Of mules and men: challenging relationships in WW1

Faith A. Burden
Presentation date

Together with the millions of horses employed by Allied troops in WW1 were mules. As horse losses mounted many mules were purchased, frequently from far away, arriving by ship to end up in the mud-filled trenches with handlers often ill-equipped to care for them. The introduction of British troops to mules must have been a challenge, as mules were not widely appreciated or used in the UK. A mule is not a horse, and to work successfully with them required a different attitude. A less developed flight response made them hard to drive on, and impossible cavalry mounts; a highly developed fight response made them quick and dangerous adversaries when faced with ill treatment. It was oft stated that there were two types of mule men; those that learnt to work considerately with them and those that ended up in the field hospital!

Understanding of the mule and its unique attributes and character developed and they became firm favourites with many troops who relied upon them to carry their most precious cargo in their calm and enduring way. The relationship between this unique equine and their handlers in WW1 will be examined through the eyes of mule and man.

Not published as conference proceedings