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View Full Version : Into the valley of death: Cavalry Charges



Lupy
2009-04-07, 07:39 PM
In both fiction and history, cavalry charges (especially against far superior numbers) have been depicted as probably the most courageous thing ever.

So out of all of the cavalry charges you can think of, which one was the most amazing/brave/amazing in a good way?

My votes include:

The Charge of the Light Brigade and both times the Rohirrim relieved the besieged forces of light (Helm's Deep and Minas Tirith).

Mr. Scaly
2009-04-07, 07:52 PM
Well, the Polish cavalry that charged German panzers at the start of WWII strikes me as fantastically brave.

thorgrim29
2009-04-07, 08:12 PM
Apparently that's a misconception, the cavalry charged the infantry (charging guys with firearms on a horse is still pretty brave) and then the panzers came and took pictures of dead horses crushed underneath.

Corvus
2009-04-07, 09:52 PM
Well, the Polish cavalry that charged German panzers at the start of WWII strikes me as fantastically brave.

Yup, that one came about via Italian propaganda. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Krojanty for the details. (The other bit of propaganda of the German invasion of Poland that is still believed today is that the Polish Air Force was destroyed on the ground. That couldn't be further from the truth. Despite being heavily outnumbered and in inferior aircraft, the Polish Airforce inflicted heavier losses on the Germans than they received.)

Back to cavalry charges.

The Battle of Vienna. 1683. At the climax of the battle King Jan III Sobieski of Poland led a cavalry charge of 20,000 men against the Ottoman forces, one of the largest cavalry charges in history.

The Battle of Beersheba. 1917. After being held up all day by the Turkish defenders of Beersheba, two regiments of Australian Light Horse (mounted infantry, not even cavalry) charged in a last ditch effort to capture the town. They crossed six kilometers under artillery, machine gun and rifle fire and somehow captured the town with only 31 dead.

Don Julio Anejo
2009-04-07, 10:03 PM
I may be in the minority here but I personally think Charge of the Light Brigade was one of the most moronic things in the history of war.

Seriously, who the hell charges a small amount of light, unarmored cavalry straight at a mass of dug in guns supported by 20 battalions of infantry? I mean it wasn't the 1300's anymore and even then it wasn't such a great idea all the time (see Crecy, Lake Chud, the Hussite Wars).

And there is nothing brave about it. The rank and file soldiers had no idea what they were doing, they were merely following orders that told them to charge the position.

Granted, the entire thing was a miscommunication, but still, doesn't make it brave.

kpenguin
2009-04-07, 10:09 PM
The bravery comes in that the soldiers knew that it was suicide and knew that it was moronic, but they did it anyway because their superiors told them to. A good soldier obeys the commands of his superiors and doesn't question them.

snoopy13a
2009-04-07, 10:13 PM
I may be in the minority here but I personally think Charge of the Light Brigade was one of the most moronic things in the history of war.

Seriously, who the hell charges a small amount of light, unarmored cavalry straight at a mass of dug in guns supported by 20 battalions of infantry? I mean it wasn't the 1300's anymore and even then it wasn't such a great idea all the time (see Crecy, Lake Chud, the Hussite Wars).

And there is nothing brave about it. The rank and file soldiers had no idea what they were doing, they were merely following orders that told them to charge the position.

Granted, the entire thing was a miscommunication, but still, doesn't make it brave.

The whole reason why the Charge of Light Brigade was romanticized was because it was moronic. It is the idealized charge against impossible odds.

Romantics don't see a idiotic attack, they see a gallant charge against a strong enemy position conducted by brave calvarymen.

Ascension
2009-04-07, 10:15 PM
The bravery comes in that the soldiers knew that it was suicide and knew that it was moronic, but they did it anyway because their superiors told them to. A good soldier obeys the commands of his superiors and doesn't question them.

Which, in itself, is a questionable point of view, but it does make for a good story.

You know, "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori..."

Yulian
2009-04-08, 12:00 AM
Romantics don't see a idiotic attack, they see a gallant charge against a strong enemy position conducted by brave calvarymen.

And this is why romanticism loses wars and causes far more casualties than are needed.

Fine line between "brave" and "stupid". They charged right across it.

It's like thinking the slaughter at Cape Helles in Turkey in 1915 was brave. British 52nd Division took like, 1/3 casualties and got nowhere. The movie Gallipoli dwells on the conflict at the time. That would be from charging trenches with gun emplacements.

I'm with Patton, "No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.".

Maybe not very romantic, but accurate.

- Yulian

averagejoe
2009-04-08, 12:18 AM
And this is why romanticism loses wars and causes far more casualties than are needed.

Fine line between "brave" and "stupid". They charged right across it.

It's like thinking the slaughter at Cape Helles in Turkey in 1915 was brave. British 52nd Division took like, 1/3 casualties and got nowhere. The movie Gallipoli dwells on the conflict at the time. That would be from charging trenches with gun emplacements.

I'm with Patton, "No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.".

Maybe not very romantic, but accurate.

- Yulian

Agreed. "Romantic" just means that you love ideas more than people.

Dervag
2009-04-08, 12:27 AM
Let me put it this way.

The soldiers were brave in those futile attacks. Very brave.

The people who led them into those futile attacks (or rather, sent them in, while sitting behind and watching them die) were just stupid. Inexcusably stupid.

The British army of the Victorian era up through World War I has been described as "lions led by donkeys" for a reason.
____

The fact that it would be brave to do something does not make it a good idea. Failed cavalry charges are one of the reasons we know this.

Dienekes
2009-04-08, 12:38 AM
Personally have to disagree with the entire premise. A cav charge is not the bravest thing that can be done, they're simply majestic looking once romanticized.

But as for best cav charge? Huh, couldn't tell you. Most amusing would be Agincourt. But best? don't know.

Killer Angel
2009-04-08, 08:01 AM
The whole reason why the Charge of Light Brigade was romanticized was because it was moronic. It is the idealized charge against impossible odds.


A legend says that a french officier, looking at that charge, told: "it's the magnificent thing i've ever seen. But this is no war; it's folly".

Another tragic mounted charge, was at Waterloo, when Ney, thinking the english were fleeing (they were only retreating the first line) guided a charge of the french cavalry, without orders from Napoleon and without support from Artillery or infantry. It didn't end well.

In fantasy, there is a GREAT charge in one of the books of Conan, when our favourite barbarian guided a desperate charge down a slope against an entire army. Don't remember the titleof the book, but it was amazing.

kamikasei
2009-04-08, 08:19 AM
In both fiction and history, cavalry charges (especially against far superior numbers) have been depicted as probably the most courageous thing ever.

I was under the impression this was only true during that window of time when people were still using cavalry but hadn't realized it had become obsolete. For a much longer time, cavalry was a devastating force if used properly (where its job, pretty much, was to charge much larger numbers of inventory and kick their ass), and weren't any more courageous than using any other winning tactic. Knowledgeable people, please correct me if I'm wrong!

For example, the Ride of the Rohirrim was courageous because of how ridiculously outnumbered they were, how in fact they didn't hope for a real victory, and how it was a gesture of a) friendship to Gondor and b) defiance of evil. But that was the motif for most of that war; the Rohirrim in that battle weren't supposed to be braver than anyone else in any other battle just because they were on horses instead of behind the walls of Helm's Deep or on foot in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, just more impressive-looking and more fun to sing about afterwards.

snoopy13a
2009-04-08, 12:51 PM
I was under the impression this was only true during that window of time when people were still using cavalry but hadn't realized it had become obsolete. For a much longer time, cavalry was a devastating force if used properly (where its job, pretty much, was to charge much larger numbers of inventory and kick their ass), and weren't any more courageous than using any other winning tactic. Knowledgeable people, please correct me if I'm wrong!




Cavalry wasn't really obsolete until after WWI. However, throughout the 19th and very early 20th century, it wasn't the primary weapon. Cavalry was no match for infantry troops in a straight up fight. Instead, cavalry was used for scouting, screening, harassing supply lines and for running down and slaughtering retreating enemy infantry. Also, some cavalry units were trained to be mobile infantry units that fought dismounted. Even during WWI, they had cavalry in reserve just in case the infantry broke through the lines.

After WWI, using vehicles was more efficient than using horses and traditional cavalry became obsolete.

Closet_Skeleton
2009-04-08, 01:14 PM
The charge at Helm's Deep was rediculous in the movie and broke all suspension of disbelief.


Cavalry wasn't really obsolete until after WWI. However, throughout the 19th and very early 20th century, it wasn't the primary weapon. Cavalry was no match for infantry troops in a straight up fight. Instead, cavalry was used for scouting, screening, harassing supply lines and for running down and slaughtering retreating enemy infantry. Also, some cavalry units were trained to be mobile infantry units that fought dismounted. Even during WWI, they had cavalry in reserve just in case the infantry broke through the lines.

After WWI, using vehicles was more efficient than using horses and traditional cavalry became obsolete.

More horses than vehicles were used in Germany's invasion of Russia during WW2.

Telonius
2009-04-08, 01:18 PM
Murat's cavalry charge at Eylau (http://www.napoleon-series.org/military/organization/c_eylau.html). Almost 11,000 cavalry - nearly twice the Rohirrim - charging the Russian center, saving the day for the French.

unstattedCommoner
2009-04-08, 01:34 PM
Von Bredow's "Death Ride" at Mars-la-Tour, 1870: 50% casualty rate, but achieved its objective.



More horses than vehicles were used in Germany's invasion of Russia during WW2.

According to this (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/army/cavalry-lasts.htm),

"The last Cavalry charge in history took place on 23 August 1942, at Izbushensky on the River Don. The Italian Savoia Cavalry Regiment, consisting of 600 mounted Italian troops, charged against 2,000 Soviet troops. The Italian Lancers destroyed a pair of Soviet Infantry armored vehicles before being forced to withdraw with thirty-two casualties."

bosssmiley
2009-04-08, 02:43 PM
A legend says that a french officer, looking at that charge, told: "it's the magnificent thing i've ever seen. But this is no war; it's folly".

"C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre."
(trans. Its magnificent, but it is not war.)
-- Marshal Canrobert (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francois_Certain_Canrobert), on the charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava.

As for heroic charges. I'm having a bit of trouble thinking of any. I'm sure there are loads in Polish history though. I remember reading stories about Polish cavalry fighting and beating 4-5 times their numbers of Turks, Russians, Germans, etc. (the Poles have always been crazy-brave though :smallcool: ).

The only reason cavalry charges are idealised as the heroic ideal of warfare is that the rich and powerful (who commissioned the songs, paintings, poems, etc.) all rode. Cavalry has been the high-status, low-brains wing of the Army since at least Roman times. :smallannoyed:

The Sappers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combat_engineer) and the medical corps are the real heroes. :smallcool:

Mr. Scaly
2009-04-08, 03:08 PM
Apparently that's a misconception, the cavalry charged the infantry (charging guys with firearms on a horse is still pretty brave) and then the panzers came and took pictures of dead horses crushed underneath.

Huh. Well THAT sure sucks the myth right out of it. Still, I think I have to agree with Guderian on it.

Wolfbane
2009-04-08, 03:15 PM
While Cavalry charges may be hard to beat, I think there is one thing that outranks it every time. Few military groups train their soldiers to do it, but it is one of the most effective and horrifying things to be on the wrong side of.

The Bayonet Charge.

Icewalker
2009-04-08, 09:15 PM
I thought Charge of the Light Brigade before I even realized the title was a reference to it. Damn epic, that was, as was the poem. Nothing else comes to mind immediately.

toasty
2009-04-08, 10:39 PM
The bravery comes in that the soldiers knew that it was suicide and knew that it was moronic, but they did it anyway because their superiors told them to. A good soldier obeys the commands of his superiors and doesn't question them.

I guess I'd make a bad soldier... since I'd always be asking "but why are we doing this?" I guess that's why I'm joining the army. :D

Dervag
2009-04-08, 11:40 PM
I was under the impression this was only true during that window of time when people were still using cavalry but hadn't realized it had become obsolete. For a much longer time, cavalry was a devastating force if used properly (where its job, pretty much, was to charge much larger numbers of inventory and kick their ass), and weren't any more courageous than using any other winning tactic. Knowledgeable people, please correct me if I'm wrong!
It's a lot more complicated than that.

Heavy cavalry that could bust up large units of infantry were a rare thing. Other kinds of cavalry (light cavalry and horse archers) were a lot more common. And during the gunpowder era, light cavalry became the norm.

Even after the idea of melee cavalry charging large armies of infantry and breaking them in a close-range fight was obsolete, cavalry remained quite useful. Cavalry are much more mobile than infantry. And up until the late 1800s, cavalry were often quite effective at charging unprepared infantry and disrupting their ability to form a defense.
______


Cavalry wasn't really obsolete until after WWI. However, throughout the 19th and very early 20th century, it wasn't the primary weapon. Cavalry was no match for infantry troops in a straight up fight. Instead, cavalry was used for scouting, screening, harassing supply lines and for running down and slaughtering retreating enemy infantry. Also, some cavalry units were trained to be mobile infantry units that fought dismounted. Even during WWI, they had cavalry in reserve just in case the infantry broke through the lines.

After WWI, using vehicles was more efficient than using horses and traditional cavalry became obsolete.Even into the Second World War, cavalry could be effective in terrain where motor vehicles didn't operate very well. The Russians accomplished quite a bit with Cossack cavalry units in World War Two, mostly by using them to work around the flanks of German army units and raid their rear.

Of course, it helped that the Cossacks were using their horses to tow around cannons, machine guns, and bazookas.

kpenguin
2009-04-08, 11:51 PM
Fine line between "brave" and "stupid". They charged right across it.

I disagree. The two are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, often go hand in hand.

Killer Angel
2009-04-09, 02:37 AM
"C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre."
(trans. Its magnificent, but it is not war.)
-- Marshal Canrobert (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francois_Certain_Canrobert), on the charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava.



Yep, thanx a lot. I was at job, I didn't remember well and was too lazy to search on wiky.

Hawriel
2009-04-09, 02:51 AM
More horses than vehicles were used in Germany's invasion of Russia during WW2.

More horses where used in the Germen army in WW2 as a whole. The horses where used in logistics not front line combat.

Killer Angel
2009-04-09, 03:49 AM
More horses where used in the Germen army in WW2 as a whole. The horses where used in logistics not front line combat.

There was a joke in german army, kiddin 'bout the Panzer division, and the new, marvelous Panje division ("Panje" was the wooden cart of the roussian farmers, trained by horses).

EDIT: see my subsequent post for a correction of the reference


I see that maybe we're talkin too much on real world examples... anyone remember some cool (or stupid) carge in fantasy or fiction? (not the ones in LOTR, that are too much well known).

Don Julio Anejo
2009-04-09, 03:51 AM
("Panje" was the wooden cart of the roussian farmers, trained by horses).
If it was, it must have been a German name for it. Considering that neither "panje" nor anything sounding remotely similar is even a word in Russian...

Killer Angel
2009-04-09, 04:24 AM
If it was, it must have been a German name for it. Considering that neither "panje" nor anything sounding remotely similar is even a word in Russian...

Check better my reference (ah, the memory...).
Panje was not the cart, was the type of horse, used in extreme temperatures of cold and winter.
It's from Panjepferd (German)

http://warandgame.wordpress.com/2008/12/26/the-panje-divisions/?referer=sphere_search

Lupy
2009-04-10, 08:11 PM
I am disappointed with some of you.

No respect for a good fantastically stupid and brave cavalry charge.

Could no one think of a few good ones? (Cookies for those who have!)

GoC
2009-04-10, 10:26 PM
For example, the Ride of the Rohirrim was courageous because of how ridiculously outnumbered they were, how in fact they didn't hope for a real victory, and how it was a gesture of a) friendship to Gondor and b) defiance of evil.

Now that is stupid.

Recaiden
2009-04-10, 10:29 PM
Now that is stupid.

Which makes it more meaningful. And meaningless. Because it's all for the sake of a gesture, it means more than if they could have won. But it also makes it meaningless because they'd have died for nothing.

stm177
2009-04-10, 11:49 PM
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Adrianople_(378)

Visigoth cavalry smashed into the Romans, killing the emperor and much of the empire's elite.

The war was such a disaster for the Roman Empire that it was considered the worst defeat for the Romans in 400 years.

Irenaeus
2009-04-11, 06:38 AM
So out of all of the cavalry charges you can think of, which one was the most amazing/brave/amazing in a good way?Do you think the charge at Balaclava was amazing/brave in a good way?:smalltongue:

My favourite (if I have any) is the charge at the Battle of Patay (http://www.xenophongroup.com/montjoie/patay.htm), partly because Agincourt is overexposed, and partly because revenge feels sweet.

Narmoth
2009-04-11, 07:23 AM
"The last Cavalry charge in history took place on 23 August 1942, at Izbushensky on the River Don. The Italian Savoia Cavalry Regiment, consisting of 600 mounted Italian troops, charged against 2,000 Soviet troops. The Italian Lancers destroyed a pair of Soviet Infantry armored vehicles before being forced to withdraw with thirty-two casualties."

The Soviet army had both kozak cavalery and cavalery from the eastern soviet republics (Kazakstan, Uzbekistan and so on).
The Soviet cavalery vould be armed with machine canons pulled by horses or mounted on horse carriages.
They mostly were used as scouting troops, doing the same job as the german motorcycle-brigades in addition to partizan attacks

It was also popular to couple cavalery charges with tank charges, since the cavalery were faster than soldiers (russian tanks made up to 50 km/h)

Don Julio Anejo
2009-04-11, 09:16 AM
The advantages of cavalry in WWII is that in Russia roads are bad. Bad that it's considered something akin to a national trait.

You try to drive a motorcycle on anything but a road or at least an even surface and you'll probably kill your motorcycle.

So yeah, we used cavalry quite a bit, especially in the Caucasus regions and the like.

Lupy
2009-04-12, 01:51 PM
Wow. :smalleek: The Goths at Adrianople charged onto the list of epiciest things ever just now.

Killer Angel
2009-04-13, 11:19 AM
I am disappointed with some of you.

No respect for a good fantastically stupid and brave cavalry charge.

Could no one think of a few good ones? (Cookies for those who have!)


Well it's not a true fantasy movie, but the final cavalry charge in the film "The Last Samurai", it's brave, epic and suicidal, so i think it's OK. Almost like a real one. :smallwink: