“A Weapon in the Hands of the Allies” Transporting British Army Horses and Mules during The Great War.

In April I am excited to be presenting a paper at the Maritime Animals: Telling Stories of Animals at Sea conference, to be held at The National Maritime Museum, London. More details about what promises to be a very interesting conference can be found here:



Unloading a mule in Alexandria, Egypt, 1915.

Here is what I will be talking about:

“A Weapon in the Hands of the Allies”: Transporting British Army Horses and Mules during The Great War.


Between 1914 and 1918 The British Army transported by sea over one million horses and mules from around the Globe to every theatre of The Great War. The horses and mules were purchased in the United Kingdom, North America, Canada, South America, South Africa and China. Yet more accompanied the forces of Australia and New Zealand to Egypt and the Indian divisions of the British Army to France. Every horse and mule represented a considerable financial investment; it being estimated that a total £67.5 million was spent on their purchase, training, and delivery between 1914 and 1918. Each of these thousands of horses and mules was also vital to the war effort. It was essential that this precious cargo be protected from avoidable harm.

It is credit to the personnel involved that this expensive living ‘weapon’ was successfully shipped, over great distances, in such numbers, and with such a high degree of success. In addition, astutely devised military regulations ensured that losses were minimised. First-hand accounts enable us to examine how, and how successfully, these Army regulations were implemented. At the War’s end, and when the authorities involved were allowed time to look back on their achievements, it became clear that this command of the world’s horse and mule supply had been a decisive factor in the War’s outcome. The horse and mule were, indeed, ‘a weapon in the hands of the allies’.


Artillery horses aboard the transport ship ‘Mashobra’ in 1915.



Author: janeflynnsenseandsentimentality

I am an independent researcher and writer affiliated to The University of Derby, UK. I was awarded a PhD in 2016 for my thesis: 'Sense and Sentimentality: The Soldier-Horse Relationship in the Great War'.

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