The extermination or attempted extermination of a population is something that we as humans need to never forget. When tragedies like this take place we must take it upon ourselves to never forget the tragic events that unfolded, regardless of the perpetrators or reasoning behind it. Even though it is painful for many to discuss and most would rather forget the horrors of their own past, the horrors still occurred and need to be honored. Australia is not usually considered a place where an attempted extermination took place and the history of the Great War is rarely muttered about and nearly forgotten by most of the people. But Australia should take it upon itself to remember all of their engagements regardless of the outcome or who is perceived as the “good guy”. I am of course speaking of the valiant struggle and battles of The Great Emu War.
In the aftermath of World War I many soldiers who fought in Europe returned to their homes in Australia and pursued lives as farmers and other relatively quiet professions. But at the start of the 1930s turmoil began to arise and tensions grew violent between the farming community in Western Australia and the enormous herds of Emu that ranged across the lands. Now it is important to recognize that this is just around the time of the Great Depression so patience and tolerance of the disgruntled farmers was near to zero and the troops of emus conquered swaths of land with virtually no resistance due to their sheer numbers. Tensions peeked when the emus made the bold decision to begin an all-out invasion of the farms run by the veterans of old; they destroyed everything in their path leaving no crop safe and no fence intact. The destruction of the fences brought in hoards of rabbits that further added to the strife and destruction of the fields at large. With their backs against the wall, the farmers pleaded with the Australian military to send troops to stop this invasion before they were completely conquered. The military complied.
Under the command of Major G.P.W. Meredith, of the Seventh Heavy Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery, troops were deployed into West Australia to combat the threat. This is where the tragedy may have begun, because Major Meredith’s command was to eradicate all trace of the some 20,000 emus in the area. After seeing the effect machine guns had in WWI, the soldiers turned farmers requested their deployment and Meredith complied. The emu herds would meet their first opposition now and it seemed as though a massacre was about to commence. The emus surly understood that they were quite outgunned and could never actually combat the troops, but they made up for their inferior technology with immensely superior speed and determination to survive. Meredith had never seen such power and determination in a force prior to this engagement; his troops were completely ineffective in stopping the great emus. He claimed the even riddled with bullets the emus would stay up and running, he compared them to the great Zulu warriors. This forced the retreat of the Australians twice against their foe only killing roughly 300 of the 20,000 birds. It was an immense defeat for the Australian army the like of which had not been seen. And beyond that, this rare bird was able to continue living after the fear of being exterminated.
This failure is rarely talked about because it is an embarrassment for the Australian military and they wish to hide their attempt and attempted genocide of these majestic birds. But the memory of this war should always live on and always be remembered or it may be repeated in the future. These birds deserve to live and were only migrating back to areas that once belonged to them they did not understand the repercussions that venturing there would entail. Thankfully their strength persevered and they rose the victor but their sacrifices should not be forgotten. The few, the proud, the Emus.