Topic: BatzA - Broken Hill
The Battle of Broken Hill, New South Wales, 1 January 1915
Broken Hill, an affray on 1 January 1915 caused by two Moslem men who raised the Turkish flag and began shooting at residents of this mining centre in western New South Wales. The men - both long-time residents of the district - were actually Afghans not Turks, though one (an ice-cream vendor) had at one time served in the Sultan's army and reportedly remained fanatically devoted to Turkey's cause in the First World War. The other was a former camel-driver who acted as the mullah (religious leader) of the local Moslem community.
The first target attacked was a train of 40 open ore-trucks crowded with 1,000 people on a holiday picnic to Silverton. Shortly after 10 a.m., as the train was heading west about three kilometres from the town, the two Afghans opened a heavy fire into the exposed passengers from a bank close beside the tramway The three people killed and six wounded were of all ages, and both sexes.
Miss Alma Cowie, killed.
[From: The Australasian, 16 January 1915, Picture Supplement p. I]
The train was not stopped until out of range, then the alarm was raised by telephone. Police and available troops, as well as some members of the local rifle club, were hurriedly assembled to begin a pursuit. In the meantime the two riflemen had gone to a cottage on the town's outskirts and shot its elderly male resident, before retreating to a low rocky hill north of the town. A policeman who stumbled upon them here was wounded, but the two fugitives were now promptly surrounded. In the fire fight which followed, lasting until after midday, one of the Afghans was killed and the other seriously wounded before capture.
That night, a large group of outraged citizens gathered in the town centre. In the belief that local residents of German origin had instigated the attack and supplied the weapons used, this mob marched on the nearby German Club and burned the building down. Members of the crowd also decided on a similar demonstration against the Afghan camel camp situated beyond the town limits, but police prohibited a march en masse. When smaller parties eventually reached the camp they found it guarded by ten police and 50 armed soldiers. Rather than take on the inhabitants' protectors (who were, in any event, the same men who had earlier subdued the two murderers), the crowd of intending avengers dispersed without any further disturbance.
Extracted from the book produced by Chris Coulthard-Clark, Where Australians Fought - The Encyclopaedia of Australia's Battles, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 1998, pp. 97-100.
Additional References cited by Chris Coulthard-Clark:
E. Scott (1938), Australia during the War, Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
Brian Kennedy (1978), Silver, Sin, and Sixpenny ale, Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press.
Citation: The Battle of Broken Hill, New South Wales, 1 January 1915, Outline