Some of my Dad's most faithful war time companions were mules and their muleteers..he first met up with them in April 1943 near Bettiour,
“The brigade once more entered the line refreshed from its rest and captured Djebel Mahdi with little loss. From there, we took over positions around Bettiour, a rocky hill about five miles north of Medjez el-Bab. As usual, I brought up supplies but, unusually, was required to do so during the day. On my first trip, I left the cooks and their kitchen equipment well below the skyline. After about two days, I discovered that they had moved and had built a cookhouse just below the crest of the hill.”
“I sent a runner to E Company Commander Major.... to tell him I was reluctant to bring my string of mules carrying supplies over the skyline. The runner came back with a message that more or less suggested that I was chicken. I argued no more and led the mules as directed. We had no sooner neared the approach to our cookhouse when a salvo of shells was dropped on us. I shouted: ‘Duck,’ and threw myself on the ground, where a shallow trench had been started. The six inches of cover it offered saved me. Most of the mules were killed or wounded. The rifleman, who I was escorting, was dead and half my muleteers were wounded. The shelling was seen from BHQ and they said: ‘Rosie’s bought it.’ Major... later had the grace to admit he was wrong and had the cooks moved back out of sight. I think BHQ put it all down to my carelessness, rather than an order. After that close shave, I became much more wary.”
and in October 1943...
“At that time, the Trigno was only about 20 or 30 yards wide and generally less than a foot deep. Its mighty bridge, which catered for a raging torrent, was about 600 yards long but about 50 yards was blown in the middle. E Company was sent to relieve the Faughs at the bridgehead. I followed with a string of about a dozen mules and crossed the Trigno by a ford.”
“The silence was eerie and the darkness complete. At my destination, I entered a dug-out where a Faughs' officer handed over and explained the position. I was horrified when the outgoing officer lit up a cigarette. The flashing of his cigarette lighter must have been seen for miles. I still do not know whether it was relief or bravado. I sent my mules back to base as soon as we had unloaded them and remained to receive instructions.”
“The muleteers were immaculately accoutred Sikhs. Their mules had been spotless when they had been loaded with supplies for E Company earlier that day under the supervision of a Subadar Major with a great sweeping moustache and a beautiful beard. All wore the Pagre ritual turban. None had steel helmets. On the way back from the company’s lines that night, they stopped in the middle of the Trigno and washed their mules. They were immediately heavily shelled and some were killed. Was it the officer’s cigarette lighter or the noise they made washing the mules that brought down the fire? I waited until it was quiet and walked alone a couple of miles back to the mule point in pitch blackness. I crossed the Trigno ford in which there were now bodies.”
It should be noted that the major in question was awarded an MC and a bar in Italy.
Edited by bexley84, 07 September 2013 - 01:41 AM.