1914 -1918: the cavalry's final charge

During the First World War, several factors rendered the cavalry inoperative: After several weeks in which movement and manoeuvre were possible, the rapid exhaustion of the horses caused the cavalry to lose one of its major assets: speed. With a stalemate in the trenches, any manoeuvre was impossible and the cavalry was condemned to immobility against a strong line of defence. The level of firepower achieved in 1914 was much greater than in 1870. Indeed, the advent of the machine gun and rapid fire cannon fitted with a muzzle brake was a death trap, not only for the infantry, but also for the cavalry.

After a stalemate in the trenches, any manoeuvre was impossible and the cavalry was condemned to immobility against a strong line of defence that nothing, particularly not the cavalry, could rupture to allow it to regain its freedom of movement.

Colonel Dugué Mac Carthy, La cavalerie au temps des chevaux [Cavalry in the Time of Horses], éditions Pratiques Automobiles (EPA), 1989.

During World War I, horse soldiers dismounted their horses. Some went on to form the first cadres of early aviation. Paradoxically, right when the 'mechanical' training of the horse was the most refined and its performance maximised did the mechanisation of the cavalry render it useless on the battlefield. In September 1918, the taking of Uskub, after a long trek through the Balkans, wrote the mounted cavalry's last page of glory.

< >

Jean-Pierre Béneytou, Histoire de la cavalerie française des origines à nos jours, Lavauzelle, 2010, 248p.

Colonel Dugué Mac Carthy, La cavalerie au temps des chevaux, éditions Pratiques Automobiles (EPA), 1989.