Australia's weird history
Australia has a little bit of a weird history, especially if you start looking into it. A while back, I started researching all this stuff and thought it'd be fun to share my findings with you all. So without further ado, here are three really weird stories from Australia's history.
A maliciously damaged ribbon
A maliciously damaged ribbon
Francis Edward de Groot (1888-1969) fought in the First World War and was rewarded a ceremonial sword for his service. He moved to Sydney and settled into his new career as an antique dealer and furniture manufacturer, and he also became a member of the New Guard (a right-wing paramilitary organization).
When the Sydney Harbour Bridge was opened on March 19th, 1932, he was part of the honour guard. However, right before the ribbon was cut, de Groot rode his horse forwards, sliced the ribbon with his ceremonial sword and proclaimed, "In the name of the loyal and decent citizens of New South Wales, I declare this bridge open." Despite the interruption, the ribbon was simply tied back together and the ceremony was continued. (Gotta admire their dedication there.)
De Groot was arrested and his ceremonial sword confiscated. He was sent to the Lunatic Reception House, where he was declared insane (but two different doctors later examined him and both found him to be sane). In the end, de Groot was fined five pounds in total, with four pounds for "maliciously damaging a ribbon." (Seriously though, just imagine trying to read that last bit in court with a straight face.) (Sources, sources, and more sources.)
In 1789, crime was on the rise in the new Australian colony. In response, Governor Arthur Phillip created the Night Watch. However, with Australia being Australia at the time and thus filled with convicts, he had very little manpower and thus chose the twelve best-behaved convicts for his new guard.
It wasn't his first choice, of course. As Phillip said, "A watch established for the preservation of public and private property should have been formed of free people," but he did what he had to do. Thirty years after the Night Watch had been formed, Sydney had about 60 constables, and most of them had been convicts. (Sources, sources, and even more sources.)
The Somerton Man
December 1st, 1945. Two men found a body leaning against a wall on Somerton Beach, Adelaide. He had an expensive suit and tie on, but all the labels had been removed from his clothes and he had no ID on him. There was no sign of violence or of a struggle, and no trace of poison in his system.
The police found a piece of paper in his pocket, with the printed words "Tamám Shud" (Persian for "it is finished"). The paper had been torn from a book that had been placed in a stranger's car a few streets away. (It gets weirder, though.) Inside the book, there was some text that looked like a coded message but to this day remains uncracked. As this was the beginning of the Cold War, theories have been thrown around, such as that the man was a Soviet spy. Was there an undetectable poison involved? Suicide? Or just an ordinary, accidental death? (Sources, sources, and yet more sources.)
What's a weird story you've come across in your travels through history books? Which Australian story was your favourite?