Monday, September 17, 2012

1917--Canadians in the Indian Army

9th Hodson’s Horse; 20th Deccan Horse; and the 3rd (Ambala) Cavalry Brigade. Magical names, names to conjure with, straight out of the Aghan Wars of the 19th century and Kipling’s “Great Game”, redolent of the far-flung British Empire on which the sun never set. Those were some of the units of the 2nd Indian Cavalry Division, which sailed for France from Bombay in October, 1914—the same month the Canadian cavalry regiments, coming from the other direction, arrived in England .

2nd Indian Cavalry during the Battle of the Somme
Their paths were fated to cross. In January 1916 the Canadians, who had spent months operating as infantry, were remounted, courtesy of horses provided by the Indian Brigade, although they were able to return them weeks later when they were allocated their own horses. Meantime, the 2nd Indian Cavalry Division was attached to the British Fourth Army, eventually becoming known as the British 5th Cavalry Division; and in June 1916 the Canadian Cavalry Brigade became one of three brigades in the 2nd Indian Cavalry Division.

Thus it was that in March 1917 the Order of Battle of the 2nd Indian Cavalry Division (although renamed) included 9th Hodson’s Horse, 20th Deccan Horse, and...the Dragoons, the Strathcona’s, the Fort Garrys, the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery Brigade, and the CCB Machine Gun Squadron.
Modern Canadians are aware that Canadian forces are integrated with American and NATO troops at times; but who would guess the Canadian Cavalry Brigade was part of an Indian Division almost a hundred years ago?

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