Emu war

The Australian emu war

Emu warA lot of wars these days are for religious reasons, money reasons or because some country has an important monopoly some other country wants. The Australian Emu War, however, was a completely pointless war. Thousands of rounds of ammunition were wasted, and of course thousands of dollars were spent. The war only killed a small number of the birds, and was ultimately a complete waste of time for everyone involved.

Imagine this: World War 1 just happened. Countries all over the world have fought on the side of the allies. Australia’s veterans are getting a warm welcome at home, but find out there’s absolutely nothing left to do. Sure, there have been schemes over the years to keep veterans busy. For example, there was one “soldier settlement scheme” that gave veterans jobs by giving them plots of land, so they could farm. Excellent solution, don’t you think? Unfortunately, in 1929 the Great Depression hit. This greatly impacted Australia and caused wheat prices to rise to ginormous numbers. On top of that, Australia had been giving so many plots of land away that they had forgotten about how that would affect certain animals. The emu’s in particular had grown in numbers. By 1932, there were almost 20,000 of them. They destroyed crops and were a nuisance. Of course, these farmers were soldiers. You’d think they could easily kill these animals, but they did not have enough ammunition.

Involving the military

Farmers (soldiers) had gathered and shared their concerns about the emu’s. They took their concerns to Australia’s Minister of Defense, George Pearce. George heard their complaints and concerns, took all of them into account, and agreed. He did have some conditions, though. Pearce’s conditions were as following: Guns could only be used by soldiers, the transport of the soldiers would be financed by the Western Australian government and the farmers they would meet on the way would provide them with food willingly. George Pearce at one point stated that “the birds will make good target practice.”

Starting the war

So there they were, official soldiers lead by an official major. Major Meredith of the Seventh Heavy Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery, to be precise. He and his soldiers had 10,000 rounds of ammunition, which should have been more than enough. It was tricky to spot the emus, at first. They had scattered because of heavy rainfall. A few days later the rainfall had ceased and the troops were ready for combat.
There were two attempts at containing the emus, and decreasing their population. The first attempt took place in Campion. There were about 50 emus that were sighted in this place. The Australians used several “Lewis Guns.” These are automatic machine guns. They shoot rounds fast, but don’t have that good of a range. Their lack in range was devastating in this first attempt; the fifty emus were too far away to shoot. Some local settlers used herding techniques to drive the emus closer, but to no avail. The emus split into groups and all scattered in different directions. Two rounds of gunfire later and only a dozen of the emus were killed. After this sad attempt, they tried again a few days later. This time, they were well hidden and ready to ambush over a thousand of the bird species. They had set up near a local dam, and had learned from their previous attempt at shooting them. They waited patiently until the birds were in a good range of the machine guns, and opened fire. After killing twelve birds, the gun jammed. The rest of the birds scattered and could not be seen the rest of the day. At this point 2500 rounds of ammunition had already been wasted. The Minister of Defense ordered the return of the troops shortly after this first attempt.

Second attempt

The military was safe and sound back home, but the emu’s continued their terror. Ruining and eating crops had the local farmers cry for help yet again. The Minister of Defense ordered the military troops to, again, go out on a mission and kill the emus. This second attempt was much more successful. 9860 Rounds had killed off 986 emu’s. Every couple of years following the war, the population of emu’s would grow out of control again, and the farmers would again ask for help.  Instead of sending out the military, the government put bounties on the emu’s. This proved more successful than involving the military, since over 57,000 emu’s were killed by hunters trying to claim their bounty.


Word did not travel fast in the thirties, but about a month later the news of the war had reached Great Britain. They were shocked. Some even labeled it as a “pointless war” aiding in “extermination of the rare emu”. Most were disgusted by the Australian government, and how they had dealt with the birds. Of course, it was a waste of resources. But hey, you don’t know if you don’t try, right?


Article written by: MirandaTempelman
Times read: 1712x
Added: 28-12-2015 21:22
Last modified: 20-02-2016 14:12

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