The bloody ballad of Broken Hill (or how jihad came to the outback)

In November 1914, acting under pressure from his German ally, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed V, who doubled as Caliph of all Muslims, issued a holy commandment directed at Muslims worldwide: they were immediately to rise up in arms against Britain, France, Russia and their allies, who were at war with Germany and the Ottoman Empire.

Although the British took the threat seriously – this was “the parched grasses that awaits the spark” in John Buchan’s celebrated phrase in his novel Greenmantle – the call to jihad was for the most part neglected. In the Caucasus, some Russian military came over to the other side. In Mesopotamia, a British officer had his throat slit. And in Singapore on 15 February, 1915, following rumours they might be sent to Turkey to fight fellow Muslims, there was a mutiny involving 850 Sepoys from the 5th Native Light Infantry Regiment of the Indian Army. The uprising was put down a week later, after 47 soldiers and civilians had been killed.