Joe Brown

7th/9th Royal Scots with an Indian Army Mule Team in the Cairngorms

Private Robert Love writing in his book: In the winter of 1943 we had yet another exercise in the Cairngorm Mountains, our base camp in the mountains was always the same, Derry Lodge a few miles from Braemar, a valley right in the heart of the mountains, and it was very rugged country. Every company at different times spent a few days up the highest mountain in the area, Ben Macdui, 4296 feet the second highest in Scotland, we would dig a hole in the snow on the side of the mountain and make a sort of igloo but without the roof, and in that we would pitch our two man tent. Once we settled in for the night it was quite comfortable, the walls of the igloo served as a wind breaker, it was very cold and windy up that mountain and seemed a lot worse in the dark, we used to have nightmares while lying in our sleeping bags hoping there wouldn’t be an avalanche, but being young and tough we would soon forget and have a reasonable night’s sleep, waking up in the morning with healthy appetites. Part of the training was a march from Ben Macdui to Aviemore, which lay to the west. It was a tough march over some of the roughest terrain in Scotland. We were a self, contained unit and carried everything, and the minimum weight was 60lbs per man. It took us all day to reach Aviemore, distance being about 30 miles; we found a field for the night and pitched our tents. We were all knackered but that didn’t deter us from having a night out in the village, my pals and I found a canteen run by a church, I had a few pints and played a few tunes on the local organ. Next morning we had to make the long trek back to Derry Lodge, the total distance was about 40 miles, once we had made it over Ben Macdui and down the valley which was about 10 miles from Derry Lodge. We encountered some atrocious weather, but we were lucky as it held off until we got down from the mountains, I have never known it to be so bad, it took us six to seven hours to cover the ten miles back to camp. [See Campbell Papers: "Legends of the Lairig Ghru."]

7th/9th Royal Scots with an Indian Army Mule Team in the Cairngorms
Joe Brown, Feb 3, 2014
    • Owen
      Never understood why 52nd Div wasnt sent to Italy , after all there are more mountains there than NW Europe.
    • Bernard85
      good day joe,03,royal scots with an indian army mule team in the cairn gorms,interesting history.private Robert grey love.7th/9th has a fine collection of medals.did the mules serve the britich army or was it just training,regards bernard85
    • Joe Brown
      Dear Bernard,

      Good to be in touch with you again.

      Training for high-altitude warfare, the Indian Army mules were the means of carrying our heavy gear and the rest we carried on our back. We all had rucksacks, but heavy items like 3-inch mortars, Mountain Gun artillery pieces, spare ammunition, signalling equipment and stores were all carried on mules. When we needed them mules would be attached to the Battalions and other sub-units along with a couple of Indian handlers. They had side panniers and we packed them and strapped on to sides of the mules. If they were not put on correctly the stubborn mules would soon shake the load off!

      Private Robert Grey had an excellent power of recall about his War-time experiences and as he writes well they are a valuable record about the life of an infantryman who was a Bren-gunner.

      Hope you are keeping well. I certainly am and still keeping active despite nearing 93!

      Warm regards,

    • Bernard85
      good day joe brown mule team,thank you for your reply.also the history of the mule seems you and your men did a fair bit of mule work getting the equipment to the line wherever that was,glad to hear from you.stay well.all the best regards bernard85
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