So, I'd heard about the Great Emu War of 1932 over the years, thinking it some kind of mythic Aussie folk tale. It wasn't until I stumbled upon the release of HyperTurbo Great Emu War 1932 that I decided to stick my head in a book and learn a little bit more about this incredibly unusual event in Australian history.
Emus are weird.
Their stance, their gait and their long necks give them a prehistoric aura. They are ratites, so they can't fly (phew) but they can charge at you, clawed feet raised and ready to scratch the skin clean off your bones. They're like raptors. They can probably open doors.
Emus are terrifying.
In the annals of Australian history, the Great Emu War stands out as one of our most unusual events.
In the years following the First World War, Australian soldiers were resettled, given large hectares of land to cultivate in remote locations. Some of those veterans were resettled in Western Australia, where they quickly found out that the land they'd been given was also home to a great number of emus.
The native Australian species was protected up until 1922 but quickly found themselves reclassified as vermin after becoming a nuisance, tramping through farmland and eating or destroying wheat crops. The veterans could slaughter them but it was as if the emu had become some sort of native Australian hydra. If you cut one down, two would rise in its place.
Struggling to bring population numbers under control, the veterans and farmers asked the Australian government for help.
And they lost.
The emus were too quick, zooming around in packs and scattering at the first crack of gunfire, and they were too resilient. As a special correspondent noted in The Sun Herald back in 1953, "they can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks."
All in all, the Army's efforts at controlling the population ensured they would be jeered for years to come.
And that brings me to how I discovered the Great Emu War was a real thing that actually happened - HyperTurbo Great Emu War 1932. A video game, designed by Marbenx, and available for download here, puts you in the clawed feet of an emu against a battalion of Aussie soldiers. You charge at them to 'kill' them and as their bloody entrails spray across the West Australian desert, Aussie phrases like "GET FARKED M8" flash on screen.
It seems that although the short campaign was unsuccessful, it will live on forever as a humorous footnote in Australian history.