Camels in WW1

At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, World War I ended with Germany signing an armistice agreement with the Allied Forces, ending 4 long years of death and suffering. 

Besides brave men and women fighting in the war, many animals, including camels, played a vital role. Camels were mostly used in WW1 in desert areas to help fight against the German allied forces. Their size and flexibility made them perfect for transport and patrolling of the front. 

camels in ww1

What Did Camels Do In WW1?

Because of their ability to carry heavy loads and survive long without water, camels were used to carry food, water, ammunition, medical supplies, and wounded men during WW1. As part of camel cavalry assault troops, they would attack and stampede the enemies, and be a companion to soldiers and boost their morale.

Camels can travel between 25 and 100 miles per day (40-160 km), depending on the camel species, the load, and the journey.

Dromedary camels were the camel species most used during World War 1.

Some scientists claim that a camel can walk between 60 and 70 miles (96-112km) in a day while carrying a 600-pound (270kg) heavy load on its back.

This made them perfect to transport injured men, food, water, ammo, and other needed supplies on the front.

In addition, camels can go 10-15 days without a drop of water, thanks to their humps. They act as a fatty tissue reservoir that is used to create water and energy when the water is scarce.

And this made them perfect for transport and patrolling of the desert.

Camel is not the fastest animal there is but it can run up to 40 miles per hour (65km/h) in short distances when galloping. 

When it comes to endurance, they can maintain a speed of 15 miles per hour (25km/h) for about an hour or two.

This made them a good fit for the cavalry corps and other assault units. 

Compared to horses, camels were said to be less afraid of grenades explosions and were better-suited for crossing the desert areas.

A cameleer would ride the animal into battle, then dismount, and proceed to fight on foot, as infantrymen. 

Camel’s huge bodies, strong leg kicks, and stampede charges would have also been useful when fighting the enemy. 

There have been many records of soldiers that used them complaining about the camel’s temperament and its stubborn nature.

However, because camels were indispensable in the desert, soldiers had to tolerate them as a “necessary evil”, as they put it.

Countries That Used Camels In WW1

Both the Allied Powers and the Central Powers used camels during the First World War. British Empire raised the famous Imperial Camel Corps in 1916 to help with war efforts, and on the other side, the Ottoman Empire maintained camel companies as part of its Yemen and Hejaz Corps during the war. 

Camels on both sides fought in different battles during the war. 

For example, Ottoman camel corps were deployed during the First Suez Offensive that was aimed at taking the Suez Canal from the British forces in 1915.

The Bikaner Camel Corps was a camel unit from India that fought for the Allies in the same battle against the Ottomans.

The Ottoman’s attempt to seize Suez Canal marked the beginning of the Sinai and Palestine campaign, where The Imperial Camel Corps played a major role.

The Imperial Camel Corps included soldiers from Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.

Hong Kong – Singapore Indian Mounted Battery, known as “The Bing Boys”, was also helping in those efforts in Palestine.

How Many Camels Were Used In WW1

The total amount of camels used in the World War 1 is very hard to determine since there are not too many sources available. As they were better suited for desert areas, most of the camels were used on the fronts in the Middle East and Africa.

Surprisingly, at the start of the war, British forces didn’t own a lot of animals.

In 1914, they had around 25,000 horses and very few camels. That has changed as the war went on, and by the middle of 1917, Britain bought 591,000 horses, 47,000 camels, and 11,000 oxen.

The Imperial Camel Corps Brigade, for example, contained almost 5000 camels at its full strength, split into four regiments. Each of the regiments had around 770 men and animals.

How Many Camels Died In WW1

According to Animal Aid, it is estimated that over 120,000 British camels died in WW1. Around 24,000 camels were killed in action, and around 97,000 passed away because of poor treatment, harsh conditions, disease, and exhaustion.

RSPCA estimates that around 484,000 British horses, mules, camels, and bullocks died in the Great War.

The exact number of camels that passed away during the war remains very hard to gauge.

Read more: History’s most famous camels

Conclusion

World War 1 was one of the deadliest conflicts in human history. 

Around 40 million soldiers and civilians had died from 1914 to 1918.

And over 16 million animals helped secure the victory. 

Camels played a vital role in the Middle East and in Africa to aid in those efforts. 

During WW1, camels were used to transport goods, ammunition, medical supplies, and wounded soldiers across the battlefield. Some were also used as parts of camel cavalry troops, and also to boost the morale of soldiers.

Although it is hard to estimate their exact numbers, around 120,000 camels died fighting on the side of the British Empire, out of which 24,000 on the field of battle. 

More than 9 million animals in total gave their lives to defend freedom. 

This concludes our article on camels in WW1. 

We hope you enjoyed it and found it informative and entertaining.

Sources:

Camels in the front line

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