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569
CAVALRY

the enemy’s communications, breaking up his depots, reserve formations, &c. But riper consideration has relegated these suggestions to the background, for it is now evident that such expeditions involve the dissemination of force, not its concentration. Austria and France for example would scarcely throw their numerically inferior cavalry against the Germans, and nothing would suit them better than that the latter should hurl their squadrons against the frontier guards, advanced posts, and, generally, against unbeaten infantry; nor indeed would the Germans stultify their whole strategic teaching by weakening themselves for the decisive struggle. It follows therefore that cavalry reconnaissance duties will be strictly local and tactical, and that arrangements will be made for procuring strategical information by wireless telegraphy, balloons, motor cars, bicycles, &c., and that on the whole that nation will be best served in war which has provided in peace a nucleus of mounted infantry capable of rapid expansion to fill the gap which history shows always to have existed between the infantry and the cavalry. Such troops need not be organized in large bodies, for their mission is to act by “slimness,” not by violence. They must be the old “verlorene Haufe” (anglice, “forlorn hope”) of former days, men whose individual bravery and decision is of the highest order. But they can never become a “decision-compelling arm,” though by their devotion they may well hope to obtain the grand opportunity for their cavalry, and share with them in harvesting the fruits of victory.

The great cavalry encounters of forty to sixty squadrons on either side, which it has been shown must arise from the necessity of screening or preventing the formation of the all-important artillery lines, will take their form mainly from the topographical conditions of the district, and since on a front of 60 to 100 m. these may vary indefinitely, cavalry must be trained, as indeed it always has been, to fight either on foot or on horseback as occasion requires. In either case, thoroughness of preparation in horsemanship (which, be it observed, includes horsemastership) is the first essential, for in the end victory will rest with the side which can put in the right place with the greatest rapidity the greatest number of sabres or rifles. In the case of rifles there is a greater margin of time available and an initial failure is not irremediable, but the underlying principle is the same in either case; and since it is impossible to foretell exactly the conditions of the collision, all alike, according to the class to which they belong, must be brought up to the highest standard, for this alone guarantees the smooth and rhythmical motion required for covering long distances with the least expenditure of physical and nervous strength on the part both of horse and rider. As a consequence of successes gained in these preliminary encounters, opportunities will subsequently arise for the balance of fresh or rallied squadrons in hand to ride home upon masses of infantry disorganized and demoralized by the combined fire of infantry and artillery, and such opportunities are likely to be much more numerous at the outbreak of future wars than they have been in the past, because the enormous gain in range and rapidity of fire enables a far greater weight of metal to be concentrated on any chosen area within a given time. It cannot be too often reiterated that cavalry never has ridden over unshaken infantry of average quality by reason of its momentum alone, but that every successful cavalry charge has always owed its issue to a previously acquired moral superiority which has prevented the infantry from making adequate use of their means of defence. Nor will such charges entail greater losses than in the past, for, great though the increase of range of modern infantry weapons has been, the speed and endurance of cavalry has increased in a yet higher ratio; whereas in Napoleon’s days, with an extreme range for musketry of 1000 yds., cavalry were expected only to trot 800 yds. and gallop for 200, nowadays with an extreme infantry range of under 4000 yds., the cavalry are trained to trot for 8000 yds. and gallop for 2000.

Neither the experiences in South Africa nor those in Manchuria seriously influenced the views of the leading cavalry experts as above outlined, for the conditions of both cases were entirely abnormal. No nation in western Europe can afford to mount the whole of its able-bodied manhood, nor, with the restricted area of its possessions, could repeat the Boer tactics with useful effect; in Manchuria, the theatre of operation was so far roadless, and the motives of both combatants so distinct from any conceivable as a basis for European strategy, that time was always available to construct entrenchments and obstacles physically insuperable to mounted arms. In western Europe, with its extreme development of communications, such tactics are impracticable, and under the system of compulsory service which is in force in all nations, an early decision must be sought at any cost. This motive imposes a rapid-marching campaign in the Napoleonic style, and in such warfare there is neither time nor energy available for the erection of extemporised fortresses. Victory must therefore fall to the side that can develop the greatest fire power in the shortest time. The greatest factor of fire power is the long artillery lines, and as cavalry is the one arm which by its mobility can hamper or prevent the formation of such lines, on its success in this task all else must depend. Hence both sides will concentrate every available horse and man for this special purpose, and on the issue of the collisions this mutual concentration must entail will hang the fate of the battle, and ultimately of the nation. But the cavalry which will succeed in this task will be the one in which the spirit of duty burns brightest, and the oath of allegiance, renewed daily on the cross of the sword, is held in the highest esteem.

Organization.—The existing organization of cavalry throughout the civilized world is an instance of the “survival of the fittest” in an extreme form. The execution of the many manœuvres with the speed and precision which condition success is only possible by a force in which, as Frederick the Great said, “every horse and trooper has been finished with the same care that a watchmaker bestows upon each wheel of the watch mechanism.” Uniformity of excellence is in fact the keystone of success, and this is only attainable where the mass is subdivided into groups, each of which requires superintendence enough to absorb the whole energy of an average commander. Thus it has been found by ages of experiment that an average officer, with the assistance of certain subordinates to whom he delegates as much or as little responsibility as he pleases, finds his time fully occupied by the care of about one hundred and fifty men and horses, each individual of which he must understand intimately, in character, physical strength and temper, for horse and man must be matched with the utmost care and judgment if the best that each is capable of is to be attained. The fundamental secret of the exceptional efficiency attained by the Prussian cavalry lies in the fact that they were the first to realize what the above implies. After the close of the Napoleonic Wars they made their squadron commanders responsible, not only for the training of the combatants of their unit, but also for the breaking in of remounts and the elementary teaching of recruits as well, and in this manner they obtained an intimate knowledge of their material which is almost unattainable by British officers owing to the conditions entailed by foreign service and frequent changes of garrisons.

Further, to obtain the maximum celerity of manœuvre with the minimum exertion of the horses, the squadron requires to be subdivided into smaller units, generally known as troops, and experience has shown that with 128 sabres in the ranks (the average strength on parade, after deducting sick and young horses, and the n.c. officers required as troop guides, &c.) four troops best satisfy all conditions; as, with this number, the squadron will, under all circumstances of ground and surroundings, make any change of formation in less time and with greater accuracy than with any other number of subdivisions. The size of the unit next above the squadron, the regiment, is again fixed by the number of subordinates that an average commander can control, and the universal experience of all arms has settled this as not less than four and not more than eight. Experiments with eight and even ten squadrons have been tried both in Austria and Prussia, but only exceptional men have succeeded in controlling such large bodies effectively, and in the end the normal has been fixed at four or five squadrons in quarters, and three or four in the field. Of these, the larger number