The Central Station Riots of 1916

This chip in the wall is what’s left of a little known event that occurred at Central Station in 1916. It is a bullet hole found at the Western entrance to the station.

It all started on Valentine’s day in 1916. Australia was in the grips of WWI and many army volunteers were stationed at training camps around the country. One such camp was at Casula near Liverpool. At 9am it was announced to recruits that they would have to “put in an hour and a half’s extra parade each day” meaning that “In some cases men have been asked to do 27 hours’ work without break.”

About 5,000 recruits refused in protest and marched into Liverpool where they took over pubs, drank them dry, then proceeded to damage buildings. They then took over Liverpool station before boarding trains heading to the city. By this point their numbers had swollen to 15,000.

Once in the city they began rioting through the streets, damaging more buildings and targeted anyone with a foreign sounding name. At Central, where much of the violence took place, armed military guards arrived to restore peace. They clashed with the soldiers and gunshots were exchanged. Sadly one soldier, Private Ernest William Keefe, was killed with 8 others injured. This clash ended most of the violence aside from a few soldiers who continued to cause problems throughout the night.

Since Australia was desperate for troops, the government discouraged media from covering the incident to avoid damage to the image of the Australian digger. Only about 1000 soldiers were court-martialled with some gaoled and others discharged, but many escaped punishment. Though it did contribute to the introduction of lockout laws forcing pubs to close at 6pm. Laws were lifted in 1955 but this saw the introduction of “the 6 o’clock swill” which was the nickname given to the rush to buy alcohol before closing time.

Note: I try to be as accurate as possible but make no guarantees. Please use this information at your own risk.


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