Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Battle of Broken Hill - Part I

The Battle of Broken Hill Part I

Whilst this week’s story does not take place in South Australia, it does have a connection to our State, read on to find out more!

 Every New Year’s Day the locals of Broken Hill were treated to a picnic in Silverton, which included a train ride on one of 40 open ore carriages. The event was hosted by the Manchester Unity Order of Oddfellows annually. The 1915 event saw around 1200 people taking part, spread across the 40 open carriages being pulled by the “Y 12” steam locomotive.
 There was a happy party atmosphere on board the train and as it rounded a large sweeping bend, the train passed an ice-cream cart, painted white, with red words on the side reading “Lakovsky’s Delicious ITALIAN ICE CREAM. A Food fit for Children and Invalids” with a little red Turkish flag flying from the top of it.
 Two men wearing turbans were spotted on a rise across from the train line,  gunshots were heard. The picnic goers cheered with delight, thinking it was a salute to the glorious day they were above to have, until, people around them began to fall, wounded or dead.
 Once it was realised that the gun shots were not celebratory, but deadly, parents flung themselves over their children to protect them from the oncoming volley of bullet fire.
Alma Cowie, pictured 1911,
 killed during an attack at Broken Hill Jan 1st 
1915 Photo: Broken Hill Historical Society

Among the happy picnic goers, included 17 year old Alma Cowie and her boyfriend Clarence O’Brien, who were sitting together enjoying the train ride, dressed in their Sunday best, like all the travelers, and waiting to eat their packed picnic and cool homemade lemonade, after playing picnic games with the other revelers.
 They both stood up to get a better view of what was happening. While standing there, another loud gunshot sound cracked through the air, and something flew past the ear of Clarrie, he turned to Alma, only to see her falling to the floor, with the top of skull opened and bloody.

 The War in Europe, which Australia had entered only months before, had just come to Australia, and claimed its first causality.
 The train kept chugging on down the line while the two men took pot shots at the distressed passengers.
William Shaw, a sanitary worker and his family were on another carriage, William was soon another of the casualties, and his daughter, Lucy who was shot in the elbow, amongst the wounded.
 A cameraman, riding a motorcycle behind the train, Mr Alfred Millard, who intended to photograph the picnic event was shot dead, and another bullet, which missed it mark with the train passengers, killed a man named Jim Craig, who was out chopping wood.
 Amongst the shot and injured were Thomas Campbell a 70 year old tinsmith who was shot in the side.
George Stokes – a 14 year old boy who was shot in the shoulder and chest.
 Alma Crocker (wounds unknown).
 Rose Crabb – who was shot through the shoulder.
Constable Mills, who received bullet wounds to the groin and thing.
 Beryl Lane - who was shot in the jaw, and 23 year old Mary Kavanagh who was shot through the base of the skull.
  There would have been further casualties if it was not for the heroic effort of the train guard Eric “Tiger” Nyholm who was a crack shot with a rifle, and had begun shooting back at the men on the hill.

Some of the victims of the murderous attack by two aliens on New Year's Day. From left to right — Master Geo. F. Stokes, wounded on the train; Mr Thos. Campbell, who was shot at his own door; Miss Alma P. Cowie, who was killed outright on the picnic train, being shot through the head; and Senior-Constable Mills, who was wounded in the battle with the police. Conlon Studios.

All up, six people lost their lives that New Year’s Day… next week’s, The Haunts of Adelaide will include the fate of to the two assailants and the connection to Adelaide.