Norine Loftus, one of the volunteers at Trafford Local Studies, has researched this story from their archives. Animals played an important role in the Great War and we will be sharing other stories about them in future posts on this blog.
Lieutenant Colonel William H Barnett, born c1894, died 1981. Served with the Scottish Rifles and Army Ordnance Corps. Regimental numbers 14452, 029968.
Information obtained from Mr Barnett’s personal war diary held at Trafford Local Studies.
Mr Barnett kept a small diary written in ‘blacklead’ during his time in the army which listed the chief events. He added a postscript at a later date (December 1963) – obviously a time of reflection – which was written in ink. He also inked over his original pencil entries.
The Tale of the Missing Mule
This incident occurred when Mr Barnett was in and around Salonika in March 1916.
‘On our night march – it seems funny now, but not at the time. I was in No 4 Company, so was at the back of the battalion when on the march and I had charge of a mule with a pack on its back. As you probably know, the pack on its back has to be properly balanced and if it slips, it has a chance of going under the mule’s belly, which is what happened. So of course, I had to stop to try to adjust it and while doing so with my hand on the chain from the halter and the other one trying to adjust the load. It started to lighten and in one flash, caught the chain, and travelled down my arm, which of course caused me to let go. Up the mule reared and went off with its load into the pitch black night, and needless to say, I never saw it again. Surprisingly, I didn’t get into trouble. I think they must have believed my story.’
Animals in the War
The value of animals in war is well documented and a memorial to them has now been erected in Park Lane, London.
The mule is an offspring of a male donkey and a female horse; they have great strength and intelligence, with great endurance and surefootedness. They are able to carry heavy loads, eat little, but have great stamina, but as L/C Barnett realised to his cost they are very stubborn and temperamental.
The Animal Memorial bears the inscription:
‘This monument is dedicated to all animals that served and died alongside British and Allied forces in wars and campaigns throughout time. They had no choice.’
Animals in War; Jilly Cooper