WW1 Cavalry Armed with Lance

WW1 was an incredibly difficult time for those in the military. While some lessons from previous wars (Russo-Japanese War 1905) were learned, others were not. Here is an example of something that was not: cavalry.

What!? You thought I was talking about the lance, didn’t you? Soon enough.

Throughout military history, most people died not in the battle but in the retreat. When a group broke and fled, the cavalry could sweep in and crush the retreating units. That was until light and heavy machine guns entered the field.

WW1 Calvary Lance

WW1 Calvary Lance

Here’s the wrinkle: traditional horse cavalry simply dies under machine gun fire. So in the “Great War”, it was difficult to get a “knock-out” blow. Even if you beat your enemy, you had a hard time capitalizing on it!

BTW…we have one of these exact lances in the armory. One day I will see if I can pull it out and do a writeup.

So yes, this is really about the lance after all.


“Shooting Guns & Having Fun”

  • DP

    Cavalry, the guys that ride horses.

    Calvary is a place near Jerusalem, also called Golgotha.

  • Mikial

    It’s really amazing to see how difficult it was to get the military minds of the day couldn’t break out of the past. Interestingly, the Soviets did use mounted troops effectively in WWII, but only as a means of moving troops through rough and snowbound country, who then dismounted and fought as infantry.

    • That is actually true in WWI as well. Horses were everywhere. Sure, there were vehicles but not enough. And truthfully, those vehicles were limited in where they could even go. Horses kept the logistics operations functioning. Actually, they WERE the logistics operations.

      WWI was a weird time in military history. You had the old world concepts of warfare colliding with the modern world’s ability to field massive armies and mobilize their entire populations. Up until that point, most wars were fought by the “warrior class”.

      The armies would meet. Have some kind of clash. Then they would separate and one side would be the winner. Treaties were negotiated accordingly. The first REAL example of a nation state engaging in total war was France after the revolution.

      What do I mean? If I were to say, “You don’t fight China in a land war because they will overwhelm you with masses of people”, the modern reader immediately understands this. Wether it is true of not is another matter.

      But it was the French who engaged in this kind of behavior when the rest of Europe attacked France to restore the monarchy. The powers-that-be in Europe feared this anti-monarchy movement spreading. So they all called up their armies and warrior classes to go after the French.

      The French were forced to think outside the box so they just sent everyone they could to the fronts. Full mobilization. Soldiers or not. Trained or not. Armed or not. Western military doctrine wasn’t really adept at fighting this kind of war. So…it took time to figure stuff out.

      You had a similar situation in WWI. You still had many military leaders who had been trained and raised in the “old school” tactics of warfare. Set piece units moving en-mass. Etc. Well…when you factor in advances in military technology: machine guns, long-range artillery, barb’d wire it’s a recipe for disaster. And it took trial and error to figure all this out. Read that as human lives.

      Notice WWII wasn’t fought anything like WWI? Why? One, experience. Two, advanced aircraft and vehicles. And three? Small hand-held radios.

      The greatest weapon that no-one expected in WWI was barb’d wire.
      The greatest weapon missing in WWI was small and midsize-unit comms.


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