British cavalry pictured at Nery during the retreat from Mons, the photograph probably taken on 1st September 1914.
That day, 1st Cavalry Brigade and a battery of the Royal Horse Artillery, with a little infantry help, fought off a German cavalry division, and succeeded in capturing twelve of their guns (perhaps those seen above). But Nery was one of very few engagements between opposing cavalry on the Western Front, and the Great War inevitably saw the end of cavalry as a serious weapon of war.
The men whose pictures you see in this post would all have expected to spend their war on horseback, but as it turned out only one would probably have done so. The three men pictured above were all troopers from three of the many British cavalry regiments that spent almost their entire war fighting as dismounted troops on the Western Front. Far from galloping across open ground, the man pictured on the right here,…
…likely spending the winter of 1914 along with his 11th Hussar (Prince Albert’s Own) colleagues, pictured above, in the trenches around Zillebeke,…
…a far cry from a few months earlier as the regiment parades in all its pre-war glory in the summer of 1914.
These men were once troopers with, from left, 3rd (The King’s Own) Hussars, 10th (Prince of Wales’s Own Royal) Hussars, 15th The King’s Hussars & 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards. Engaged in mounted reconnaissance activities in the early months of the war until the beginning of trench warfare, all four regiments also spent the next four years fighting as dismounted troops on the Western Front. Three of the men above were early casualties; one was blown up in 1914 suffering foot injuries that would see his discharge in 1917, another was wounded in the head at Ypres in May 1915 and discharged the following year, and a third was once buried for thirty six hours in January 1916 after the explosion of a mine on the Somme, back injuries leading to his discharge a year later. Incidentally, it was ‘C’ Squadron of the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards who participated in the British Army’s first action of the Great War when they charged a German cavalry column near Mons on 22nd August 1914.
2nd Cavalry Brigade trooper pictured on a captured German horse, the photo probably taken in the first few days of September 1914.
The man on the left served with 21st (Empress of India’s) Lancers, who spent the war defending the Indian North West Frontier, and chances are he really did spend much of his war on horseback. The two other men both served with 16th (The Queen’s) Lancers, another regiment which was deployed to France in August 1914, and who would spend the war fighting as dismounted troops on the Western Front. The man on the right was a trooper of many years service when he was discharged in May 1919, having seen action in South Africa at the turn of the century, as well as serving throughout the Great War without, as far as I can ascertain, ever suffering any kind of serious wound throughout the whole of that time.
These are the men who came home.