Glorious Humiliation

Some races and countries are well known for their military valor – Mongols, Vikings, Israelis, Brits, Germans, Vietnamese etc

Some races and countries are well known for spectacular military fuck ups – Austrians, French, Bengal, Pakistan etc

You would think that any of them would get the mantle of the most humiliated of them all, of being abject failures, of being fuck ups of such gloriously epic proportions that their name shall live on forever in LOL infamy.

But you would be wrong.

That honour belongs to the Aussies.


Here’s how it happened.

There was a draught. Food became scarce.

Around 20,000 emus invaded.

They tore holes in the fences, trampled and devoured the crops, and left behind open pathways for battalions of rabbits to get in (you snicker, but those damn bunnies are dangerous, just ask Napoleon). Millions of pounds were lost because of the emus’ havoc.

All negotiations with the emus failed.

The desperate farmers begged the government for assistance.

Government sent a deputation of ex-soldiers from the first World War, who requested the use of machine guns to fight off the emus.

“Those who didn’t live with the emu couldn’t understand the damage they did,” said Australia’s Minister for Defense, George Pearce in a rousing speech to boost morale of the soldiers. Pearce also sent a camera crew out with the soldiers to film the Great Emu War. His ambition was to destroy the emus, save the farmers, and be hailed as a hero, thereby getting votes. Pearce did what he could to make the Emu War his legacy. He justified it as target practice for the soldiers and ordered the men to bring back 100 emu skins and planned to put their feathers in the light horsemen’s hats.

The war didn’t go as per plans.


“The emu,” Sydney’s Sunday Herald warned, “is a tough and unpredictable adversary.” When Major G. P. W. Meredith led the militia west to meet the emu, he was sure it would be an easy fight. When they launched their first attack, the overconfident militia opened fire from hundreds of yards away. The emu scattered.

“The Emu command had evidently ordered guerrilla tactics,” one writer quipped as the militia ended its first day with nearly nothing to show for their efforts. The emu, they reported, were smarter than they’d imagine. “Each pack seems to have a leader now,” one soldier reported, “a big black-plumed bird which stands fully six feet high and keep watch while his mates carry out their work of destruction and warns them of our approach.

“They can face machine-guns with the invulnerability of tanks,” a frustrated Major Meredith reported. The emu’s feathers were so thick that the barrage didn’t even penetrate their skin. “If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds,” he said, “it would face any army in the world.”



The newspapers reported that hardly any emus had been killed, with some estimates as low as 12. George Pearce’s PR grab had turned into a public embarrassment.

On November 8, Pearce gave in.

The Emu War was over by November 9. Perth’s Daily News reported, “No treaty of peace has been concluded, and the emus remain in possession of disputed territory.”


One thought on “Glorious Humiliation

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