Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group

Who Will Win the Fight? – Offside report by Terry Martin

This was Deborah’s game about the surreal sounding but actual historical happening – the Emu Wars of 1932 in Australia.

Just to set the scene, this was:

“a nuisance wildlife management military operation undertaken in Australia over the later part of 1932 to address public concern over the number of emus said to be running amok in the Campion district of Western Australia. The unsuccessful attempts to curb the population of emus, a large flightless bird indigenous to Australia, employed soldiers armed with Lewis guns—leading the media to adopt the name ‘Emu War’ when referring to the incident. While a number of the birds were killed, the emu population persisted and continued to cause crop destruction”.

What Wikipedia doesn’t tell you is that there were 20,000 emus and only three soldiers! This led to a hilarious game in which I (Major G. P. W. Meredith of the Royal Australian Artillery), ably supported by Sergeant S. McMurray and Gunner J. O’Halloran (Rob Cooper and Andrew Hadley) totally failed to stop the Emu ‘march to the sea’. In fact we made virtually no impression on the wheat devouring flocks at all, despite profligate expenditure of ammunition by our two Lewis guns.

A historically accurate outcome as it happens… it turns out that emus are extremely hard to kill! After the event Major Meredith compared the emus to Zulus and commented on the striking manoeuvrability of the emus, even while badly wounded.

“If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds it would face any army in the world … They can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks. They are like Zulus whom even dum-dum bullets could not stop.”

This was Deborah’s first game for Chestnut Lodge and I think it was a huge success. Not only was the scenario fascinating but the mechanics were simple and seemed to work very well. Being charged by an angry emu was surprisingly tense, even when I was in a truck!

Deborah’s worry about the Army side getting despondent at their lack of success (a valid fear and a reaction the soldiers must have felt in real life) didn’t happen to me at all. One reason was that game length was good; it ended before the sense of failure became depressing. The second reason was my companions… not only did Rob provide us with a wonderful parody of Men in Harlech as we compared the damned birds to Zulu hordes, but we found a lot of humour in the situation discovering how many puns we could think of around wild birds. We winged it, you might say.

Enormous fun and very enlightening about an episode I had thought was actually an urban myth! Thanks to Deborah for a great game and for a fascinating briefing document, which actually contained some wonderful original papers.

Only one bad thing about the session – Rob, I still cannot get that damned tune out of my
head GRRRR

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