Sunday, 11 November 2012

We Will Remember

Today we remember those long ears, short ears, two legs and four who sacrificed themselves in war.  Here in the UK we remember them today; Remembrance Sunday.

So many men, mules and horses have died throughout the centuries in war - on all sides; we remember and pay tribute to all those lost souls.  In the Great War (1914-1918) where over 8 million horses, mules and donkeys fought alongside their humans, only 60,000 returned; 16 million soldiers and civilians died.  In World War II 60 million people died worldwide, that is the population of the UK, gone.  Another 8 million mules, donkeys and horses lost their lives fighting in places like Burma, Germany and Russia.

You humans obsession with killing each other leaves us speechless and the insanity never seems to end.  Humans have a choice to engage in war, our four legged friends had no choice and followed their humans because they had to and they trusted.

Horses were used to lead cavalry charges on the front line, pull guns, pack food and ammunition, pull ambulances and provide food.  Mules were never used for the frontline cavalry charges, our long eared friends were far too sensible to be persuaded in to galloping in to firing guns.  Our long eared forebears were employed to pack guns, ammunition and food and were used frequently for the ambulances.  The mules of the wars could go where no machine could go and were hardier than the poor short ears who struggled with the cold, the poor food and the work.

Never a harder working, tougher creature has there been than the Army Transport Mule.  Calm under fire, stoic, loyal and sensible following his human where he was bid.  It is well known that the most precious cargo would be trusted to the mules in a transport column, mules would not lose their precious cargo under fire, if a shell exploded nearby pray that your munition was on a mule not a horse for then you may see it again.

Mules and horses toiled in freezing cold and boiling heat, through jungles and up mountain passes.  They endured mud as deep as rivers and wind as cutting as a blade.  Those army mules, horses and men endured more than we can imagine.  They endured together, they lived together, they died together.  Many times the camaraderie between human and equine was all that there was to fall back on and the love and loyalty of a mule or a horse would have meant the difference between life and death, despair and hope.  May we never forget.

 A Soldier's Kiss
by Henry Chappell
Only a dying horse! pull off the gear,
And slip the needless bit from frothing jaws,
Drag it aside there, leaving the road way clear,
The battery thunders on with scarce a pause.
Prone by the shell-swept highway there it lies
With quivering limbs, as fast the life-tide fails,
Dark films are closing o’er the faithful eyes
That mutely plead for aid where none avails.
Onward the battery rolls, but one there speeds
Needlessly of comrades voice or bursting shell,
Back to the wounded friend who lonely bleeds
Beside the stony highway where he fell.

Only a dying horse! he swiftly kneels,
Lifts the limp head and hears the shivering sigh
Kisses his friend, while down his cheek there steals
Sweet pity’s tear, "Goodbye old man, Goodbye".
No honours wait him, medal, badge or star,
Though scarce could war a kindlier deed unfold;
He bears within his breast, more precious far
Beyond the gift of kings, a heart of gold

Much has been written of equines in war. Sadly not much is noted about our mule friends.  FH found this poem about mules in the Great War, we are sure that the writer had some fondness for our long eared friends; somehow you can't help but admire those mules!


I NEVER would 'ave done it if I'd known what it would be.
I thought it meant promotion and some extra pay for me;
I thought I'd miss a drill or two with packs an' trenchin' tools,
So I said I'd 'andled horses--an' they set me 'andlin' mules.
Now 'orses they are 'orses, but a mule, 'e is a mule
(Bit o' devil, bit o' monkey, bit o' bloomin' boundin' fool!)
Oh, I'm usin' all the adjectives I didn't learn at school
On the prancin', glancin', rag--time dancin' army transport mule.
If I'd been Father Noah when the cargo walked aboard,
I'd 'ave let the bears an' tigers in, an' never spoke a word;
But I'd 'ave shoved a placard out to say the 'ouse was full,
An' shut the ark up suddent when I saw the army mule.
They buck you off when ridden they squish your leg when led;
They're mostly sittin' on their tail or standing on their 'ead;
They reach their yellow grinders out an' gently chew your ear,
An' their necks is indiarubber for attackin' in the rear.
They're as mincin' when they're 'appy as a ladies' ridin' school,
But when the fancy takes 'em they're like nothin' but a mule--
With the off wheels in the gutter an' the near wheels in the air,
An' a leg across the traces, an' the driver Lord knows where.
They're 'orrid in the stables, they're worse upon the road;
They'll bolt with any rider, they'll jib with any load;
But soon we're bound beyond the seas, an' when we cross the foam
I don't care where we go to if we leaves the mules at 'ome.
For 'orses they are 'orses, but a mule 'e is a mule
(Bit o' devil, bit o' monkey, bit o' bloomin' boundin' fool!)
Oh, I'm usin' all the adjectives I never learnt at school
On the rampin', rawboned, cast-steel-jawboned army transport mule

It's good to know that even our mule pals in war had 'personality', I'm sure the writer learned to appreciate the mule and his exceptional wit and talent ;-)

Still our friends serve with armies worldwide, with soldiers in Afghanistan they provide the means to go where no machine can and of course they provide friendship and solace to those who are caught in conflict.  May we hope that one day no human, horse or mule has need to die in war.

May we never forget

Photographs from NLS archives and Blue Cross.


  1. This was beautiful. I have some interesting books written by the War Dept of the US regarding the use of mules in the Civil War, WWI, and WWII. The history of a war mules is very long.

  2. From some one who understands................totally. Thank you.

  3. How touching to have a remembrance day of our furry friends whose lives were sacrified. How sad about all those lives lost. How sad that non-human creatures serving at war do not have a choice to say No. The feelings conveyed in the last picture speak for themselves about the great soul of our furry friends. If only a moment of mutual solace could wipe away all the horror.

    May all those noble souls be remembered. Thank you for sharing this important day, read it in tears.