Photos of animals in World War One: camel stories

Not only horses, pigeons or dogs. Also other animals were used during the First World War according to the different geographical and climatic conditions of the single fronts. If we think about the Sinai and the Palestine campaigns, for example, it is not hard to imagine that horses were not really the most suitable animals for a war in the desert. Camels were instead naturally adapted for the terrain and the climate, that’s why they were largely used during the WWI for service in the Middle East. When mentioning these animals in Great War the image that comes to mind might be that of the British Officer Thomas Edward Lawrence, in one of the sequences of the famous film “Lawrence of Arabia”. Yet, turning to the prosaic reality of the conflict, camels were the distinctive feature of  specials Corps raised since the beginning of the conflict to support the campaigns in the Sinai region. The most important one was probably the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade (four battalions from Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand), who took part in different campaigns from 1616 till 1619 and even printed in Cairo its own review, entitled Barrak. But we cannot forget the Bikaner Camel Corps, a unit of the Indian Army that existed long before the WWI and was then used in warmer battlefields, especially in the region of the Suez Canal. On the other side of the front, also the Ottoman Army was provided with a Camel Regiment included in 1916 in the Hejaz Expeditionary Force.

Camels were slower than the horses, yet they required less rest on the march, were able to carry heavy loads (soldiers – the so called cameleers – including their equipments and other goods) and to walk for days without water. Camels were not only employed by the fighting troops on the front (however, only to get the soldiers to where they had to go; they usually fought then dismounted). These creatures served also in the zone behind the front, carrying water, ammunition and stores to the first line or conversely carrying the wounded from the battlefield to the hospitals, as we can see in the picture we choose today.