Camels, like horses, have been used in warfare for centuries. Their ability to carry heavy loads and go for days without water made them ideally suited for patrol and transport work during the desert campaigns of the First World War.
The Imperial Camel Corps, which included two New Zealand companies, played a vital role in the Sinai and Palestine campaigns. Between 400 and 450 New Zealanders fought in the Camel Corps, and 41 of them died before the two New Zealand companies were disbanded in mid-1918. The soldiers of the Imperial Camel Corps – known as cameliers – rode their camels to get to the scene of battle, but would then dismount to fight on foot.
Camels could be stubborn creatures, and would occasionally stampede and attack people. In general, though, the fighting cameliers seem to have gained a genuine admiration and affection for their humped companions.