Spotlight on Donkeys

It’s June which means we are already half way through our virtual calendar. This month we feature Glendon, Lincoln and Horace. They are rescue donkeys from the Donkey Sanctuary and Teresa Payne and her family foster them long term. Teresa, a partner in the solicitor firm of Parfitt Cresswell, in Windsor tells us “this wonderful trio have been with us since 2016 and we absolutely adore them. Donkeys are such intelligent animals and we are delighted to hear that our lovely lads will be your pin up boys for June as you prepare to launch your Animal Purple Poppy Fund 2022.”

Teresa is spot on… we know from our friends at the Donkey Breed Society the wonderful qualities they possess. Donkeys have an incredible memory – they can recognise areas and other donkeys they were with up to 25 years ago. Donkeys are not easily startled (unlike horses) and have a keen sense of curiosity. Donkeys have a reputation for stubbornness but this is due to their highly developed sense of self preservation.

Stories about donkeys and mules used in WW1are hard to come by. They are the forgotten ones, simply a means to an end. However without them a soldier’s life in the trenches, help for the injured, and travelling the desert and battlefield would have been impossible. According to the Imperial War Museum around 80,000 donkeys and mules were recruited by the Allies. Even though mules and donkeys were slower than horses they can carry far more weight and were easier to maintain. Donkeys and mules are smaller than horses and are well suited to hot rugged environments. They can travel quickly over rough country, even when weighed down with a heavy load. Donkeys were routinely loaded with at least 3 times their own body weight. Pictures and stories show donkeys carried food supplies, clothing, pots and pans, and of course water while all around them guns still fired, usually under the cover of darkness.

Private John ‘Jack‘ Simpson of the 3rd Field Ambulance became famous for using donkeys at Gallipoli. Simpson (pictured here with a wounded soldier) would lead a donkey to carry wounded men from the front line to the beach for treatment. He worked with donkeys every day until he was killed in action on 19 May 1915.

Despite the mechanisation of the British Army in World War Two, mules still played an essential part in conflict areas that were inaccessible by vehicles. Mules were invaluable as pack animals and could cover great distances that were impossible for vehicles to traverse. They played an essential role in the mountains of Italy, the jungles of Burma and other battlegrounds. They helped to pull artillery and to transport supplies to the troops who needed them.

Donkeys and mules continue to be used in recent conflicts such the war in Afghanistan. In this country’s rocky and steep terrain, donkeys are often the only means available to transport supplies and weapons. So this month let’s remember the service and sacrifice that donkeys and mules have made over the centuries and continue to make to support us in war and peace.

Spotlight on Donkeys

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