Transport of NZ Division to France, April 1916

A statement showing the number of troops and ‘animals’ of the New Zealand Division transported from Egypt to France in April 1916.

The largest number of ‘animals’ carried on one ship was 736 on the Cestrian. Between 426 and 611 were carried on the Minnewaska, Elele, Menominee, Eboe and Haverford. ‘Animals’ was a catch-all term for horses and other species employed for similar purposes during the war, such as mules, camels and bullocks.

In his account of the experiences of the New Zealand Divisional Entertainers, Sergeant (William) Ernest McKinlay recalls having to look after horses on the journey from Egypt to France on the Minnewaska, which carried 1732 officers and men and 468 animals:

As I knew nothing at all about horses, besides being a very poor sailor, I was put in charge of the horse picquet. It’s a way they have in the army, and so here was I, who had never been inside a stable even, being moreover just a little afraid of horses, fated to walk round every night, attending to the sea-sick beasts, hauling them to their feet, and taking care to see that none was allowed to remain down on the deck.

After arriving in Marseilles in southern France, the horses were sent north by train. The men who looked after them during the long journey seem to have enjoyed it – they had some privacy and a rare opportunity to relax. An unnamed correspondent to the Press reported: 

I was put on horse picket (two men to each truck). I didn’t care much for the job at the time, but it turned out to be the greatest win of the journey. The horse boxes were miles more comfortable than the carriages…. The doors opened on either side, so we had a grand view of the country, and when it was dark we simply spread out a bale of hay, made our beds just as if we were in camp and had a good night’s sleep…. They offered to relieve my mate and me from picket, but we wouldn’t budge and were rewarded with another good night’s sleep.

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