The Story

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Robin Levinson Entertainment

By late 1914, World War One had gripped many nations in its bloody teeth, among them Turkey and Australia.

Until New Year's Day 1915, these two adversaries had not exchanged shots in anger; the state of war between them appearing a mere formality.

But on that day, in the remote mining town of Broken Hill, all Australians were shocked into an awareness of the war.

Three months before the ANZAC forces landed at Gallipoli, two Turkish patriots launched their own guerilla-style military operation on Australian soil by attacking the citizens of Broken Hill.

When local families set out that morning to celebrate their annual picnic at nearby Silverton there was an air of gaiety-but before the day was over the mood would turn to anger and revenge.

Travelling on a train of open ore-trucks the picnickers were three kilometers down the line when an ice-cream cart was sighted beside the track.

From it flew a strange flag (it turned out to be Turkish) and nearby two men were shooting from a trench.

With disbelief, then horror, the passengers realised they were the targets.

Under a heavy fire and with meagre cover, several passengers were killed or wounded.

A man riding beside the railway line was shot dead.

After the train had passed the ambush site, the tragic news was telegraphed to the township.

A contingent of police, soldiers and rifle club members hurried to the scene.

They discovered the gunmen had called at a cottage and shot an old man before retreating to a rocky outcrop for the inevitable confrontation.

Having chosen the site carefully, the gunmen held back the surrounding Australians for several hours.

The siege was finally broken when one of the gunmen lay dead and the other was mortally wounded.

An inquest showed the men to be Gool Mahomed, an Afghan Afridi who was a camel driver and  ice-cream vendor in the town, and the elderly MuIIah Abdullah, a native of North-West India and a butcher for the local Islamic community.

Confused by persecution and patriotism these men had sworn allegiance to the Sultan of Turkey, leader of their faith, and attacked Australia which they considered an enemy country.

The hopeless, desperate attack was found to be their own idea, though many late tried to implicate the local German and Islamic communities.

The Battle of Broken Hill dramatically re-enacts this little-known incident of Australian history.

The film probes the fine line separating fanaticism and patriotism and reveals persecutions (both real an imagined) which vex people living in a foreign land.