The Men Who Came Home – A Memorial Part Two – The Cavalry

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.

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10 Responses to The Men Who Came Home – A Memorial Part Two – The Cavalry

  1. sendergreen says:

    What were the chances that if you were an enlisted man, or officer at the outbreak of war in 1914, that you would eventually get a “you’ve done your part, go home” honourable discharge ?

    Assuming that to the answer is near zero ( ? ), I wonder how many men in combat units survived the whole thing without a crippling wound ?

    • Magicfingers says:

      Must be near zero.

      I cannot believe that many combat troops survived the whole thing without a crippling wound – although a lot of men in all theatres would have been scuppered by illness & disease leading directly to their discharges, as opposed to by wounds. Nobody in my family – not a big family admittedly – was killed in either war although most served, but for example my Grandpa got a piece of shrapnel in his foot on the Somme which was serious enough to end his war. Crippling enough.

  2. Morag Sutherland says:

    it is really lovely to see photos of those who returned and no doubt had awful nightmares and were affected by all they saw- i wish I had a picture of this man as chances are he was with those who came home – my husband’s father’s cousin Alexander Nicholas SUTHERLAND Med. Mil. was born at Achimore Tongue 10 November 1880 to parents Walter David Sutherland and Catherine Mackay who had married Kinbrace Station Kildonan 5th Feb.1875-
    Walter was a shepherd so the family moved around – at one time living in Clyne but later at Clashmore, Dornoch.
    Alexander left Dornoch and enlisted Pre-war at Fort George, Ardersier, Inverness-shire as a Regular Soldier – He rose to the Rank of Sergeant and he served with the 18th Royal Hussars (Queen Mary’s Own) In the 1911 census he was in barracks and single but by the end of the year he was married to Gertrude Maude Roche When war was declared in August 1914 he was father of 2 children.
    His name is on the Dornoch War memorial and also on the UF plaque on the wall of the south transept in the Cathedral. He was one of the very first to die in the opening main battle of the Great War near Mons in Belgium only 9 days after his arrival on 15th August. He died of wounds received in a cavalry charge on 24th August and although originally buried nearby, his grave now lies in Cement House Langemark in Belgium. Posthumously he was awarded the Medaille Militaire (France) for saving the life of a French officer- 1914 Star with clasp, War Medal, Victory medal.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thank you so much for this, Morag. Very interesting. I am sure you have checked the documents for his original burial in Thulin New Communal Cemetery – the original GRRF for there actually says ‘Believed to be buried near this spot’. Interesting.

      • Morag Lindsay Sutherland says:

        good morning and indeed i was aware of the previous burial and then the shift to Cement House- quite why it has believed to be when it was a reburial has always intrigued me
        Alexander was of course the uncle of cousin George Sutherland wo walked to raise funds for Talbot House but that as they say is another story- Walter came from Canada to avenge his brother’s death and married a Belgian lady and stayed on in Poperinge so a survivor- I have a photo of him

        • Magicfingers says:

          Well as far as I can see the grave at Thulin said ‘Buried near this spot’, so how did they find him to rebury him, and how did they know it was him, I wonder?

          • Morag Lindsay Sutherland says:

            I have notes on file somewhere but they might be hard copies – I have done a quick search on line and sent you something

  3. Nick Kilner says:

    Tremendous photographs! and great research, as we’ve come to expect ;-). Superb.

    • Magicfingers says:

      No pressure then! Oh, no, forget that, the missus has long banned that expression in this household. Anyway, cool, glad you approve. Not necessarily easy trying to find accompanying photos that are out of copyright, mind you……

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