Mule train to Minehead

Mules outside Minehead Station.  © Daphne McCutcheon.
WarMule Mon, 12/05/2014 - 19:48
Minehead Avenue with mules 1915. © Daphne McCutcheon.

Before the war broke out in 1914, Minehead was quite a fashionable resort in Somerset. Imagine the sounds of children playing happily on the beach and the sound of waves breaking as they rolled in from the sea. Yet 100 years ago, this all changed as war was declared and the bustle of families enjoying their seaside holiday was replaced by chaos as hundreds (if not thousands throughout the war years) of mules were all gathered together in front of Minehead Station.

These mules would have been shipped along the coast into Avonmouth which had become a strategically important military depot from which troops and equipment were dispatched to the Western Front. The mules would then be sent by steam train to 12 different depots in Somerset, of which Minehead was one of them, before being trained and then also sent to the Western Front.

Imagine how these mules must have felt. Only weeks before they would have been happily enjoying their lives back home (either in the USA or Argentina) and without a say the mules would have been bought by the War Office, forced onto ships and stowed away down in the cargo holds. They must have been petrified as the ships travelled in all weathers and we know that many didn't survive that journey. Those that did would then have been winched off the ships and onto wagons to take them by steam train somewhere to rest and recuperate. Most of the mules would have been broken-in before they were bought and the further schooling that they needed in ceremonial and tactical work was given after they had joined their regiments.

If you take a train from Avonmouth to Minehead, take a moment to remember those mules who lost their lives, never to return back to their homes.

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