Auteur Sujet: British Cavalry fm oOIYvYIOo  (Lu 1853 fois)

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British Cavalry fm oOIYvYIOo
« le: 21 mai 2015, 17:55:05 pm »
A very interesting read
Thanks to oOIYvYIOo for this information  and opinion after reading this book:
Wellington's Army in the Peninsula 1809-14
 By Stuart Reid


Wellington,as is well known, had a very poor opinion of his cavalry. This proceeded from a number of causes,but the most important was the simple fact that the nature of the service precluded the tight autocratic control that he was accustomed to exercising over his infantry.Consequently,he was in the ordinary course of events reluctant to let out of his sight or to allow its officers the latitude allowed in other armies.This in turn meant that while he formed them first into one and then two divisions,they were never employed tactically as such.Unlike the infantry divisions,they were merely administrative formations and eventually both were abolished.Sir Stapleton Cotton,who commanded the 1st Cavalry Division for most of the war,acted throughout as Wellington´s chief of cavalry,a staff role rather than in a tactical role like his infantry counterparts.
The highest level of tactical control exercised on the battlefield was therefore the brigade,initially made of two regiments but latterly of three.It was very rare for individual regiments to operate independently,expect on picquet duties,and ordinarily infantry divisions were not allocated an organic cavalry unit for scouting purposes.The exception was the frequent attachment of the 1st Hussars KGL to the Light Division,but even this was very much an ad hoc arrangement for specific operations.Once the field,attrition was just as much of a problem for the cavalry as the infantry.Generally speaking,cavalrymen personally tended to be physically superior to the poor infantry,but horses were a different matter and regiments rarely mustered much more than about 400 sabres fit for duty.At the outset of the wars all cavalry regiments were organized in ten troops,each with and official establishment of 63 troopers besides the unusual allowance of commissioned and NCO´s.The troops were given letters(A,B,C,etc) and the squadrons were given numbers.Since cavalry regiments did not have the equivalent of a second battalion,two of the troops were designated as the regimental depot and permanently retained at home for recruiting and basic training.The service troops were paired off to form squadrons-ordinarily the smallest tactical unit capable of operating independently.Heavy cavalry regiments,variously designated as Dragoon Guards or Dragoons,had four service squadrons until 1811 when the establishment was reduced to three.Light cavalry on the other hand,variously designated as Light Dragoons or Light Dragoons(Hussars),not only retrained their four squadrons but even had a figth added in September 1813.
The light cavalry was a relatively new innovation in the British Army.Up until 1745 only "Horse" and "Medium" cavalry were in use,although a short-lived regiment of Light Dragoons had been raised during the Jacobite Rebellion,followed on its disbandment in 1746 by another regiment led by the Duke of Cumberland,disbanded in 1748.After an interval of eight years,the Horse Guards then accepted the addition of a single "light troop" to most cavalry regiments,comprised of just over 70 officers and men.They proved their worth to such an extent that in 1759 the British military staff decided to form complete regiments of light cavalry,beginning with the 15th Light Dragoons and soon followed by the 17th,18th,19th,20th and 21st Light Dragoons.By 1809,in the middle of the Napoleonic Wars,the light cavalry arm had waxed and wanted to the following regiment list :
7th Hussars(H)
8th Light Dragoons(LD)
9th LD
10th LD
up to the
14th LD
15th H
16th LD
17th LD
18 H
19th LD
up to the
25th LD
1st H,KGL
2nd H,KGL
3rd H,KGL
(Portugal had 12th Regiments and several had honorable mentions that i have already wrote to Lordz mentioning them in several occasions.The only historical cavalry have a British name ... that is completly wrong)

Interestingly,Despite this substantial body of troops the Horse Guard did not create any specialized light cavalry training manual.This gap in part was plugged by a 1778 publication by one Captain Hinde entitled Discipline of the Light Horse,which gathered together a mass of sound advice on training,tactics,duties,equipment and the like.
The heavy and medium cavalry regiments also went through a similar convoluted process of disbandment,formation and regrinding during the second of the 18th century.By 1795 there were two regiments of Life Guards,one regiment of Horse Guards,seven regiments of Dragoon Guards and six regiments of Horse Guards.The Life Guards,Royal Horse Guards and the Dragoon Guards were classified according to the older terminology as "regiments of horse",whereas the Dragoons acted as the medium cavalry,operating essentially as mounted infantry.The establishment of each regiment,as with the light cavalry,varied depending on status and campaign.In 1800,for example,the King´s Dragoon Guards had ten troops,whereas the Life Guards in 1795 had five troops,raised to six in 1799(although all of the troops had a large establishment).Many cavalry regiments of all types never reached their on-paper strength.
By 1801 the British cavalry force had expanded to a theoretical establishment of 260,000 in 40 regiments up from 190,000 in 1795.Note also,however,that there were a significant number of émigré cavalry regiments serving in Britain,with lively names such as the Choissel Hussars,the Uhlans Brittanique de St Domingo and Corsican Light Dragoons.
These made their own proud contribution to British service,althought many of the units both small and short-lived.
Otherwise the differences between heavy and light cavalry regiments- however titled - in the British Army were largely cosmetic.There were no regiments equipped as lancers until after the war and while al troopers had pistols and carbines,there were only used by sentries(and even then chiefly for sounding the alarm rather than actually shooting anyone) or for skirmishing ineffectually on the picket line.In battle both heavy and light dragoons invariably used their swords.The "heavies" were dressed in red jackets and carried straight-bladed swords,while the "lights" were dresse in blue jackets or hussar costume,with curces sabres.Both,however,rode what were big horses by continental standards and followed the 1796 Instructions and Regulations for the Formations and Movements of the Cavalry. :exclaim:
Wellington´s reluctance to let the cavalry out of his sight also proceeded from a widely shared perception that cavalry officers lacked the professionalism of their pedestrian colleagues in the infantry.That this was by no means an ill-founded prejudice is borne out not only by a rather patchy record on active service,but also quite graphically by a horrifying remark carelessly expressed by Corner the Marquis of Worcester of the 10th Light Dragoons (Hussar´s)on being placed under arrest by his commanding officer for neglecting drill parades.Colonel Quentin angrily informed him that even if he was the Kinf´s son he would be put under arrest for neglecting his duty.Far from being cowed,Worcester loftily declared to his mistress with mingled astonishment and indignation that this was the most disgusting and vulgar thing he ever heard,for,"what has a King´s son,or a duke´s son,to do with the usual discipline observed to lieutenants in the army?".
Unfortunately this attitude was widely share by a great many of his colleagues and led eventually to the infamous "Quentin Affair",when most of the regiment´s officers conspired to have their commanding officer court-martialed.A number of trivial charges were brought against Quentin but it soon became clear that his real "crime" was attempting to impose some discipline on the aristocratic rabble.In the end not only was he exonerated,but the Prince Regent himself also intervened to throw all the officers concerned out of the regiment.This in iself caused an uproar in some quarters,and one supporter rhetorically asked "are six and twenty spirited offspring of the truly noble Devonshire,the patritic Leinster,the beneficient Beaufor,the virtuous Egremont,and other houses ... to be scattered through a select number of regiments,for pity,and for tuition and correction?".However ,as the government rather tartly pointed out, the case "would prove to the young officers of high birth,how little their rank or connections would avail them,if they were attentive to their duty."The Times rather more pithily expressed the hope that the 10th would now become a proper regiment of English cavalry "rather than a regiment of dancing masters of merry-Andrews."
Whilst this deplorable attitude to proper soldiering was most commonly found in the fashionable hussar regiments,it was,unfortunately,only the most extreme expression of a general malaise afflicting all of the cavalry.
Professional soldiershad always been well aware of the need to separate the functions of heavy "battle" cavalry from that of light cavalry,whose field of operations properly lay in scouting and skirmishing.The effectiveness of the former was widely agreed to depend not on the trooper´s weapons (or armour),but on being mounted on large and powerful horses.Such horses neede to be kept in good condition,and above all it was important to avoid working them too hard until they were actually needed.If followed therefore that instead of breaking down expernsive troop horses on outpostwork,smaller,hardier horses should be employed instead,ridden by men who understood their business.
Unfortunely these light cavalrymen,wherher successively designated throughout history as light horse,harquebusiers,dragoons,light dragoons and most recently as hussars,all without exception displayed a depressing tendency to re-invent themselves as battle cavalry.Dragoons,for exampl,when first raised in the 17th century were merely mounted infantry who were primarily tasked with scouting and oupost duties,but as time went by they became inreasingly reluctant to get off their horses,By the middle of the 18th century they had become so completly assimilated within the cavalry proper that the old regiments of heavy "horse" were themselves re-designated as Dragoon Guards - the latter part of their title serving only to preserve their old social superiority.This in turn necessitated the raising in the 1750s of what were called "light" dragoons specifically for outpost work.Predictably enough after a very promising start,they in turn,despite in some cases taking on the name and sartorial foibles of hussars,very soon forgot their raison d´être was scouting and skirmishing.The Marquis of Worceste and his aristocratic friends affected considerable admiration for the dashing exploits of the Prussian hussar General Zeiten,but when given the opportunity to emulate him it was very much a case of all dash and no substance.To officers like Worcester,the unglamorous outpost work was probably far too much like hard work.Indeed,William Tomkinson of the 16th Light Dragoons famously noted:"To attempt giving men or officers any idea in England of outpost duty was considered absurd,and when they came abrad,they had all this to learn.The fact was,there was no-one to teach them."In all fairness it might also be remaked that there was also a shortage of sufficient open space on which to practice cavalry tactics.
The natural consequence was that while drill and discipline was tight enough at a troop or even squadron level,British cavalry were on the whole under trained by continental standards.As Tomkinson once more lamented,"In England I never saw nor heard of cavalry taught to charge,disperse and form,which if I taught a regiment on thing should be that."
Notwithstanding the various "formations and movements" prescribed in the 1796 regulations,British cavalry tactics in the end normally amounted to nothing more sophisticated than lining up two deep with squadrons abreast and charging straight at the enemy.This applied to complete regiments and brigades as well as to individual squadrons, and in his comprehensive,instructions issued to the cavalry forming the Army of Occupation in 1815,Wellington stressed the overriding importance of maintaining a reserve.
Strangely enough,despite the rather obvious importance of this point,it was a lesson which British cavalry never quite grasped.In fact even as late as Waterloo,the destruction of the "Union Brigade" was largely down fo the fact that the pre-designated reserve unit - 2nd Dragoons (Scots Greys) - enthusiastically moved up to join the main battle line at the outset of the charge.As usual therefore the initial contact was spectacularly successful,but once the French recovered sufficently to mount a counter-attack with fresh troops,the absence of British reserves proved fatal.
In an 1826 critique Wellington provided a revealing insight into his Peninsular cavalry.The determined professionalism of the KGL (german´s logically)cavalry eventually imparted a certain degree of competence in outpost owrk to their British colleagues,and once they had mastered their proper role the Duke found them useful enough "first ... upon advanced guards,flanks,etc as the quickest movers and to enable me to know and see as much as possible in the shortest space of time;secondly to use them in small bodies to small bodies of the enemy´s cavalry."Unfortenly,he went on :mrgreen: ,because they "would gallop (and) could not preserve their order ... although I consider one squadron a match for two French squadrons ... I should not have liked to see four British squadrons opposed to four French squadrons;and as numbers increased,and other became more necessary,I was more unwilling to risk our cavalry without having superiority of numbers."

It should be noted that at the battle of Waterloo,the culminating engagement of the Napoleonic Wars,the army under Wellington was composed of a mish-mash of different nationalities,ranging from regular British infantrymen through to men of the Netherlands,Belgium,Nassau and Brunswick.The quality and experience of this army vaired as much as the accents,with some soldiers being high-quality veterans,while others were merely frightened,poorly trained conscripts plug in gaps in the time.(There were particular concerns about the Duthc-Belgian troops,who made up 30 per cent of Wellington´s command yet were culturally more allied with the French,and had recently been French allies.)
Neverthelss,the Bristish soldiers themselves served with distinction,and it was their grit and military talent that helped bring Napoleon to his knees.

Resuming,terrible old-fashion training,average performance on the battlefields,not disciplinary,more time discussing and thinking themselves as higher than they were.

(corrected most spelling    ;) )
« Modifié: 21 mai 2015, 18:47:18 pm par zu Pferd »
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