice Emu Struggle lives on in popular culture variations.

A 2021 brief movie didn’t fairly make it off the bottom (however they did make a trailer!), and John Cleese has supposedly signed on to star in an action-adventure comedy referred to as “The Nice Emu Struggle.” Whether or not that movie ever makes it from the author’s room to the massive display is anybody’s guess, nevertheless it’s already extra profitable than the warfare it plans to depict.

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