Hostilities were raging in Europe and the Ottoman Empire had declared war with Britain in October of 1914 when the Battle of Broken Hill came to Silverton on the 1st January 1915.
Silverton a small town (popn 60) 26 kms north-west of Broken Hill in NSW was the annual site of the Manchester Unity Order of Oddfellows picnic day. A tram line ran between Broken Hill and Silverton, a remainder of the silver rush which gave the town its name. To transport the oodles of people attending the picnic both the train and all the open ore trucks were full of people.
Two Ghans (the name given to the Pakistani/Afghani workers who had come across to work with the camels) positioned themselves on a rocky embankment opening fire when the train was in their sights. At first the picnickers thought it was a welcome to the picnic day but as their companions fell around them bedlam broke out. The train guard, father of who was to become Prof Sir Ronald Nyholm, was a great marksman and was pivotal on preventing more deaths and injuries.
The ghans escaped to their camp, killing more people on the way. Here, surrounded by police, the local army and a mob of angry townsfolk, they were pumped full of gun shot,killing both, despite the white flag they were flying. At the scene the forces found an Ottoman flag and notes from the two men saying they attributed their actions to acting on behalf of Turkey in their hostilities with Britain.
I wonder though whether this was yet another example of an event being used for political ends. The two men, Gool (an ice cream vendor) and Abdullah (a local imam and halal butcher) had grudges to bear. Gool had suffered racism with rocks being thrown at him, knocking off his turban, which he then didn’t wear through fear. Abdullah had recently been in court on charges brought by the Sanitation Dept that he was not killing animals in a venue approved for slaughter. Reasons enough for marginalised people to become angry. Abdullah wrote that he was dying for his faith and in response to a letter from the Turkish Sultan ” but owing to my grudge against Chief Sanitary Inspector Brosnan it was my intention to kill him first.”
The next day all employees of foreign extraction, aligned to Germany, working at the Broken Hill Mines were declared enemy aliens and fired. It is believed by some that the Turkish flag and letter from the sultan was planted (the men were after all Afghani/Pakistani) in order to rally support of the Australian public for the war.
Shortly after this all enemy aliens were interned for the duration of the war. The Silverton Tramway Company refunded the fares in full to those that had been on the picnic train.
Enough for one post. I didn’t mention Silverton Pub or the vegemite painter so I will continue with Silverton for Day 4.
Thank you to Norah Colvin who nominated me this challenge. Norah’s passion is childhood education and even if you don’t have children, there is always thought-provoking insightful writing that keeps those grey cells working.
The blogger I am nominating today (with no pressure to join in ) is Debbie from Travel with Intent who has wonderful photos and travels the world.If you wish to participate it is 1 photo a day for five days add a story fiction or non-fiction or poetry, link to the person that nominated you and nominate 1 person each day.