A Great War: Australia Went to War Against Emus...and Lost
A Great War: Australia Went to War Against Emus…and Lost

A Great War: Australia Went to War Against Emus…and Lost

William McLaughlin - October 20, 2017

A Great War: Australia Went to War Against Emus…and Lost
A collection of articles from Australian newspapers. Images from the National Library of Australia

Emus Victorious?

The second attempt saw the same amount of hilarity. At some point during the engagements, the men thought it was a good idea to mount the machine gun to a truck and chase the birds down. They soon discovered that emus can run over 30 mph and no vehicle could drive that fast in the Australian bush and still offer a stable firing platform.

At one point, a machine gun team successfully set up an ambush were over 1,000 emus congregated at extremely close range. Fortunately for the emus, someone forgot to clean the gun and it jammed after only a few seconds of fire leaving only a handful of dead instead of the anticipated hundreds.

By the time the troops and machine guns were pulled out, an estimated 3,000 emus were killed at the cost of about 10,000 rounds of ammunition, and zero human casualties. This amounted to about 15% of the invading Emus and ultimately didn’t solve the plight of the Australian farmers.

That amount of ammo amounts to thousands of dollars today, but likely far more than in a time of relative peace and during a terrible global depression. With little real success, media deemed the war a comical failure and successive requests by the farmers for machine guns or troops were denied over the next decades.

In the end, the best, but still imperfect solution was more and stronger barrier fencing. This, combined with a government-sponsored bounty system where anyone could turn in an emu for a reward, allowed the farmers to continue a meager living in some of the most difficult Australian lands.

A Great War: Australia Went to War Against Emus…and Lost
The CBH Group formed in response to the difficult farming conditions. in the 2016-17 season they hauled 16 million tonnes of grain with almost 4 billion in revenue in 2015. Wikipedia

Small towns now dot the war-torn landscape that hosted the Emu War. During the 30’s a company formed to better handle the collection and sale of the vast and scattered farms in Western Australia. That company, the Co-operative Bulk Handling Group, is still in business today, ensuring steady and reliable income for the WA farmers. Wheat farming is still a big business, but rabbits are still a never-ending problem, and the occasional flock of emus can still cause some problems.