Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

Cavalry's last stand....WW2

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by JJWilson, Dec 1, 2017.

  1. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2017
    Messages:
    789
    Likes Received:
    255
    Location:
    Arizona U.S.A
    Hello everyone, I have a really random thread for today about a topic I have put a lot of thought into over the years, Cavalry's involvement in WW2. Cavalry in WW1 served a pretty prominent role in may major nations combat strategy, (Italy, U.K, Australia, France) and also provided mobility to divisions without vehicles. For the most part, Cavalry took heavy casualties and with increased destructiveness of artillery and gunfire, effective attacks were rare (with a few exceptions of course, Beersheeba....CAC). I understand little when it comes to Cavalry use in WW2, so how effective were they in combat. I know during the German and Soviet Invasion of Poland, Polish Cavalry (occasionally with success) fought the invaders frequently. No, they did not charge German Panzers, they merely ran into them after chasing infantry away. Italy used cavalry in the Eastern front, like the charge at Izbushensky. U.S soldiers in Bataan in 1941, attacked Japanese soldiers with Cavalry with considerable success. Chinese and Greek soldiers fought off the Germans, Italians, and Japanese with Cavalry on occasions. Were some of these incidents as I mentioned earlier, just luck and circumstance, or could Cavalry have been more effective? I truly don't know, and I was hoping someone had a thought or an idea about this. Thank you to all who respond!

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    A-58 likes this.
  2. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2010
    Messages:
    4,993
    Likes Received:
    548
    I think cavalry simply had its day...the Corp became armoured...still relying on similar tactics of speed and manoeuvrability...the idea was taken further post war with armoured expanding to helicopters, which why you will find chopper pilots still with a horse patch on their shoulder....the horse never went away, just got high tech.
     
  3. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2017
    Messages:
    789
    Likes Received:
    255
    Location:
    Arizona U.S.A
    You're right there CAC, the horses were just replaced.......
    [​IMG]
     
  4. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large Patron  

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2009
    Messages:
    4,446
    Likes Received:
    1,467
    Location:
    God's Country
    My Father-in-Law and his brother had actually been in the 6th US horse cavalry, stationed at Ft. Oglethorpe, GA, during the late 30's and were still members of the regiment when they converted to mechanized/motorized and went off to fight in Europe. They were in Patton's 3rd Army.
     
    CAC and JJWilson like this.
  5. bushmaster

    bushmaster Member

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2017
    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    29
    The Heer and SS maintained some cavalry units primarily in the East which were used for reconnaissance and anti-partisan operations.
     
  6. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2017
    Messages:
    789
    Likes Received:
    255
    Location:
    Arizona U.S.A
    I'm curious, did they ever ride their horses into a battle? I assume they would just dismount, I never heard of Germans actually fighting on horseback in WW2.
     
  7. bushmaster

    bushmaster Member

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2017
    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    29
    To my knowledge, they were employed more as dragoons. A good read on the subject is "Riders of the Apocalypse" by David Dorondo (Naval Institute Press). A Soviet cavalry unit charged a retreating German column during one of the bigger routs on the Eastern Front. and hacked it to bits I regret that I can't recall the specific engagement.
     
    JJWilson likes this.
  8. Owen

    Owen O Patron  

    Joined:
    May 14, 2006
    Messages:
    2,361
    Likes Received:
    490
    edit....oops , what I was going to say was already mentioned in post #1
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2017
  9. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2017
    Messages:
    789
    Likes Received:
    255
    Location:
    Arizona U.S.A
    Well how bout that, I had no clue the Germans actually used their horses in combat directly. Potentially a lot of unrecorded instances because of bad record keeping by Soviets and lost documents by Germany
     
  10. bushmaster

    bushmaster Member

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2017
    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    29
    IIRC, there were two Heer cavalry divisions and several SS units (not all of which were divisions). It's been little while since I read the book or any other reference on the subject so I'll gladly sit corrected if my memory is less than exemplary. I believe the army units were a combination of mounted troops and light vehicles.
     
  11. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2017
    Messages:
    789
    Likes Received:
    255
    Location:
    Arizona U.S.A
    Were there any true blue all mounted divisions that the Germans had at some point? Meaning no vehicles just horses?
     
  12. bushmaster

    bushmaster Member

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2017
    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    29
    It's my understanding that all of the cavalry divisions had some vehicles as part of their make-up.
     
  13. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2017
    Messages:
    789
    Likes Received:
    255
    Location:
    Arizona U.S.A
    Thanks, Bushmaster. Sorry I keep on coming up with questions, but what about the Italians, were they also integrated with vehicles?
     
  14. Pacifist

    Pacifist Active Member

    Joined:
    May 17, 2014
    Messages:
    395
    Likes Received:
    86
    Horses were definitely on their way out due to their many weaknesses but they did have a few strengths they could play to.

    Strengths:
    1. Better recon in hilly, heavy forest, and mountainous terrain. US mountain divisions used them in Italy.
    2. Better senses then men.
    3. Can forage off the terrain. Though this may reduce combat effectiveness.


    Weaknesses:
    1. A minor injury can be fatal over time. You cannot salvage one horse to repair another.
    2. Requires fuel even when not in use.
    3. Can be frightened and refuse to advance.
    4. A large target.
    5. Requires more training on the parts of both the horse and rider.
    6. Gets tired.
    7. Feed is much bulkier than gasoline reducing supply efficiency.


    In essence it was very similar to a cavalry saber. It could do one or 2 things better than anything else in the army but on the whole was little more than dead weight when not in those circumstances.

    In answer to whether the Italians integrated vehicles. Yes. TM E 30-420 Handbook on the Italian Military Forces 1943

    If I'm guessing the abbreviations correctly the TO&E gives them 32 motorcycles, 2 automobiles, and 33 cargo trucks. These supported a Brigade of some 1800 men. 1566 of which were horse mounted.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2017
    JJWilson likes this.
  15. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2017
    Messages:
    789
    Likes Received:
    255
    Location:
    Arizona U.S.A
    Thanks Pacifist for the great info! That's what I thought, from my understanding the Poles, Soviets, and Chinese were the only Nations to have solely equestrian divisions not integrated with vehicles, I may be wrong?
     
  16. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran Patron  

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2007
    Messages:
    655
    Likes Received:
    501
    Cavalry charges ?

    I once wrote about it on ww2talk.com and, with your indulgence I will repeat it below:

    With ref to the "Charge of the Light Brigade" I am reminded that when I first joined the 4th Queen's Hussars I was told "and don't ever forget, we go back to Balaclava !"

    Wikipedia mentions it here:
    The 4th Hussars fought throughout Wellington's Peninsula Campaign and gained distinction in the Afghan War. They participated in one of the most glorious actions of the British Cavalry when they charged with the Light Brigade at Balaclava alongside the 8th Hussars. Private Samuel Parkes was awarded the Victoria Cross during the charge for saving the life of a Trumpeter, Hugh Crawford and when someone on ww2f.com started a thread entitled "The last cavalry charge" I wrote about my own little experience:


    There were some amazing times !

    I served in the Forces between October 1st 1942 & March 1947.

    That's about four and a half years in total.

    It was inevitable that within that time scale I should experience a vast gamut of experiences ranging from the depth of despair to immense exultation and before I move on to other fields I find myself eager to get as much as possible into print while I am still around to do it.

    One of the more pleasurable moments springs to light.

    Picture the scene.....

    It was during the closing stages of the war in Italy.
    For the the previous month our Armoured Brigade had been moving relatively slowly through a landscape that consisted of hills and rivers. Suddenly we came to the Argenta Gap and immediately it was 'pierced' we were able to see the plains and nothing seemed to stand in the way of our advance.

    The order must have been given 'In open order -- Advance !' because all the vehicles in the front (which included my Honey Tank) literally moved forward in one long line and it was the most wonderful sight that I had ever seen in my (then) short life.

    With coloured pennants flying from our aerial masts and with some of our crews even firing pistol shots into the air (a la the old cowboy films) we moved forward un-obstructed by an enemy who were more interested in getting away from us rather than offering resistance.

    Simply wonderful, and I was there !*

    Ron
     
  17. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2017
    Messages:
    789
    Likes Received:
    255
    Location:
    Arizona U.S.A
    Wow, Thank you for your service first and foremost, and thank you for such and incredible story! It is an honor to be able to share a conversation with a real hero and English veteran! I have met only but 3 or 4 Commonwealth WW2 Veterans in my life.
     
  18. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran Patron  

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2007
    Messages:
    655
    Likes Received:
    501
    Ron & Donnie Carlton.jpg JJW

    Sorry young man, but being a ww2 veteran does not make one automatically a hero and I for one have never claimed that any actions of mine were even slightly heroic.........

    At the time in question, namely 1939 to 1945, millions of young men were called to arms, including yours truly, and we had little or no say in where we would serve or what we would be called upon to do or witness.

    Having said that, during my time in the Army I have met people who I would happily put into the category of "hero" and whenever I have had the opportunity I have gladly named them for posterity.

    For example, see here: BBC - WW2 People's War - Cambridge and Bethnal Green Boy's Club, The club that produced heroes
    and here: BBC - WW2 People's War - Jack Nissenthall - The VC Hero Who Never Was (Part 1a)

    Note, the pic shows Donny Carlton & I on one of the AJEX parades. The first medal he is wearing is the MM, (awarded for gallantry under fire)

    Glad you like my Argenta gap story, it still gives me much pleasure in thinking about it :)

    Ron
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2017
    lwd and JJWilson like this.
  19. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2013
    Messages:
    1,342
    Likes Received:
    319
    Location:
    London UK
    In the 1970s the father of a friend had served in the Polish cavalry in 1939. They charged infantry He claimed to owe his survival to riding in the middle rank. Machine guns got the first rank and mortars the last...

    British policy re horsed cavalry in the 1930s was influenced by the level of mechanisation across the Empire. By this time the British economy was becoming more and more mechanised. Fewer and fewer people were working with horses and more were familiar with cars. Elsewhere in the Empire things were different. It was easier to raise horsed cavalry in India and there were fewer mechanics. The British mobilised a complete division of cavalry from the Yeomanry. This was sent to Palestine fort internal security. I heard that the horses were left to starve after the formation was mechanised.

    Animal transport was still important in Italy - but not as cavalry.
     
    JJWilson likes this.
  20. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2017
    Messages:
    789
    Likes Received:
    255
    Location:
    Arizona U.S.A
    Mr. Goldstein, I still hold you high on my list of people who deserve praise and recognition, and while you and millions of others did not choose to serve, you fought with such courage and bravery that you have been dubbed the "greatest generation". Whether you call yourself a hero or not my friend, that will not keep me from sharing yours and many others stories to my friends and children saying "This man......was indeed a hero, even though he never admitted it."
     
    lwd likes this.

Share This Page