How Could Medieval Calvary Forces be Compared to the Ones in World War One?

How Could Medieval Calvary Forces be Compared to the Ones in World War One?

Cavalry (from French cavalerie, cf. cheval ‘horse’) or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. The Cavalry was historically the most mobile of the combat arms. An individual soldier in the cavalry is known by a number of designations such as cavalryman, horseman, dragoon and many more…

The time gap between the medieval cavalry and the first world war cavalry is quite substantial so there are a lot of differences between them

Medieval Cavalry

Medieval knights also charged with lances but never swords, they wore heavy armor, and generally did not dismount in combat. They always had a shield, charged in deep lines up to ten horses deep, and lacked missile weapons because firearms were not very developed back then. They never did scout work, modern cavalry all did scouting. Medieval knights had at least nominal chivalry to follow, meaning no massed charges into the rear of an enemy.

During the European Middle Ages, there were three primary types of war horses: The destrier, the courser, and the rouncey, which differed in size and usage. A generic word used to describe medieval war horses was chargerOn the battleground, medieval cavalry played decisive roles with its use of tactics. The light cavalry played important role in scouting, skirmishing, and performing outpost duties while heavy medieval cavalry used tactics of using lances and ranged weapons during the main battle.

First World War Cavalry

The cavalry forces of the First World War were a lot more sophisticated and way less armored. They used lances and sabers but wore no armor. Some were equipped with carbines and pistols for firing from horseback, and they charged in lines that were generally shallow, two to three horses deep. Modern cavalry would very often use flanks and other dishonorable practices.

In the very early days of World War One, cavalry was a devastating weapon when used against infantry. A British cavalry charge at the Battle of Mons was enough to hold off the advancing Germans. However, with the coming of static trench warfare, the use of cavalry became rare. Barbed wire, mud and machine guns were a deadly combination for any cavalry soldier. Horses became beasts of burden as opposed to having any strategic impact on the Western Front in terms of their use in cavalry attacks.

One of the last cavalry charges of the war came at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The attack was on July 14th on High Wood – a German strongpoint that was holding up the British advance. Men from the 20th Deccan Horse, an Indian cavalry unit, attacked the German positions. Armed with lances and despite going uphill which slowed down the charging horses, some of the men reached the woods. Some Germans surrendered when confronted by cavalry in woodland – something they could not have expected. However, the attack, while brave, was very costly with 102 men killed along with 130 horses. Just two months later the tank was used in the battle effectively signalling the end of any chance of success that a cavalry attack might have.



About The Author


Alcibiades, son of Cleinias, an Athenian, Spartan, Persian statesman, orator and general….. A huge fan of history ever since he was a child. He has a history diploma and a everlasting appetite His favorite period is The Medieval Period, especially the High Middle Ages.

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