The ASC Remounts Service was responsible for the provisioning of horses and mules to all other army units. It was not a large part of the ASC, despite the huge numbers of animals produced, amounting in 1914 to only four Remount Squadrons that ran four Remount Depots (Woolwich, Dublin, Melton Mowbray and Arborfield).
A Remount Squadron consisted of approximately 200 soldiers, who obtained and trained 500 horses. They were generally older, experienced soldiers.
Animals were obtained during the war by compulsory purchase in the United Kingdom and by purchasing from North and South America, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, India and China.
As the army expanded, several more ASC Remount Squadrons were established at home and overseas. ASC Remounts personnel in the Middle East theatres were supplemented by similar units of the Indian Army.
Organisation at home
The ASC Central Remount Depot was based at Aldershot. It also operated
– No. 1 Depot at Dublin (Ireland)
– No. 2 Depot at Woolwich
– No. 3 Depot at Sysonby, Melton Mowbray
– No. 4 Depot at Arborfield Cross near Reading
During the war, four additional main Remount Depots were established.
– Shirehampton (for horses received at Avonmouth)
– Romsey (for Southampton)
– Ormskirk (for Liverpool) (depot situated at Lathom Park)
– Swaythling (a collecting centre for horses trained at the other three centres for onward shipment overseas).
A view of the immense scale of these operations can be judged from the statistics for Swaythling, as published in the “Times” in April 1919. Up to 1 April, it had received 342020 horses and mules (317165 from the USA; 6712 from Ireland; 9357 home purchased; 8856 returned from France). On that day, 3530 animals were stabled and cared for by a staff of 757 men.
We have found other locations named as Remount Depots: they appear to be local collecting points. They include Ayr (Scotland); Balmoral near Belfast (Ireland); Gloucester; Lancaster (Lancashire); Leighton Hall near Ironbridge (Shropshire); Kettering (Northamptonshire); Pluckley (Kent); Redhill (Surrey); Standhouse, Curragh (Ireland); Trentham (Staffordshire); Whitehill, St Boswells (Scotland). This list may not be complete.
Twelve locations in Somerset were used for Mule Squadrons. Its depot was located at Bishops Lydeard near Taunton; F Squadron was at Wiveliscombe.
A Base Remount Depot (with capacity for 2,600 animals) and two Advanced Remount Depots (300 each) went to France with the original British Expeditionary Force. As the campaign continued, further Base Remount Depots opened at the base ports.
At the peak in December 1917, these facilities were training a total of 93,847 horses and 36,613 mules.
Remount Depots in France
- No 1 Base Remount Depot. Comprised “A” Section which had been based at York and “B” which came from Waterford in Ireland. Landed at Le Havre on 21 August 1914 but soon moved and landed at Saint-Nazaire on 3 September 1914. Moved to the hippodrome north of Nantes. During the period 2-10 October the depot moved by sections to Rouen. It was established at Chateau Madrillet and remained there for the rest of the war.
- No 2 Base Remount Depot. The war diary begins on 21 January 1915 with the depot already working at Le Havre.
- No 3 Base Remount Depot. Landed at Dieppe on 28 January 1915 and established at Janval and Hautot Camps.
- No 2 Advanced Remount Depot. The war diary begins in August 1915 with the depot already working at Abbeville.
- No 5 Advanced Remount Depot. Established at Saint Germer on 7 December 1914.
- No 6 Advanced Remount Depot. Established at La Houssoye by 28 December 1914 by the arrival of Major Brooksband and 50 men from No 5 Advanced remount Depot.