Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The Battle of Broken Hill Part II

The Battle of Broken Hill Part II

Captured Rifles and flags - Photo: Broken Hill Historical Society
  With dead and wounded falling everywhere on the back of the train, “Tiger” Nyholm grabbed his rifle and began firing back at the two men on the hill. An alert was also raised, which went back to the Police Station at Broken Hill, some 3 kilometres away.
 Inspector Miller, in charge of the local police, sent a message to Lieut. Resch who assembled a squad of local military enforcement and volunteers riflemen. The men, now posse, set out towards the scene of the attack. Sergeant Gibson noticed two men climbing among the white quartz rocks just past the Cable Hotel, and halted to make enquiries as to if they had witnessed anything.
 The two men opened fire, and shot Mounted Constable Mills in the groin and thigh.  A gun fight broke out. The military and police force took cover, and slowly surrounded the bottom of the hill the two where the two men were hiding.
 The public in town, hearing the volley of shots, grabbed their rifles, men old and young, made their way out to the gun fight, and opened fire at the two men.

The gun fight lasted until 1pm, when the police, military and citizens rushed the mountain, shooting the men dead. Their two bodies’ lay ten metres apart, one, shot through the temple was very much dead, but the other man was still breathing, and clinging on to life, even with 16 bullet wounds in his body – he died on the way to hospital in the back of an ambulance.
 Such an outcry of rage was to come from the events that the public did not want the men buried in their local cemetery – police later removed the bodies and disposed of them in secret.

So who were the two men who undertook the first terrorist attack on Australian soil?
 Badsha Mahommed Ghul (1874 – 1915) was an ice cream vendor and Mullah Abdullah (1854-1915) was an Iman and Halal butcher – both men were from a region, known at the time as India’s North-West Frontier, which is a location now found within the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Picnic train at Broken Hill - photo provided by SLSA PRG280_1_15_1017
 Ghul had traveled to Australia and found work as a cameleer, but business was not good, so he found work in a local silver mine, but with the outbreak of the Great War, was fired after all German contracts were cancelled.
 He instead bought an ice cream cart from a local Italian, and became quite well known as the friendly sweet vendor in the town.

 Mullah Abdullah on the other hand was an older man with a grudge. He still wore his traditional clothing, and due to an old leg injury, walked with a hobble that slowed him incredibly. Local kids feared him, but also made fun of him, sometimes throwing stones at him and running off, knowing he could never catch them.
 He had been living in Broken Hill for 15 years and was seen in the local Islamic community as a religious Iman, sharing in daily prayer, and acting as the local Halal Butcher in Ghantown.
 He came in to dispute with the local Sanitary Inspector, Cornelious Brosnon, for not being a unionist and for what was considered his “barbaric practices”.
 Brosnon prosecuted Abdullah in 1914 for not slaughtering animals at the abattoirs as was the current established practice. He was ordered to pain a fine of One Pound, or face 7 days in gaol – he chose to pay the fine, but never forgot or forgave Brosnon. He was again fined only months later for not having brands on sheep he had slaughtered, this time he face 3 months gaol, or a fine of 3 pounds, of which he could not pay.
 In a state of despair over his prospects, further tragedy struck him when a fire broke out in his uninsured two room house, which burnt to the ground, with all his possessions. Now a broken man, with no belongings and no purpose, he turned to his neighbor and friend, Ghul for comfort.
 Ghul recounted to his friend that the Sultan of Turkey had only recently called a Jihad on Australia’s allies who were going to war in Europe, he urged his friend that they would have great afterlives if they killed as many Australian’s as possible for their country and God.
 They concocted their plan, and with a Snider-Enfield carbine, a Martini-Henry Breech-loader rifle, a pistol and homemade bandoleers, they set out toward Silverton on the 1st of January 1915, to begin their war on Australia.

Billy Hughes - 7th Prime Minister of Australia
The aftermath of the day’s events were swift and dramatic, townsfolk rushed out to the train carriages and took souvenirs of bullet casings, they destroyed the ice cream cart for souvenirs, then set the local German Club on fire, cutting up the local fire hoses so it could not be extinguished.  The drunken mob soon headed towards Ghantown, ready to take their anger out on the rest of the local Islamic community. They were stopped by a small military force, bayonets ready, who blocked their path – the mob soon broke up and headed home.
 The attack soon become national headlines right across Australia, causing outrage and viscous attacks at Muslim sites around the country. Billy Hughes, the 7th Prime Minister of Australia declared that all “enemy aliens” must be incarcerated for the length of the war.  
 The Locomotive Engine that was involved in the conflict, the “Y 12” with build number 3536, is now thought to be the engine that resides in South Australia, National Railway Museum Port Adelaide. The engine saw over 70 years of service pulling ore carriages from mines around Broken Hill and Silverton