The Great Emu War Of 1932 Is As Weird As It Sounds

IT'S AN AMBUSH! Sherry V Smith/Shutterstock

The world is, for plenty of people right now, facing some very dark times. From refugee crises to the rise of nationalism, from the erosion of civil liberties to the breakneck pace of climate change, there’s a lot to be down about. Then, one fine day in April, you find out that there was once a genuine war between humans and emus, and life doesn’t seem so bad anymore.

Known as the Great Emu War, this took place in 1932 in the desert nation that we call Australia. There were casualties, but despite being heavily armed with actual rifles, humanity actually lost this fight. Meeting at a neutral point in the center of the Outback, humanity signed the Treaty of Campion and handed over its arms to the victorious emu horde, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Okay, that last part isn’t true – but remarkably, everything else is. First, a flashback to 1929.

After the First World War concluded, soldiers from Australia tended to go back to their day jobs as farmers. A lack of government support hindered things, and the price of wheat continued to tumble following the Great Depression in 1929.

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An excerpt from The Sunday Herald from 1953, reporting on the history of the Great Emu War. NLA

Things were exacerbated in the strangest way by 1932 – about 20,000 emus stormed into the region as part of their breeding season activities. Finding the water-logged agricultural lands of Western Australia particularly homely, they rapidly set up shop, stealing as many of the crops as they could and generally causing pandemonium.

Agreeing with the ex-soldiers that this emu army was a veritable nuisance, the Australian Minister of Defense gave them access to Lewis machine guns and plenty of ammunition, along with some top brass military guidance from Major G.P.W. Meredith of the Seventh Heavy Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery.

After an unexpectedly heavy rainfall in October delayed proceedings, the war began in earnest in November of 1932, and it was expected to be an easy victory for humanity. Oh, how wrong they were.

Emus are incredibly agile creatures. They took cover in shadowy scrub and behind trees, where the soldiers couldn’t get a clean shot.

A newspaper report on the war pointed out that the “emus soon began to improve their own understanding of the science of warfare.” The emus appeared to quickly realize that if they stood just far away enough, the soldier’s Lewis guns were too inaccurate to hit them.

An emu training for battle. Probably. Fort Rickey via YouTube

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