Real War Horses : The Experience of the British Cavalry 1814 - 1914
Many histories have been written about the conflicts the British army was involved in between the Battle of Waterloo and the First World War. There are detailed studies of campaigns and battles and general accounts of the experiences of the soldiers. But this book by Anthony Dawson is the first to concentrate in depth, in graphic detail, on the experiences of the British cavalry during a century of warfare.
That is why it is of such value. It is also compelling reading because it describes, using the words of the cavalrymen of the time, the organization, routines, training and social life of the cavalry as well as the fear and exhilaration of cavalry actions. Perhaps the most memorable passages record the drama and excitement of cavalry charges and the brutal, confused, often lethal experience of close-quarter combat in a melee of men and horses.
Few books give such a direct inside view of what it was like to serve in the British cavalry during the nineteenth century.
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Anthony Dawson is a eminent historian who is recognised as a expert on the history of the British Army in the nineteenth century. He has previously published books on Napoleonic Artillery, British Cavalry and the Crimean War.
This book is the first to concentrate in depth the role of the cavalry during a century of warfare. The book is divided into seven chapters. The first chapter deals with the functions of a cavalry on campaign, acquisition of horses, types of horses, training of horse and rider, training in wartime and life in barracks.
The subsequent chapters each covers a history of campaigns: Waterloo, colonial adventures, The Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny, South Africa and World War 1.
The narrative of the book draws on many primary sources, unpublished accounts, personal letters, and local and national newspapers articles. It contains first-hand accounts illustrating the fear and trepidation of a cavalry charge. Some of the most memorable abstracts record the soldiers confusion and experience of close quarter combat. The extensive notes at the end of the book illustrate exactly how much in-depth research went into the writing of this book. There is also a bibliography to accompany the notes.
Although the book is well written and researched, as someone not specifically interested in cavalry warfare I found the content somewhat heavy going. I think it would primarily appeal to either an individual who is interested in cavalry warfare, or someone wanting specific information on a cavalry campaign such as the Crimean War. It would be a useful guide as a reference book.
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