Centenary of the Picnic Train AttackPrint Page Print this page


Photographs supplied by Stephen Warren

The monument commemorates the centenary of the Picnic train attack which occured January 1915 when four Broken Hill citizens were killed by two men carrying a Turkish flag.

On 1st January, 1915, members of the Combined Manchester Unity Lodges of Broken Hill and their families were waiting on the Sulphide Street Railway Station to board the picnic train to take them on their annual picnic to Silverton, fourteen miles to the south west. Some of the travellers saw the familiar sight of Gool Mohamed and his ice-cream cart drive by the Station. They wondered among themselves as to why he was flying the Turkish Flag and noticed he was accompanied by his friend, Mullah Abdullah.

At about 10.00am, the long picnic train made up of open ore trucks and packed with picnickers left the Station en route to Silverton. Soon after the train left the outskirts of the town some of the travellers again spied the ice-cream cart standing empty near the railway fence, Turkish Flag fluttering in the slight breeze.

Suddenly shots rang out from behind a mound of earth where the "Turks" were crouching. 18 year-old Alma Cowie died instantly and also William Shaw, a City Council Foreman. Alf Millard, who was riding a bicycle inspecting the water pipeline from Umberumberka reservoir was also shot dead. Two men, Shaw Hendry and Paddy Low bravely rushed to a nearby residence and raised the alarm. The train, which had momentarily pulled up, moved on to the Silverton Tramway's dam so that the victims could be taken to the pumping station.

A number of policemen were soon on the scene and set out after the "Turks" who had taken off into the low hills on the western outskirts of the city. On Rocky Hill old Tom Campbell saw the villains approaching with rifles and slammed the door of his one-room cottage. They shot through the door and he was wounded in the side.

The "Turks" then made their way to a white quartz outcrop and made their last stand. They were completely overwhelmed by the militia men and police and hundreds of rounds of ammunition was poured into the enemy position. A stray Turkish bullet killed Jim Craig who was chopping wood in his nearby backyard.

At one o'clock it was found that Mullah Abdullah was dead and Gool Mahomed died later in hospital. The former was found to have enlistment papers for the Turkish Army and Gool Mohamed had been worried by a fine for killing a sheep on private property. On one hand there was a fiery young man itching to strike a blow for Turkey and on the other a simple friendless old man ready to join forces against authority.

Altogether, four persons were killed and seven wounded - the only enemy attack on Australian soil in World War One.

"Two coloured men, Afghans or Turks, armed with rifles, fired on a picnic train laden with men, women and children just outside the city route to Silverton. Killed and wounded several. The police when informed, went in pursuit of offenders, and took refuge on a rocky hill, and fired on the police and wounded Constable Mills. The two men were finally shot down one dead, the other wounded. Constable Mills, wounded, and wounded offender in the hospital.

COWIE, Elma (sic) M - Freeberg Hotel, Railwaytown. MILLARD, A E - Cobalt Street, Railwaytown. SHAW, William - Foreman sanitary department. GREIG, James - next Cable Hotel, shot in abdomen whilst chopping in back yard.

KAVANAGH, Mary, STOKES, George, CAMPBELL, Thomas, SHAW, Lucy, CROCKER, Alma, CRABB, Rose, MILLS, Robert (Constable)


The identity of the Turks who were shot has been established by the police. Mulla Abdulla, who was killed outright, was a butcher. Some days ago he was convicted and fined for slaughtering sheep on premises riot licensed for slaughtering. He had previously been before the court on a similar charge. He was an elderly man, by appearance about 60, and he was short and thick set. Gool Mahomed died on the way to the hospital. He is believed to have been an ice cream vendor.

Abdulla carried a Snider rifle and an apparently home-made bandolier. The latter has pockets for 48 cartridges, and 26 of the pockets were empty. As a number of cartridges were in the man's pocket it is concluded that the bandolier must have been full and that he had fired the 26 cartridges away. He also had in his possession a revolver and cartridges and a new knife and sheath. The other man's rifle was a Martini Henry.

Mulla Abdulla had been 16 years in Broken Hill, chiefly camel-driving. For the past few years he had been butcher for the camp at North Broken Hill, vested with priest rights in order to kill according to the Mohammedan religion. He was of a very reserved disposition, rarely speaking to anyone, and even the men in the camp are not sure where he was born. He was always childish and simple in his ways. He was unable to pay a fine when he was convicted for killing a sheep on unlicensed premises and has become very broody as a result. About this time Gool Mahomed came to the camp, and lived next to Abdulla. They became friends.

It is Inspector Miller's view that Gool Mahomed was the instigator of the affair. He believes that as Abdulla was unable to pay the fine in the recent court case Gool used this as a lever in persuading Abdulla that there was very little to live for as he was certain to be arrested or undergo imprisonment. He no doubt preyed upon Abdulla's mind until he was persuaded that it was better to die and that it would be dying gloriously and with the certainty of great happiness in the hereafter if he killed as many of the British as he could before he was himself slain. Mahomed then made his plans and Abdulla fell in with them."
[ Barrier Miner, 2nd January, 1915 ]



Address:169 Blende Street, Broken Hill, 2880
GPS Coordinates:Lat: -31.958904
Long: 141.461726
Note: GPS Coordinates are approximate.
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Monument Type:Monument
Monument Theme:Conflict
Actual Event Start Date:01-January-1915
Actual Event End Date:01-January-2015


Actual Monument Dedication Date:Thursday 1st January, 2015
Front Inscription

On the first of January 1915 four Broken Hill citizens were shot and killed by two men carrying a Turkish flag. 

It began when the New Year`s Day Picnic Train, which had left for Silverton, came under fire.

This was the only act of war resulting in casualties  on Australian soil during World War 1.

This monument commemorates the centenary of that tragedy.

Those killed were 
Alma Cowie,   aged 17      Alfred Millard, aged 31
William Shaw, aged 46     James Greig,  aged 69

This plaque was unveiled by the Hon Kevin Humphries MP Minister for Western NSW on the first January 2015

The Broken Hill Branch of National Trust NSW arranged this memorial and acknowledges the support of the NSW Government.

Fran McKinnon, OAM (Chairman), Don Mudie, Marion Browne, & Diana Hoffman

Source: MA
Monument details supplied by Monument Australia - www.monumentaustralia.org.au