[Editor: A report on an incident known as the Battle of Broken Hill. Two Muslims, flying the Turkish flag on a cart, attacked a party of Australian picnickers outside of Broken Hill, on New Year’s Day 1915. This article was published on the same day in The Barrier Miner. The incident took place during the First World War (1914-1918) when Australia and the British Empire were at war with Turkey and the Ottoman Empire.]
War in Broken Hill.
Attack on a picnic train.
Under the Turkish flag.
Men and women shot.
Four killed and seven wounded.
Broken Hill in arms.
The chase of the murderers.
A fight on the hills.
Behind the Cable Hotel.
The murderers riddled with bullets.
Both pay the last penalty.
A constable twice wounded.
One of the longest and most crowded picnic trains that has ever left Broken Hill, carried those who set out with light hearts this morning to attend the annual M.U. Picnic at Silverton. The train left the Sulphide-street station at 10 a.m., and the goods station a few minutes later. The train consisted of two break vans and 40 ore trucks of the usual sort used for Barrier picnics, with a freight of some 1200 picnickers on 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 18in. 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 in the capacity of electrician, thought at first that there most 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, and almost simultaneously he saw and heard the rifles fired. The firing continued during the whole time the train was passing the two men, 20 or 30 shots being fired in all. 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, the train was taken a little further on to the Silverton Tramway 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. Some of the injured were taken into these cars, and the others were brought in on the train.
The alarm was telephoned from the railway pumping station to the police, and Inspector Miller at once sent a force of police to the scene. 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 towards the spot from the town, mainly by civilians, mostly present or past members of rifle clubs, and members of the citizen forces. 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, or to run the risk of the murderers of peaceful citizens being allowed to escape. It was not a long battle. The attacking party was being constantly reinforced 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.
On receipt of the information, Inspector Miller dispatched Sergeant Gibson with two motor cars containing a force of armed police, who followed 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 inquiries of them, when suddenly they opened fire on the car. Mounted Constable Mills was struck by two bullets at the outset, and then the firing commenced on both sides. The word was passed by telephone to the police station and elsewhere, and soon reinforcements began to arrive, mainly civilians with military rifles, which they either possessed as members of rifle clubs or which they had rapidly obtained from the military or rifle club offices. Others were armed with guns of various descriptions.
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 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 being carried down to wards the road, by which the ambulance would be able to approach, Inspector Miller noticed a movement in the latter, who, on further examination, 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.
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 stronghold, the Turks knocked at the door of a house near the Allandale Hotel. The resident opened the door and some words passed between him and the Turks. Then one of them raised his rifle, and without 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.
Color-sergeant Williams, of the 82nd Infantry, has supplied the following list of the members of the military forces who took part in the fight:— Lieutenants Anderson, Shepherd, J. M’Carthy, Color-sergeants William Tester, Sergeants Bishop, Nettle, Petney, Reid, Price, Main, Corporals Roland, Matthew, Comley, Jefferys, Lance-corporals Davies Harris, Riley, Privates Purcell, Lean, Richards, M’Leeney, Braithwaite, Anderson, Kenworthy, Day, Hayes, Gibson, Battle, Wickham, Ashwood, Hoare, Bevan, Jones, Shore, Curnow, Wallace, Hanley, . . . Shelley, Partington, Collicot, . . . Murray, Dowd, Chenhall … Arthur, . . . [Editor: Text obscured in this section.]
The following is the official report of the police:— Two colored 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 offenders, who took refuge on a rocky hill, and fired on the police and wounded Constable Mills. The two men were finally shot down, one dead, the other wounded. Constable Mills, wounded, and wounded offender, in the Hospital.
The Barrier Miner (Broken Hill, NSW), Friday 1 January 1915, page 2
The original archived copy of the newspaper was obscured at the bottom of the page, therefore the obscured or missing text has been taken from The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), Saturday 2 January 1915, page 15, which substantially reprinted the article, although the complete list of the military participants cannot be located at this stage.
The version of this article published in The Worker, 7 January 1915, gives a list of those killed and wounded by the attackers: “The list of dead is as follows: Elma M. Cowie, A. E. Millard, William Shaw, and James Greig. The wounded are: Mary Kavanagh; George F. Stokes, boy, about 14 or 15; Thomas Campbell; Lucy Shaw, aged 15; Alma Crocker; Rose Crabb; Constable Robert Mills.”
The version of this article published in The Advertiser, 2 January 1915, refers to the victims of the attackers as being on their way to “the annual picnic of the Manchester Unity Oddfellows at Silverton”.
M.U. = Manchester Unity (the Manchester Unity Order of Oddfellows)
[Editor: Corrected “white cresent” to “white crescent”. Inserted the word “and” in square brackets in “killed [and] wounded several”, as the text is obscured in that section, and that is the wording used in the similar report given in The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), Saturday 2 January 1915, page 15.]