Search for the bone wreck

Mule handler - Re-enactor Andy Smerdon leading Meg the mule as would have happened during the war. © All rights reserved.  Permission has been granted to publish.
WarMule Wed, 02/04/2014 - 18:35

It was a very exciting week last week having been in touch with Crispin Sadler at Mallinson Sadler Productions asking for permission to use this photo which I had found on the Internet. It turned out that it had been used to promote his production of Deep Wreck Mysteries shown on TV back in 2008. I hadn’t seen all the episodes first time round, so was really pleased to hear from Crispin that the series is running again on UK TV at the moment. Series 1 is currently bieing aired. Look out for Deep Wreck Mysteries: Search for the Bone Wreck is Series 2.

Crispin was so full of enthusiasm and had a wealth of knowledge and was more than happy to share his research material with me, especially interviews and other resources that he had, but hadn’t made it into the programme. I felt like the cat that got the cream!

The Search for the Bone Wreck is about the SS Armenian that had sailed from the United States into the Bristol Channel in 1915 carrying a cargo of over 1,400 mules destined for the Western Front. As the ship reached the British coastline, a German U-Boat spotted her. Despite trying to make a run for it, the captain ordered the crew to abandon ship and shortly afterwards the German U-Boat fired a torpedo sending the SS Armenian to the bottom of the sea with her cargo of 1,400 mules still on board. The bond between the mules and their handlers was immensely strong and they chose to stay with their mules, with a loss of 29 lives.

Deep Sea Mysteries: Search for Bone Wreck

Even typing this blog today, I find myself having to stop and take a pause. The scene is in my head and plays over and over again as I imagine the mules utterly terrified. A lump has come to my throat as I think what courage the muleteers must have had to have chosen to die with their mules.

One of the stories I have read through was of a German U-Boat that is believed to have been positioned on the south western most corner of the English coast, so may well have been describing the sinking of the SS Armenian that Crispin and his team filmed.

I cannot begin to imagine how terrified the mules would have been. From other accounts, the sailors were able to swim ashore or climb into lifeboats, but the mules... a loss of over 1,400 lives in a war that they had no choice to be a part of.

“With the moans and shrieks of the [....] were mingled the wailing
cries of animals - mules intended for the Western Front.
They went down with the ship, to which a torpedo dealt the
death blow.”

U-Boat Stories: Narratives of German U-Boat Sailors was written by Karl Neureuther and Claus Bergen and published in 1931 by Constable & Company Limited. The book is a collection of 25 eye-witness narratives; a classic of submarine welfare in the Great War.

It’s amazing to see this book is still available and first editions are listed on

Add comment

Log in to post comments

Favourite poems

Recent comments