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Tuesday, 1 January 2008
The Battle of Broken Hill, New South Wales, 1 January 1915, Adelaide Advertiser Account
Topic: BatzA - Broken Hill

Australian Battles 

The Battle of Broken Hill, New South Wales, 1 January 1915

Adelaide Advertiser Account


The Advertiser, Saturday, 2 January 1915, pp 15-16.


The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA) Saturday 2 January 1915, pp 15-16, full transcription:







Broken Hill, January 1.

One of the longest and most crowded picnic trains that has left Broken Hill carried those who set out with light hearts this morning to attend the annual picnic of the Manchester Unity Oddfellows at Silverton. The train left the Sulphide- street station at 10 o'clock and the goods station a few minutes later. The train consisted of two brake vans and 40 ore trucks of the usual sort used for Barrier picnics, with about 1,200 picnickers board. When the train was about two miles on the way to Silverton, near the cattle yards, an ice cream cart, with a flag flying on it, was noticed on the northern side of the line, close to the railway fence. The flag was red, about l8 inches square, with a white crescent and white star -- the flag of Turkey. Two men were also seen crouching behind the bank of earth which marks the line of the water main from Umberumberka to Broken Hill. These men attracted the attention of Mr. M. Kenny, who was a passenger on the train. Mr. Kenny, who is engaged on the water supply works, thought at first that there must be something wrong with the main, and that these men were attending to the damage. He then saw that they had rifles in their hands, pointed at the train. Almost simultaneously he saw and heard the rifles fired. The firing continued during the whole time the train was passing. The two men fired 20 or 30 shots in all.

Killed on the Spot.

The men, being so close to the train, could be plainly seen to be either Turks or Afghans. As they were flying the Turkish flag, it was assumed that' they were Turks, of whom there are several in Broken Hill. Mr. A. E. Millard was riding along the track beside the railway line as the train was fired on, and he became the target for one shot, which killed him on the spot, the bullet going through his head. The train was stopped and, it being ascertained that a number of the passengers had been seriously injured, if not killed, it was taken a little farther on to the Silverton Tram- way Company's reservoir, where there is telephonic communication with Broken Hill. Three of the victims were removed from the train and taken to the pumping-station at the reservoir, and medical men were summoned from Broken Hill. The train, with its saddened freight of men, women, and children, then returned to Broken Hill, meeting on the way Dr. Moulden and others in motor cars, who had responded to the telephone calls.

Shot Another Man.

Some of the injured were taken into these cars, and. the others were brought on in the train. The alarm was telephoned from the railway pumping-station to the police, and Inspector Miller at once sent out a force of police. The constable on duty at the explosive magazine, not far from the scene, was early on the spot, and was in a position to give valuable assistance to his ' comrades. Lieutenant Resch was communicated with by the police, and he dispatched all the available men connected with the military forces whom he could reach. The Turks after their attack on the train, moved off towards the west of Broken Hill, and were followed by their armed pursuers. After shooting another man on their way they at last took cover in some rocks a few hundred yards west of the Cable Hotel. These rocks are a white quartz blow, projecting well above the general level, and they afforded good cover. Soon there was a general rush to- wards the spot from the town, mainly by civilians, mostly present or past members of rifle clubs and members of the Citizen Forces.

No Quarter for the Turks.

The general operations were under the direction of Inspector Miller and Lieutenant Resch. The attacking party spread out on the adjoining hills, and there was a hot fire poured into the enemy's position, the Turks returning the fire with spirit but without effect, which is rather surprising, as the range was short and the attacking parties in some cases exposed themselves rather rashly in their efforts to get a shot. There was a desperate determination to leave no work for the hangman and to run no risk of the murderers of peaceful citizens being allowed to escape. It was not a long battle. The attacking party was being constantly rein- forced by eager men who arrived in any vehicles they could obtain or on foot. At just about 1 o'clock a rush took place to the Turks' stronghold, and they were found lying on the ground behind their shelter. Both had many wounds. One was dead and the other expired at the hospital later. They wore the dress of their people, with turbans on their heads. The police took charge of the bodies.

When the News Came.

It appears that on receipt of the information Inspector Miller dispatched Sergeant Gibson, with two motor cars containing a force of armed police, who fol- lowed on the track taken by the Turks leading along the western outskirts of the town. When the police cars reached a point near the Cable Hotel Sergeant Gibson saw two men amongst the white quartz rocks on a hill. Not suspecting that they were the enemy, Sergeant Gibson was about to make enquiries of them when suddenly they opened fire on the car. Mounted-Constable Mills was struck by two bullets at the outset and then firing began on both sides. Just before the final rush took place Inspector Miller and Lieutenant Resch, in a motor car, the latter driving, swept round the hill between the Cable Hotel and the enemy's position. On reaching the front of the firing line the occupants, including a third person, a civilian, all armed with rifles, joined in the advance, and were just in time to reach the fallen foe amongst the first dozen or so. Inspector Miller checked a disposition that was manifested by some to fall upon the bodies of the killed or wounded men. On the first examination both the Turks seemed to be dead. One had been shot through the head, and the other had several wounds, and was motionless. On their being carried towards the road by which the ambulance would be able to approach, Inspector Miller no- ticed a movement in one of the men, who was found to be alive. He was removed to the hospital, and there attended to, but he was evidently mortally wounded, and his death was only a question of a very few hours.

Fired Point Blank.

The police, under Sergeant Gibson, ran short of ammunition, and the sergeant made a perilous journey to the rear of the Cable Hotel to obtain a fresh supply. On their way across to their rocky strong- hold the Turks knocked at the door of a house near the Allandale Hotel. The occupant opened the door, and some words passed between him and the Turks. Then one of the men raised his rifle and, with- out warning, fired point blank, the bullet going through the victim's body. Two of the iron railway trucks bear marks of the fusillade. One has a circular hole in it about seven-eighths of an inch in diameter. The other has a circular bullet mark, of about the same size, but this one did not penetrate the steel side of the truck. The large size of the hole in the perforated truck suggests that the bullet had expanded considerably on striking the steel and had not passed clean through on impact. The appearance of both the bullets suggested that soft-nosed bullets were used, as it might be reasonably supposed that a hard nickel service bullet would go clean through the thin steel at such a short range.

The Official Report.

The following is the official report of the police:-

Two coloured men, Afghans or Turks, armed with rifles, fired on a picnic train laden with men, women, and children just outside the city en route to Silverton, and killed and wounded several. The police when informed went in pursuit of the offenders, who took refuge on a rocky hill and fired on the police and wounded Mounted-Constable Mills. The two men were finally shot down.

Elma M. Cowie, Frieberg Hotel, Railway Town.

A. E. Millard, Cobalt-street, Railway Town.

William Shaw, foreman, sanitary department.

James Greig, aged 69, labourer, next Cable Hotel, shot in the abdomen whilst chopping wood in backyard.

Mary Kavanagh, aged 23, tailorless, Cummins-Street, shot through base of skull. Condition serious.

George F. Stokes, about 14 or 15, corner Cummins and Garnet streets, shot in shoulder and chest. Condition serious.

Thomas Campbell, aged 70, tinsmith, Rocky Hill, Allendale, West Broken Hill, shot in side. Condition not serious at present.

Lucy Shaw, age 15. Wolfram-street, bullet in elbow. Wound opened and bullet extracted. Returned home.

Alma Crocker, age 34, care of Mrs. Bray, Beryl-lane, shot in jaw (this victim only arrived from Petersburg yesterday morning on a holiday).

Rose Crabb, aged 30, Mark-street, Waterworks Hill, shot through shoulder, bone splintered. Returned home.

Constable Robert Mills, shot in groin and thigh, suffering a good deal of pain. Condition not critical.



Broken Hill,. January 1.

When the Police Were Fired On.

Of the two police cars which pursued the Turks, the one in the lead broke down. Sergeants Gibson and Dimond, who were in it, then changed into the other. When nearing the Cable Hotel they saw two men, but did not know who they were. Seeing that the strangers had rifles, it was suggested that a shot be fired over their heads as a hint to stop. The officers in charge, however, decided to run up to them, when the latter suddenly dropped on their knees and fired on the party in the car from a distance of about 250 yards. The direction of the track along which the car was travelling was at an angle with the Turks, and before the vehicle could be pulled up (it was going at a high speed) the distance between the parties was increased, and the Turks, who were in the open, made their way as fast as possible to the cover of the rocky eminence near them. By the time the police had got out of the car and begun firing the Turks were under cover, but they sometimes stood up to shoot, and this exposed them momentarily. The police scattered and took such cover as the ground afforded.

The Police Entrenched.

Constable Ward says he was lying on the ground firing in the open when he saw a boulder a few yards to his rear, which he saw would give him better cover. He rose and made for the stone, thus drawing the enemy's fire. Just when he had got down behind it a bullet struck the stone and chipped a lump off the top of it. Two of the police who were in the open had in front of them a small hillock, barely high enough to cover their heads when lying flat. Two or three shots in succession struck the mound right in front of the prone men. It was clear that then shooting 'was not' bad. Constable Ward believes that the little damage done by the Turks in the fight is due to the younger one being put out of action early, and the other being wounded, thus impairing the accuracy of his aim. The combat between the police and the enemy continued for about an hour and a half before the townspeople knew what was the matter. The Turks moved about while firing, and there appeared to have been some appreciable time between the first and the second being disposed of. Constable Ward's suggestion as to one of the Turks being shot early in the action and the other wounded soon after is very likely the explanation of the failure of the Turks to do any damage amongst the numbers who were on the scene during the last half hour.



Broken Hill, January 1.

The identity of the Turks who were shot has been established by the police. Mulla Abdulla, who was killed outright, was a butcher. Some days ago he was convicted and fined for slaughtering sheep on premises not licensed for slaughtering. He had previously been before the court on a similar charge, and Chief Sanitary Inspector Brosnan, who instituted the proceedings against him, stated to the court that Abdulla had caused a lot of trouble. He was an elderly man, by appearance about 60, and he was short and thick set. Gool Mahomed, who died on the way to the hospital, is believed to have been an ice cream vendor. Abdulla carried a Snider rifle and an apparently home-made bandolier. The latter had pockets for 48 cartridges, and 26 of the pockets were empty. As a number of cartridges were in the man's pocket it was concluded that the bandolier must have been full and that he had fired the 26 cartridges away. He also had in his possession a revolver and cartridges and a new knife and sheath. The other man's rifle was a Martini Henri.

Indian Assists Police.

In the fight between the police and the Turks the former were rendered great assistance, by Walhanna Assou, a Punjaubi, from Peshawar, in the north-west of India. Assou is a British subject and has a brother in the British Army. He himself is a camel owner. His house is near to the scene of the fight, and when one of the police officers was shot he carried water to him. This he did at no little risk to himself, for not only was he a target at times for the Turks, but the late arrivals of Britishers on the scene, seeing a man of his color so near the vicinity of the firing line, took him for one of the Turks, and he would certainly been slain by these had not the police given him their protection and explained the situation. Another friend, who contributed largely to the defeat of the Turks by his welcome assistance, was Khan Bahadur, also a camel owner and driver. His residence is near the Cable Hotel, and it was used by the police as cover to shoot from through the windows. Bahadur stated to the police that this morning he saw the Turks walking at a little distance past his place. He was at the door feeding a goat, when one of the Turks fired at him and said, "Don't follow me, or I will shoot you." He fired at him again from about a 50 yards' range, and the bullet passed over his shoulder close to his ear. Bahadur said to the Turk, ''If you shoot at me again. I'll get my rifle and shoot you."

When Firing Began.

At this stage the police arrived in a car, and firing began on both sides at about a 500-yards range, the Turks taking advantage of the shelter offered by the many rocks around. The police, after for a short time using similar cover, went into Bahadur's house and fired from the windows.

Saw Men in a Trench.

Mr. W. H. Hill said he went past the scene of the shooting shortly before the train passed. He saw the Turks, two men, with a third person, apparently a woman, crouching in the pipe trench, which is still open. Mr. Hill noticed that after these people went into the trench they did not reappear. On his return, an hour later, he learned of the tragedy, and then realised the object of the men in the trench. He had passed within a few feet of them, and had a close look at them. - He also saw their cart, with the flag flying on it. On learning of the shooting, Mr. Hill communicated with the police, as he was certain that he could identify the men he saw in the trench. Owing to subsequent happenings, however, no identification was needed.

The News Announced.

The news of the shooting at the I.O.O.F.. M.U., picnic train, was received at Stephens Creek during the Highland gathering luncheon interval, when a motor car dashed up to the fence of McCulloch Park in order to, take back Dr. M Birks (surgeon superintendent at the district hospital), who was one of the visitors. The story was announced at the luncheon table by Mr. D. Low (president of the Caledonian Pipers' Band, which had organised the outing). Mr. Low said they all had to be thankful that such a happening had not been their experience, and he expressed his sympathy with the relatives of the killed and wounded and the people of the M.U. order as the terrible calamity that had befallen them. On the return journey much anxiety was evinced, especially among the women folk, and a close look-out was kept for signs of danger.

A meeting of the committee of the Manchester Unity sports was held and discussions at this when the following resolutions were carried: - "That, this committee expresses its deep abhorrence of the terrible outrage committed near Picton Siding this morning, and tenders its sincere and heartfelt sympathy to the relatives of the victims," "and pledges itself to aid to the fullest extent any movement having for its object; the assistance of those affected thereby." "That the picnic committee records their appreciation of the brave action of Messrs. R Low and Shaw for making for the nearest telephone through a shower of bullets to obtain assistance." It was resolved as a recommendation to the district officer to obtain permission from the Grand Lodge to circularise the whole of Grand Lodges and distincts in New South Wales for the purpose or raising funds for the relatives of those killed.


Mr. Bert Sayers, managing director of Messrs Sayers & Lennon who has been a resident of Broken Hill for twenty seven years; was greatly shocked when he heard of the news in "The Advertiser", office on Friday evening. He said, "I am not altogether surprised though. During the past three years, on account of the-high rate of wages prevailing, in Broken-Hill, the place has become simply a dumping ground for foreigners who desire to earn money easily and quickly. The matter of aliens has been a very sore point for the past two years with the AMA who are recognised as the white workers of the Barrier. Mr. W. S. Barnett, (the secretary), has repeatedly brought the matter forward, and has even gone so far as to petition Parliament for a stricter administration of the Immigration Act. I am fully convinced, after my long sojourn at the Barrier, that the Turks have nothing whatever to do with the matter, as if you were to search Broken Hill for a week you would not find enough Turks there to make a team for a tug of war."

Mr. S. J. Attiah (president of the Ottoman Association) stated last night:- "I can positively say that there are no pure Turks either in Broken Hill of any part of Australia. There are plenty of Ottoman subjects in this country who hail from Mount Lebanon, a province under the suzerainty of the European Powers. The assailants concerned in the Broken Hill affair must be Mohammedan Afghans actuated by their fanatical spirit. They are not Ottoman subjects. The loyalty of the Ottomans in the Commonwealth is well known to the authorities. They are not responsible for such a mode of procedure. The assailants must have been driven either by insanity or fanaticism, and not by loyalty to Turkey, towards which country they owe no allegiance. The Ottoman Association's branches all over Turkey are rebelling against the military party in the Ottoman Empire, and so are the masses of the people. Calling these men at Broken Hill Turks is a huge mistake, which should be explained to the public."



Broken Hill January 1.

Following, to-day's warfare a huge crowd this evening assembled in Argent-street and marched to Delamore-street, where they set fire to and quickly destroyed the premises of the German Club. The buildings were entirely destroyed. The city is in a state of excitement, and more trouble is expected before the night is over.



Further Reading:

The Battle of Broken Hill, New South Wales, 1 January 1915

The Battle of Broken Hill, New South Wales, 1 January 1915, Roll of Honour

Australian Battles

Battles where Australians fought, 1899-1920


Citation: The Battle of Broken Hill, New South Wales, 1 January 1915, Adelaide Advertiser Account

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EAST
Updated: Friday, 7 January 2011 9:41 PM EAST

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The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre is a not for profit and non profit group whose sole aim is to write the early history of the Australian Light Horse from 1900 - 1920. It is privately funded and the information is provided by the individuals within the group and while permission for the use of the material has been given for this site for these items by various donors, the residual and actual copyright for these items, should there be any, resides exclusively with the donors. The information on this site is freely available for private research use only and if used as such, should be appropriately acknowledged. To assist in this process, each item has a citation attached at the bottom for referencing purposes.

Please Note: No express or implied permission is given for commercial use of the information contained within this site.

A note to copyright holders

The Australian Light Horse Studies Centre has made every endeavour to contact copyright holders of material digitised for this blog and website and where appropriate, permission is still being sought for these items. Where replies were not received, or where the copyright owner has not been able to be traced, or where the permission is still being sought, the Australian Light Horse Studies Centre has decided, in good faith, to proceed with digitisation and publication. Australian Light Horse Studies Centre would be happy to hear from copyright owners at any time to discuss usage of this item.


Australian Light Horse Studies Centre

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