Cavalry Culture

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Cavalry (from French cavalerie, cf. cheval  'horse') were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the second oldest (after infantry) and most mobile of the combat arms. A soldier in the cavalry is known by a number of designations such as cavalryman or trooper. The designation of cavalry was not usually given to any military force that used other animals, such as camels or mules. Infantry who moved on horseback, but dismounted to fight on foot, were known in the 17th and early 18th centuries as dragoons, a class of mounted troops which later evolved into cavalry proper while retaining their historic title. 

From earliest times cavalry had the advantage of improved mobility, making it an "instrument which multiplied the fighting value of even the smallest forces, allowing them to outflank and avoid, to surprise and overpower, to retreat and escape according to the requirements of the moment.”  

A man fighting from horseback also had the advantages of greater height, speed, and inertial mass over an opponent on foot. Another element of horse mounted warfare is the psychological impact a mounted soldier can inflict on an opponent. 

The mobility and shock value of the cavalry was greatly appreciated and exploited in the Ancient and Middle Ages armed forces, and some consisted mostly of the cavalry troops, particularly in nomadic societies of Asia, notably the Mongol armies. In Europe cavalry became increasingly armoured cavalry and eventually became known for the mounted knights. During the 17th century cavalry in Europe lost most of its armour, and by the mid-19th century only some regiments retained the cuirass.

In the period between the World Wars, many cavalry units were converted into motorised infantry and mechanised infantry units, or reformed as tank troops. However some cavalry still served during the Second World War, notably in the Red Army. Most cavalry units that are horse-mounted in modern armies serve in purely ceremonial roles, or as mounted infantry in difficult terrain such as mountains or heavily forested areas.

Role of Cavalry
In many modern armies, the term cavalry is still often used to refer to units that are a combat arm of the armed forces which in the past filled the traditional horse-borne land combat light cavalry roles. These include scoutingskirmishing with enemy reconnaissance elements to deny them knowledge of own disposition of troops, forward security, offensive reconnaissance by combat, defensive screening of friendly forces during retrograde movement, retreat, restoration of command and control, deception, battle handover and passage of lines, relief in place, linkup, breakout operations, and raiding. The shock role, traditionally filled by heavy cavalry, is generally filled by units with the "armored" designation.

The Cavalry Charge
A charge is a maneuver in battle in which soldiers advance towards their enemy at their best speed to engage in close combat. The charge is the dominant shock attack and has been the key tactic and decisive moment of most battles in history. However, modern charges usually involve small groups against individual positions (such as a bunker) instead of large groups of combatants charging another group or a fortified line.

Horses in World War I
World War I saw great changes in the use of cavalry. Tanks were beginning to take over the role of shock combat. The mode of warfare changed, and the use of trench warfarebarbed wire and machine guns rendered traditional cavalry almost obsolete. 

Early in the War, cavalry skirmishes were common, and horse-mounted troops widely used for reconnaissance. On the Western Front cavalry were an effective flanking force during the "Race to the Sea" in 1914, but were less useful once trench warfare was established. There a few examples of successful shock combat, and cavalry divisions also provided important mobile fire power. Cavalry played a greater role on the Eastern Front, where trench warfare was less common. On the Eastern Front, and also against the Ottomans, the "cavalry was literally indispensable." British Empire cavalry proved adaptable, since they were trained to fight both on foot and while mounted, while other European cavalry relied primarily on shock action. 

On both fronts, the horse was also used as a pack animal. Because railway lines could not withstand artillery bombardments, horses carried ammunition and supplies between the railheads and the rear trenches, though the horses generally were not used in the actual trench zone. This role of horses was critical, and thus horse fodder was the single largest commodity shipped to the front by some countries. Following the war, many cavalry regiments were converted to mechanised, armoured divisions, with light tanks developed to perform many of the cavalry's original roles.