Mules

Discussion in 'Italy' started by chrisgrove, Sep 6, 2013.

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  1. chrisgrove

    chrisgrove Senior Member

    Hi guys

    Does anyone know of a book which shows the harness and pack saddle of British Army transport mules used in quantity in the Italian campaign. The one book I have on mules focusses rather more on the Indian Army mules used in Burma, which used different harness and saddles..

    Esoteric subject I know!

    Chris
     
  2. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi Chris,

    Outrageous of me I know, but you wouldn't happen to have any of these images of the Indian Army set up and any good photos of the mules themselves? I'm about to write something up about Gurkha Muleteers from Op. Longcloth and am short of decent additional information.

    Many thanks.

    Steve
     
  3. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce

    Hi Chris
    I am sure we have had a thread somewhere on mules and pictures, just cannot find it at the moment.
    There are a couple of photographs of mules, one of a Mule Harbour near Bettiour in the book Algiers to Austria by Cyril Ray.
    Maybe someone will come along with other suggestions. One of the pictures shows a mule (albeit from the back end!) with the harness and what looks like leather type woven baskets attached either side.

    Lesley
     
  4. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    The catchily-titled Manual of Horsemastership, Equitation and Animal Transport 1937 has a section on 'British Pattern' pack saddlery but relies on grainy plates rather than clear diagrams. Earlier editions might be a better bet, or RASC-specific manuals (RLC Museum?).

    Major G M Tylden's Horses and Saddlery has a chapter on pack saddlery with a greater emphasis on its history. What might bugger you up a bit is a reference to the use of significant quantities of Italian pack saddlery during the campaign.

    Just out of interest, can I ask what book you've got?
     
  5. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce

    double post
     
  6. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce

    Picture taken from Algiers to Austria by Cyril Ray
    Best I could do I'm afraid
     

    Attached Files:

  7. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    Here's a photo of an Indian mule in Burma at IWM Duxford. As it doesn't look like the sets illustrated in the above, I'm guessing this is Indian Pattern pack saddlery.

    Incidentally, the leather and wooden carrying contraption is a Universal Carrier - somebody must have requisitioned one and got the other during the war.

    IP AT.JPG
     
    Ken P likes this.
  8. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce

    Last picture

    Mule Harbour at Bettiour
     

    Attached Files:

  9. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    Chris.

    Chris.

    The father of one of the participants on a battlefield study to a Monte Cassino that I ran a few years ago commanded 359 Pack Mule Transport Company throughout Italy. He even wrote the pack mule section for the RASC's historical record. I will email her and ask if she has what you want.

    Regards

    FdeP
     
  10. chrisgrove

    chrisgrove Senior Member

    Wow; what a quick response. Thanyou all very much as I thought no one else would be interested in mules!

    Steve: I'll PM you when I've checked to see what I've got.

    Lesley; thanks for your offer, but I think you've put that pic on line. The book I have does contain the 'Mule harbour at Bettiour pic (though without a location).

    Idler: the book I have is a spiral bound job entitled 'The Military Mule in the British Army and the Indian Army; an anthology' by Brian Nicholls with additional sections by Philip Malins and Charles MacFetridge. I first saw it, borrowed, from an old friend of mine now deceased (at least I think it was the same book, though my impression was that the one I saw had more pics than the one I bought) and eventually found a copy for sale at a bookseller near here (Kent). Incidentally, both British Army Mule Companies and Indian Army ones seem to have used the Universal Carrier (see pics above, though whether the kit was identical I have no idea). I did wonder if there was not a military pamphlet on the subject (Pack Transport Training 1942?)

    FdeP alias Minden 1759; Many thanks for your offer. I'd be delighted if you can find something useful.

    Incidentally, I came across mules twice in my Army career; first when climbing Kilimanjaro in about 1961 when we were supported by a couple of KAR mules, one of which died and the hoof with the brand had to be returned before the mule could be struck off strength (there being little demand for three legged mules), and a number of years later when our mortars were carried by the last Pack Transport troop in the Army on exercise in Hong Kong in about 1966/67, but I never thought of taking pictures of them, at least not close enough to be of any use. My interest is partly because I am a modeller and I have never seen a mule used in a diorama (watch this space) and partly just plain interest.

    Chris
     
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  11. Dave55

    Dave55 Very Senior Member

    Incidentally, I came across mules twice in my Army career; first when climbing Kilimanjaro in about 1961 when we were supported by a couple of KAR mules, one of which died and the hoof with the brand had to be returned before the mule could be struck off strength (there being little demand for three legged mules),

    They branded them on the bottom of the leg? That must have been very painful, just skin and bone down there. I would think that there must have been a risk of bone infections.

    Any pictures of those brands available?
     
  12. bexley84

    bexley84 Well-Known Member

    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.
     
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  13. chrisgrove

    chrisgrove Senior Member

    Hi Dave55

    I may have used the wrong word, but I understand that the mule's number or other identification was branded/stamped/engraved on its actual hoof. Thus the production of the hoof was evidence that the mule was dead and not just sold off (peacetime accounting!). During the war, after 1943, British Mules were branded on the off side (presumably right) side of the neck. American mules were branded on the other side. Post War, branding was done by freeze marking, though presumably KAR mules still had the hoof marking. Sorry; I have no pics.

    Chris
     
    Ken P likes this.
  14. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Thanks for your help Chris, much appreciated.

    Steve
     
  15. minden1759

    minden1759 Senior Member

    Chris.

    I worked with Italian mules in 1986 whilst working with the Italian Army. At the time, and I do not know if they still have them, the Alpini Artillery had a regiment of pack howitzers that was entirely mounted on mules. The howitzers were demountable and shared amongst the mules.

    It was a wonderful few weeks but really hard work. As a lone infanteer amongst gunners, I was a source of some amusement as I tried to get to grips with the work.

    Regards

    FdeP
     
  16. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi All,

    As we are chatting mules here, can anyone confirm that larger mules from Argentina were used by British Forces in WW2? I'm sure one of the Chindit veterans I've met told me that his Column wireless set was carried by a much bigger mule than the rest, called imaginatively "Betty".
     
  17. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    There's a reference to the Indian Remount Department purchasing mules from the US, the Argentine Republic and South Africa in the RAVC history, but that's about it.
     
  18. Dave55

    Dave55 Very Senior Member

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the info. I was thinking a bit about this today and it seems to me it would makes sense to brand then down near the hoof since even if the brand was altered or obscured in any way it would still leave an scar that would obviously indictate that the animal was branded by the Britsh Army, due to its unusual location.

    The actual hoof grows like a fingernail so any brand put on it would eventually disappear off the bottom edge. Farriers trim the hoofs when they reshoe them.

    http://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.html?pgguid=2e87beb4-7b6a-11d5-a192-00b0d0204ae5&ccd=IFH003&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&mr:trackingCode=7640C464-3C81-E211-BA78-001B21631C34&mr:referralID=NA&mr:adType=pla&mr:ad=15165206083&mr:keyword=&mr:match=&mr:filter=34503844843&gclid=CNKliI2_urkCFURp7AodDSkAFA
     
  19. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Thanks Idler.
     
  20. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

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