Friday, February 22, 2013

The Canadian Cavalry in the Last 100 Days (Part 3)

One of the Canadians caught up in the 2nd Battle of Le Cateau was S. H. Williams, author of “Stand to Your Horses”. He was temporarily attached to the 6th Brigade, and watched while two British regiments went at full gallop across an open stretch of land some 2,000 yards long, where there was no cover for man or horse. They were being shelled by the Germans, and in the midst of it a flight of “aeroplanes, which I took to be ours until their actions proved them to be enemy,” attacked from the air. Williams’ assessment of the situation was that it made for an “exciting few moments”. In his view, though, in that particular incident the guns and aircraft didn’t do more damage than hitting a few men and horses, due to the speed of their gallop. Probably not enough to ruffle the feathers of Williams, a tough officer who had been through four years of war by this time.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Canadian Cavalry in the Last 100 Days (Part 2)

The Second Battle of Le Cateau
ww1 british cavalry troop in the charge c1914In October 1918 Le Cateau was an important transportation hub some eight or ten miles behind the German front lines. Early in the Great War General Horace Smith-Dorrien fought a brutal delaying action against the onrushing Germans in the same location. But now, the Allies were driving the Germans back.The immediate aim of the Allies was to take the town and cut the enemy’s lines of communication. They attacked with artillery and infantry over a wide front. The infantry had pushed as hard as they could but were stopped due to the enemy’s resistance and the fatigue of their men. 
The cavalry was ordered to carry out an attack. Centred on a Roman road, with the (British) 6th Cavalry Brigade to the right of it, and the Canadian Cavalry Brigade to the left, the mounted troops charged up through the stalled infantry.
The ferocity of the battle can be imagined from the comment by a British cavalry officer, Lieutenant Bickersteth: “the bursting H.E. (high explosive), the rattle of machine-gun fire, both from the ground and from the air, the explosion of the bombs dropped by the aeroplanes—all contributed to make the noise absolutely deafening.”

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Canadian Cavalry Brigade’s Last Mounted Battle

The Canadian Cavalry Brigade was in the thick of the Last Hundred Days, the final days of World War I. The Germans had expended their energies trying to strike a final victory, and had not managed it. 

Soldier, LSH, by Ron Volstad

On October 9th, 1918, there was barely a month of war left, but at the 2nd Battle of Le Cateau, there was fighting enough for both sides. The battle involved British, French, and to a lesser extent American forces on one side, the Germans on the other.
Le Cateau was to be the last time the Royal Canadian Dragoons, Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), and Fort Garry Horse would take part in mounted attacks. As was the case for many cavalry actions, they were spectacularly successful—but incurred terrible losses.
Watch for more on the 2nd Battle of Le Cateau.