She is very stupid but I am very fond of her. © National Library of Scotland.
Jenny L. Bates Thu, 06/11/2014 - 16:29

Remembering the remembered: As November 11th approaches I would like to say thank you to this website for all the research and information brought to light. And for all those human and animal who gave the ultimate sacrifice, so those who lived to celebrate can remember with gratefulness in their hearts.

Walking haystack

Lichen convoy donkey-style
Jean Grace Pedelty Wed, 16/07/2014 - 08:28

I have always been deeply upset by cruelty to animals of all kinds. My inspiration to write came from seeing TV news pictures from Afghanistan showing photos of poor struggling donkeys carrying massive loads of hay, their weak little legs giving way. Information about the rocket launchers came from research on the Internet.


© All rights reserved by Christophe Cerisier
Permission has kindly been given to use this photograph.

Trust and friendship when it mattered

She is very stupid but I am very fond of her. © National Library of Scotland.
WarMule Sun, 08/06/2014 - 14:08

It's well known that mules are highly intelligent and the British Army, accustomed to working with horses, found it extremely challenging to train mules. It wasn't until they started to understand the mule, did their partnership start to improve. With this came a deep respect of the long-eared, sure-footed animals that were to serve alongside the British Army. In return the mules began to trust those working with them and friendships between man and mule developed.

One for every two men

Horses being unloaded from trains at Ormskirk, 1914. © National Railway Museum and Science & Society Picture Library.
WarMule Fri, 06/06/2014 - 19:20

With the onset of World War 1, the British Army's remount service was put under a massive strain to supply enough horses because at the time, they only had about 25,000 horses with 6,000 held in reserve in barns and stables across the country. This proved quite a challenge for the service and eventually the Army turned to mules to help with the War effort. I'm not sure where mules came from in England originally, but I can imagine there was by no means a large scale supply of mules the British Army could use, so they had to look further afield to America.

Mules carry water to artillerymen during battle

British soldiers filling mule-drawn water-carts at a water depot near Ervillers. © IWM (Q 5307).
WarMule Thu, 05/06/2014 - 18:50

The Battle of Arras was a British offensive in the Spring of 1917 in which Australian, British, Canadian, Newfoundland and New Zealand troops attacked German defences near the French city of Arras on the Western Front.

In this WW1 video footage you will see mules being led by soldiers carrying water to the gunners during the battle. What's interesting in this video is the condition of the mules themselves... their coats are shiny and their ears forward. The mules themselves would not have been on the Front itself but in the rear providing support to the soldiers.


Donkey and mule pack-transport carrying material for the construction of trenches on the Cividale Heights, Macedonia. © IWM (Q60335)
Dandylads Sat, 31/05/2014 - 12:08

We were exploring southern Egypt and had stopped in Aswan for a few days when whilst out walking we saw a lead of donkeys walking along and they headed towards a compound that turned out to be Brooke Hospital and we saw the amazing work being carried out there. We were compelled to offer what help we could, we of course gave them money and we purchased fresh fruit and vegetables from the markets so we knew that they would eat well.

Seeing all of the donkeys reminded us troubles in the Middle East and how no doubt overworked these animals saved lives. They are war heroes so what better way than to be well cared for by some magnificent people.

I long for the day that we will return.

Them Forgotten Seasons Remembered

Lightly wounded Scottish soldiers being brought to a dressing station by mule in Salonika, 1918. © IWM (Q31798)
Al Rodger Fri, 23/05/2014 - 12:56

No mules here but some may espy those 'Lions led by donkeys.' I am usually writing stories rather than poems and when they are set in war they will often attack the stereotypical views of warfare, the seemingly inescapable clichés which provide us with a rather poor understanding of such events, particularly at the human level.

This poem was written as a Writers' Circle poetry exercise. Although not that long ago, I have forgotten the required theme, if there ever was one. I do remember it had a forty-line limit, lines now split up to assist the reading. I remember being worried about whether I could control the length of the last verse as in story-writing the denouement is usually pretty word-hungry. However, in the event, with this being poetic writing, it proved so very easy to achieve the required denouement in just half a line and thus complete the mission according to plan. Those apocryphal mules' fathers would be impressed.

The history of mules since 1400

British troops taking up supplies on a mule drawn light railway. Balkan Front, January, 1917. © IWM (Q 32725).
WarMule Thu, 22/05/2014 - 17:35

William Gervase Clarence-Smith is Professor of the Economic History of Asia and Africa at SOAS, University of London, and chief editor of the Journal of Global History (LSE and Cambridge University Press). He has published on the history of horses, mules, donkeys, camels, elephants, and bovids around the world, as traded commodities, military beasts, sporting champions, sources of symbolic power, origins of food and raw materials, transport animals, movers of agricultural and proto-industrial machinery, and bearers of disease.

Helping to herd mules at Wiveliscombe

Mules at Wiveliscombe Station. © Tony Hiscock.
WarMule Wed, 21/05/2014 - 18:56

During the First World War train loads of mules were unloaded at Wiveliscombe Railway Station in Somerset having arrived into Britain from the US by sea into Avonmouth. After the mules had been disembarked from the ships, they spent a few weeks grazing on local farms in the area to give them a chance to recuperate before they were sent to army depots to be trained for military use and then on to join their regiments on the Western Front. From what I have found, there were about 12 army mule depots in the Somerset area, of which Wiveliscombe was one.

A journey of discovery

Shavetails and Bell Sharps book cover
WarMule Fri, 16/05/2014 - 20:28

Below is a list of books that I have read through my journey of learning about mules in war. Some of these are no longer being published, but can be sourced through second-hand bookshops or online through sites such as which has millions of new and used books, rare books and out of print books.

All these books have been recommended by people I have been in contact with as I explore World War 1 and the roles mules played throughout.