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Written by Curiosity Staff. Written by Curiosity Staff November 5, Wake up with the smartest email in your inbox. Our Best Articles Daily.

How did the war kick off?

Smart choice! Read More from Curiosity Peter the Great. This land became known as the Wheat Belt, but its inland location meant the area had limited water and was barely arable, a condition that worsened to the east, as the bush melded into the massive interior desert known as the Outback.


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In that way, the Australian farmers protected themselves against downturns in fluctuating markets. The Australian election results propelled Labor party leader James Scullin to the post of Prime Minister; he was sworn in to the position on October 22, , and two days later—before his cabinet was entirely in place—the Wall Street stock market began to crash. The resulting Great Depression caused all commodity prices to plummet worldwide. Looking forward to the following year, PM Scullin encouraged Australian farmers to grow more wheat, and in order to support their plight, he proposed the Wheat Marketing Bill to the Australian Senate in order to guarantee the farmers a minimum price for their crop; encouraged by the bill and his promises, farmers began following his advice.

In an attempt to ride out the downturn, Australian farmers stored most of their wheat, hoping the price would rebound by harvest time; it did not, and the farmers finally and begrudgingly accepted the rock-bottom prices rather than let their wheat rot in the silos.

Where did the beef with emus begin?

Wheat farmers, suffering a second disastrous year and having lost confidence in either ruling party, forced a showdown with the government by agreeing among themselves to refuse to ship their harvest until they received fair prices for their wheat, simultaneously an act of bold defiance and a tremendous financial risk on the part of the desperate, struggling farmers.

On the semi-arid eastern edge of the Wheat Belt, the soldier-settlers of the Campion district were among those who prepared to make this drastic statement.


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The farmers there had invested heavily in wheat since the stock market crashed; farms there were an average of about 3, acres in size, about half of which was cleared for farming, and plans were underway to build two new grain elevators in the central town of Walgoolan. The area also constantly struggled against pests and vermin; in the 19th century, English settlers artificially introduced non-native rabbits to Australia in order for the aristocracy to have familiar hunting targets.

The rabbits, being rabbits, bred wildly and soon hordes of the hopping and munching critters devastated the local crops, prompting the government to take action. In , construction began on the first of three 3. The fence, however, ran just west of Walgoolan and the Campion district, meaning the soldier-settlers there learned to accept the animals as a fact of life.

Reenactment Of The Great Emu War

They would soon learn, however, that rabbits, dingos, and foxes were not the plague that they needed to fear the most. Among other unusual animals, Australia is home to the emu pronounced eem-yoo , the second-largest bird in the world, behind only the ostrich. Emus are shaggy, long-necked, flightless birds that can stand as tall as a human and weigh as much as pounds, with football-shaped bodies covered in shaggy brown and gray feathers and balanced atop long, powerful legs. Emus are also well adapted to living in the arid climate of the Outback on account of their ability to survive for long stretches of time without water, although they then drink prodigious amounts when offered the chance.

In 1932, Australia Declared War On Emus—And Lost

They generally migrate in the autumn, heading roughly from northeast to southwest in search of water, but they are notoriously unpredictable in the speed and distance they travel, and in the number of birds that will make the journey at once. Despite the emu being a symbol of the country—its image appears on the Australian coat of arms—the government had declared them pests in due to the threat they posed to the wheat crop, and instituted a bounty system for farmers, paying a set amount for each emu bill retrieved. In , as the farmers daringly withheld their wheat crop in protest, an unusually large migration of about 20, emus invaded the approximately 40 square mile area of the Campion District, a density that averaged out to about birds per square mile.

Although emus could and occasionally did step over or tear down sections of the fence to the west, the birds largely saved themselves the effort and remained in the area around Walgoolan, where there was plenty of wheat to eat and water to drink. The Campion farmers, desperate to retain their harvest not only for income but leverage against the government, tried bounty hunting for the emus, but sheer numbers overpowered their ability to deter or thin the invading flocks.

Some enterprising local boys in the Walgoolan area hopped on their bicycles and tried riding down the emus, swatting the birds in the head with sticks as they sped by, reportedly killing as many as 27 in one day. One of the Campion soldier-settlers by the name of Dixon remembered his time in service and floated an idea among his fellows; soon thereafter, some of the local farmers it is unclear exactly who compiled and sent a letter to Sir George Pearce, Minister of Defense in Perth, and requested the deployment of modern weapons—specifically, machine guns—in order to contain the emu menace.

Martyn, who agreed on the viability of the plan, mentioning that the exercise could also serve as effective training for his men against fast-moving targets.

One of the two—probably Pearce—also noted the potential opportunity for positive propaganda, in order to show to the Australian farmers that the Lyons administration was actively helping in their plight. The two men consulted the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who supported the idea as long as their inspectors could verify that the animals were treated humanely and not allowed to suffer. Pearce saw the plan as both beneficial and practical, so without notifying his superiors in the distant national capital of Canberra, he informed the farmers of the Campion district that they would have their assistance, providing the machine guns would be manned by professional soldiers trained in their use and the farmers would provide all lodging, food, and ammunition.

The expedition was under way.

Who Won The Great Emu War?

Martyn appointed Major G. Major Meredith mobilized two of his machine gunners, Sgt.

The Lewis was an American design produced in England and used heavily in World War I; gas-operated but air-cooled, it was used during the war both on the ground and while mounted on airplanes. It was about half the weight of the Vickers, and fired rounds per minute from its single barrel, although the limited size of the magazine required reloading after Meredith, Sgt. Zone operations include:. The National Library of Australia's Copies Direct service lets you purchase higher quality, larger sized photocopies or electronic copies of newspapers pages.

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The Emu War

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