Horsemen in No Man's Land (Book) Review
by Military History @ Suite101
Publisher: Pen and Sword Books Ltd
Author: David Kenyon
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For thousands of years, from the ancient Mongols to the Romans and Napoleon, the army that had the best and most professional horse cavalry was the master of the battlefield. After the failure of the French horsemen at the Battle of Waterloo to break the British squares, and the introduction of repeating rifles and crude machine guns in the American Civil War, the role of cavalry on the battlefield was in decline. Still, in 1914 when almost every European country went to the First World War on one side or the other, horse-mounted cavalry was still seen as important. A new book by David Kenyon entitled: Horsemen in No Man's Land; British Cavalry and Trench Warfare 1914-1918, looks at this in great detail.
A Review of Horsemen in No Man's Land
The new work, exclusive to a study of the British and Commonwealth Army's horse cavalry, runs ~290 pages with exclusive notes, bibliography, and cross-referenced index. It includes 15-plates, some never seen before. Its subject matter is solely on the operations on the Western Front in Northern France; the classic No Man's Land of World War One. It covers in equal detail the opening campaigns of 1914, the Somme Battles, Cavalry on the Hindenburg Line and Arras, Cambrai, Operation Michael and the final Hundred Days of 1918. Notably missing is any coverage of other fronts, being outside the scope of the work.
Kenyon provides the reader, long accustomed to tale of horses charging vainly into certain death ala-Charge of the Light Brigade style, with the truth of the matter. It has long been presented that horse cavalry in the 1914-era had lost their traditional purpose of being an arme blanche 'shock weapon'. The argument’s second part was that the infantry, who could simply be mounted on horses, mules, or even Lorries and Paris taxis, and rushed into battle, replacing horse cavalry. It is this argument that the author attacks and examines in great and minute detail. In action after action detailed by delving into legitimate first person accounts and source materials, the exaggerated fear that a few mounted men could inspire when they were actually allowed to attack, is explained.
The author of this work, who so brilliantly champions the British and Commonwealth Horse Cavalry in the Great War, come from a background in equestrian riding and horses. Kenyon is well-respected researchers and probably one of the most knowledgeable scholars on cavalry matters. Mr. Kenyon's previous books include the well-received Digging in the Trenches as well as numerous articles on military archeology and His Majesty's horse soldiers.
Overall, the work is a fresh look at a marginalized chapter in military history.
Of further interest...
The Action-Packed Diary of a WW1 CavalrymanFri 20th February
An article by Letters From The Trenches author Jacqueline Wadsworth about the early days of the Great War, based on the diary of regular soldier Sergeant George Fairclough. Read article...
The Charge of the Light BrigadeWed 4th January
History’s Most Famous Cavalry Charge Told Through Eye Witness Accounts, Newspaper Reports, Memoirs and Diaries Read article...