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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

The Shanghai-ing of Billy

page 19

The Shanghai-ing of Billy

Towards the end of 1920, when only some thirty recruits were offering themselves weekly in the Commonwealth, the House of Representatives, after a fifty-six hours' secret sitting, decided that something desperate would have to be undertaken, else Australia as a fighting quota on the different fronts would be. a thing of the past. Sir William Hughes, in a speech which filled half a volume of Hansard, stated for the 860th. time that, unless a sufficient number of recruits was sent abroad to fill the gaps in the ranks of the gallant and immortal Anzacs, the name of Australia would be plain mud in the lands across the seas. He could offer a suggestion, which, if acted upon, would solve the problem, and result in a big increase of recruits from the Commonwealth. There was much whispering; and judging by the pleased expression on the face of the Prime Minister when the House rose, his suggestion had been adopted.'

The following morning, folks passing Parliament House on their way to work were surprised to see a large and elaborately painted motor car pull up in front of the steps, and from it leaped Sir William Hughes, followed by four burly individual?, three of whom bore unmistakable signs of having at some earlier stage of their existence participated lit more than one fistic encounter in the hempen square. The other, judging by his rolling gait, was a seaman. The five men disappeared into the interior of the House, and the workmen continued on their way, many wondering why Sir William was keeping such strange company.

Two hours later, the Prime Minister and his satellites again emerged from the House. After a whispered conversation, the latter shook hands with Sir William and walked slowly down the street.

That night a bleary moon peered from behind the clouds, and at the corner of a street, faintly illuminated by a lamp, two men, each with a folded sack under his arm, crept silently behind an elderly man, who was carrying a curiously shaped bundle over his shoulder.

"He'll do," said one of the followers, who was no other than the seaman who had been with the Prime Min ster that morning. "He may be a bit old, but he'll be useful in the Camel Corps." "A sack was thrown over the old man's head, and he was borne to the pavement. A closed-in carriage dashed around the street corner, and stopped. The four men heaved their captive into it, jumped in themselves, and the vehicle went rolling away towards Port Melbourne.

"That's the beginning of the job," said the Seaman. 'Billy' will soon find out that we know our work." The others laughed merrily.

Arriving at the Port, the men, with their burden, hustled into a boat and pulled out to a large, black vessel anchored a mile off the pier. Once on board, the sack was opened, and snakes of all sizes and colors came writhing from it.

"For Gawd's sake, take the man out and let's have a look at him," said the Seaman.

The order was immediately obeyed, and there stood revealed a wrathful individual, who spluttered, swore, and demanded to know the reason of such treatment to a law-abiding citizen.

"I knew it," screamed the Seaman, "We've gone and shanghaied Morrissey and his blanky menagerie of snakes. Get him ashore at once, or I'll hurt somebody."

Two hours later the men returned with another captive, enclosed in a huge sack.

"Got the right chap this time, Boss," one said, addressing the Seaman. "Talks a heap, and was sellin' peanuts near Young and Jackson's pub, but he's just the right build for a Light Horse reinforcement."

"Lets gaze upon him," said the Seaman.

The sack was opened, and a tall man sprang to the deck in an instant.

"What is the meaning of this outrage," he screamed. "Do you know who I am? I'm Percy Brunton,.the Peanut-king."

The Seaman buried his face in his hands, and sobbed aloud.

"Percy Brunton in the Light Horse," he blub-bered. "Gawd! get him in the firing line and there'd be Hell to play. For the love of Mike, hurl him overboard."

. Next evening the four men, who had started out to shanghai reinforcements for the Australian army abroad, again wandered forth, determined to do better work. Going down a dark laneway, they spied a slender little man, walking along hurriedly through the gloom.

"The very chap for the infantry," said the Seaman. "No mistake this time; hop on him and he's ours."

The words were hardly spoken before the little man was securely snared, and was being hurried to the Pier. Half-an-hour later, the sack lay in the midst of a group of curious men on the deck of the steamer; there was not a movement from it.

It was … Billy Hughes

It was … Billy Hughes

"Put the hose on him," said some one in the crowd. "Some of these chaps who wander around dark lanes at night wants a bath."

A stream of briny water was soon playing on the sack, and it was not long before shrill cries issued from it. When someone opened it and the head of the man inside was exposed to view, the Seaman fell back, and shivered like a man with the ague.

It was the head of Billy Hughes!