the last ballad OF CAVALRIES
The use of horses in World War I marked a transitional period in the evolution of armed conflict. Cavalry units were initially considered essential offensive elements of a military force, but over the course of the war, the vulnerability of horses to modern machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire reduced their utility on the battlefield. This paralleled the development of tanks, which ultimately replaces cavalry in shock tactics. While the perceived value of the horse in war changed dramatically, horses still played a significant role throughout the war.
All of the major combatants in World War I (1914–1918) began the conflict with cavalry forces. Imperial Germany stopped using them on the Western Front soon after the war began, but continued with limited use on the Eastern Front, well into the war. The Ottoman Empire used cavalry extensively during the war. On the Allied side, the United Kingdom used mounted infantry and cavalry charges throughout the war, but the United States used cavalry only briefly. Although not particularly successful on the Western Front, Allied cavalry had some success in the Middle Eastern theatre due to the open nature of the front, allowing a more traditional war of movement, in addition to the lower concentration of artillery and machine guns. Russia used cavalry forces on the Eastern Front but with limited success.
German cavalry moving into France, August 1914
The military used horses mainly for logistical support; they were better than mechanized vehicles at traveling through deep mud and over rough terrain. Horses were used for reconnaissance and for carrying messengers as well as for pulling artillery, ambulances, and supply wagons. The presence of horses often increased morale among the soldiers at the front, but the animals contributed to disease and poor sanitation in camps, caused by their manure and carcasses. The value of horses and the increasing difficulty of replacing them were such that by 1917, some troops were told that the loss of a horse was of greater tactical concern than the loss of a human soldier. Ultimately, the blockade of Germany prevented the Central Powers from importing horses to replace those lost, which contributed to Germany's defeat. By the end of the war, even the well-supplied US Army was short of horses.
Conditions were severe for horses at the front; they were killed by artillery fire, suffered from skin disorders, and were injured by poison gas. Hundreds of thousands of horses died, and many more were treated at veterinary hospitals and sent back to the front. Procuring fodder was a major issue, and Germany lost many horses to starvation. Several memorials have been erected to commemorate the horses that died. Artists, including Alfred Munnings, extensively documented the work of horses in the war, and horses were featured in war poetry. Novels, plays and documentaries have also featured the horses of World War I.
English Cavalry, France, 1916
Turkish cavalry at liberty war, just before the final great assault against Greek Army 1922
Attack of an Austro-Hungarian squadron of Honvéd hussars in Galicia, 1914
German Cavalry WW1
Australian Camel Corps going into action at Sharia near Beersheba, in December of 1917.
Turkish cavalry exercises on the Saloniki front, Turkey, March of 1917
Ottoman Cavalry in Sinai campaign Jan 28, 1915 – Oct 28, 1918
Austro Hungarian dragoon cavalry riding in galicia
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