A prevalent view among historians is that both horsed cavalry and the cavalry charge became obviously obsolete in the second half of the nineteenth century in the face of increased infantry and artillery firepower, and that officers of the cavalry clung to both for reasons of prestige and stupidity. It is this view, commonly held but rarely supported by sustained research, that this book challenges. It shows that the achievements of British and Empire cavalry in the First World War, although controversial, are sufficient to contradict the argument that belief in the cavalry was evidence of military incompetence. It offers a case study of how in reality a practical military doctrine for the cavalry was developed and modified over several decades, influenced by wider defence plans and spending, by the experience of combat, by Army politics, and by the rivalries of senior officers. Debate as to how the cavalry was to adjust its tactics in the face of increased infantry and artillery firepower began in the mid nineteenth century, when the increasing size of armies meant a greater need for mobile troops. The cavalry problem was how to deal with a gap in the evolution of warfare between the mass armies of the later nineteenth century and the motorised firepower of the mid twentieth century, an issue that is closely connected with the origins of the deadlock on the Western Front. Tracing this debate, this book shows how, despite serious attempts to ’learn from history’, both European-style wars and colonial wars produced ambiguous or disputed evidence as to the future of cavalry, and doctrine was largely a matter of what appeared practical at the time.
Table of Contents
Contents: Preface; Doctrine and the cavalry 1880-1918; The Wolseley era 1880-1899; The Boer War 1899-1902; The Roberts era 1902-1905; The Haldane era 1905-1914; The First World War 1914-1918; Conclusion; Appendix; Bibliography; Index.
PRIZE: Shortlisted for the Society of Army Historical Research 2008 Templer Medal. ’Doctrine and Reform in the British Cavalry, 1880-1918, is a deeply researched, clearly written, and brilliantly argued examination of the evolution of British cavalry organization, doctrine, and practice from 1880 through World War I. In the process, Stephen Badsey stands many half examined shibboleths on their heads and deepens our understanding of the conduct of both the Boer War and World War I. Even more importantly, he compels his readers to consider the issue of when it became technically feasible for motor transport to replace the horse. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in the military history of the early twentieth century because many of his arguments have universal application. It is my sincere conviction that this is not only a very well done book but also potentially a very important one.’ Dr Edward Raines, U.S. Army Center of Military History, USA ’Influencing any sensible scholar who wishes to understand the period.... The appearance of [this] book has filled a gap.’ Professor Richard Holmes, author of Tommy: The British Soldier on the Western Front ’A great work of intense and splendid scholarship.’ The Marquis of Anglesey, author of A History of the British Cavalry ’... [a] very readable and erudite book.’ Journal of Military History ’In all, an eye-opening work worthy of study by Great War specialists.’ Stand To! ’... this is a most significant contribution to the historiography of the British Army, and its appearance in print is to be welcomed.’ Journal of British Studies ’... widely researched, carefully argued and absorbing book... Everyone interested in the history of British cavalry, and indeed of the British Army in this period, should read this book... It is fascinating and informative. It is also beautifully produced.’ Soldiers of the Queen ’... an accessible and highly readable style... a maste