Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Picnic Train and Priscilla

On New Years Day 1915 a train left Broken Hill in far western New South Wales carrying townspeople to a picnic in nearby Silverton. Just outside of the town it came under fire by two men, Gool Mohamed and Mulla Abdulla. Both were originally from the area that is now north Pakistan, the former having originally worked in the mines that dominated the town and then as an ice-cream seller, the latter as a butcher for the local camel-driver encampment. The men used the cover of Gool Mohamed's ice-cream cart, which flew an improvised Turkish flag. Two passengers on the train were killed immediately, whilst several others were wounded.

Gool Mohamed and Mulla Adbulla then fled the scene, as the police and local militia were mobilised, and troops from a nearby army base were sent for. During their flight they shot and killed another man, and wounded a constable who seemed unaware that the men he was confronting where the attackers he was looking for. They took cover in an outcrop of quartz boulders abut two kilometres from the original attack site.

A ninety-minute gun battle ensued, during which another man was killed - not one of the combatants, but a man chopping wood in the yard of a nearby hotel. Mulla Abdulla was killed and when the police, military, militia and civilians stormed the men's position around 1pm they found Gool Mohamed seriously wounded. He died later in hospital.

The townsfolk later burned down the local German Club in misguided retaliation, and a lynch mob was stopped from assaulting the nearby Afghan cameleers' camp by a line of bayonets.

Although the attack was initially thought to be politically a Turkish attack on the Australian people, accounts now seem to suggest that it was at best a misguided pro-Turkish terrorist attack, and at worse aa simple criminal act. However the links to the war make the six people killed the first, and only, direct casualties of WW1 on Australian soil.

I first read about this incident when I was in Broken Hill last year. I went there again this weekend, and took some photos relating to it.

In a local museum is this front page of the local newspaper.

The hill on which the attackers made their last stand is now a reserve, and has this unusual memorial; a reconstruction of the ice-cream cart, made from an examination of contemporary photos.

 This is the rock outcrop they used as cover.

This is the view to the north. Normally this is far less green, but the area seems to  have had a decent amount of rain recently (including the first night we stayed there).

And here is the view in the other direction; the outer suburbs of Broken Hill.

You can read the Wikipedia account of the incident HERE

And this newspaper story from a couple of years ago fleshes out the story some more.

Whilst we were in town I took pictures of two more memorials. This was constructed in memory of the fallen of WW1

And this is, apparently, the towns first ever memorial - constructed in 1912 it was erected by the town's band in memory of the band on board the Titanic.

So why was I in Broken Hill in the first place? Well, they hold an annual festival devoted to 'The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert', some of which was filmed there in the glorious Palace Hotel, and surrounding area. Needless to say I though that, despite an 800 mile drive each way, it would be a great chance to give my alter-ego a chance to spend a weekend being fabulous at a great event in what is, in NSW terms, the middle of nowhere.

For Saturday's daytime events, which included a parade and a show in the town square, I went for this retro-cute ensemble. Before we headed out for the day I posed by our campsite's field gun. I think it's an 18pdr horse-artillery piece. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

In the evening we went to the big party at the Palace Hotel itself. Here I am posing against one of the stages - the original bus prop from the 'Priscilla' stage show.

Sunday's activities took place in nearby Silverton. I went for a more subdued look, but couldn't resist accessorising it with the bowler hat I acquired recently. Everyone should have a bowler hat in their wardrobe. I then posed outside the Mad Max II museum.

I did take some figures and terrain, but the only time I had chance to set up a game (I planned to play one of scenarios from Grant's WRG book using Liberated Hordes) it was too breezy to be practical; we were camping again, so all of our activities were outdoors. We did, however, spend a few evenings in local pubs, and Catherine and I played a lot of 'Love Letter', as well as some 'Exploding Kittens', 'Fluxx' and even a couple of games of 'W1815'. Because I know how to show a girl a good time when I'm in the Outback.


  1. What an interesting little skirmish. Nice lamé number too. ;)

    1. I currently a little too portly to really carry it off properly, but it was all I had with me :)

      The skirmish at Broken Hill is very interesting, although I'm currently at a loss as to how any kind of game could be teased out of it.

  2. That's a really interesting story. Great Road trip. Who doesn't love that in Australia.

  3. Great little road trip, and report Kaptain. would love to visit the Mad Max 2 museum. I'm afraid that is more my taste than Prisilla (sorry).

    Cheers Roger.

    1. I went to the museum properly last year, and wrote it up in this post:


      What I don't have pictures of is the interior, which has hundreds of still, documents and artefacts relating to the film. You're not allowed to take photos in there.

      But to paraphrase another iconic Australian movie "A life without Priscilla is a life half-lived" :)

    2. I'm sorry I read that Mad Max 2 visit post back when you first posted it, and hadn't realised that this was where I'd read it.

      Cheers Roger.


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