John Harry HASTINGS     1891 - 1964 

Served May 1914 - June 1921 in 3rd and 6th Dragoon Guards


One of my favourite memories of Granpa is of him, sitting wrong way round on a chair, showing myself and my brother the correct way to run a man through with a sabre from horseback. The secret, according to Granpa, was in the twist of the wrist and the shoulder movement to 'extract' the blade else the action would 'un-horse' you. At the age of about 7 or 8 I loved it but Mum was not impressed
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  WEBSTER'S INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY of the ENGLISH LANGUAGE   ( 1894 edition) 
Dragoon : formerley, a soldier who was taught  and armed to serve either on horseback or on foot; now, a mounted soldier; a cavalry man. 

Cavalry : that part of a military force which serves on horseback. Heavy cavalry and light cavalry are so distinguished by the character of their armament, and by the size of the men and horses. 



In late 16th-century Europe a Dragoon was a  mounted soldier who fought as a light cavalryman on attack and as a dismounted infantryman on defense. The terms derived from his weapon, a type of carbine or short musket called the dragoon. From the early wars of  Frederick II the Great of Prussia in the 18th century, dragoon has referred to medium cavalry. The light cavalry of the British army in the 18th and early 19th centuries was for the most part called light dragoon. The term and function disappeared as the cavalry did in the 20th century. 

Cavalry duties included observing and reporting information about the enemy, screening movements of its own force, pursuing and demoralizing a defeated enemy, maintaining a constant threat to an enemy's rear area, striking suddenly at detected weak points, turning exposed flanks, and exploiting a penetration or breakthrough. During the latter part of the 19th century, largely as a result of the introduction of repeating rifles and machine guns, cavalry lost much of its former value. 
By the time of World War I, a cavalry charge against a line of entrenched troops armed with rapid-firing small arms was suicidal. 

Attitudes persisted and the Cavalry Training Manual of 1907 states: 
 'It must be accepted as a principle that the rifle, effective as it is, cannot replace the effect produced by the speed of the horse, the magnetism of the charge and the terror of cold steel.' 
 


THE HISTORY OF THE GREAT EUROPEAN WAR 
VOL II PPS 200-201 

A German sergeant of Hussars, who was wounded at Mons tells the following graphic story of the dash and workmanlike swordplay of the British light cavalry: 

The English infantry, so far as I saw them, is a joke, but I'll take off my hat to their cavalry every time, and to the French cavalry too.  We were all big men on big horses, and when we lined up at Mons my captain rode out in front and said we were going to meet some English cavalry in a few minutes, and he wanted us to stamp them all out.  He added that we would show these big-mouthed English what a German cavalryman could do.  Well, we looked over at the English line and laughed. They were not heavy men, and their horses, which they managed like polo ponies, were lighter than ours.  They shortened their stirrups, and we laughed some more.  None of them had on tunics.  Some wore Glengarry (stable) caps, some hats, and some were bare-headed.  A good many had their sleeves rolled up. 

Then came the charge. At first the English rode close, but before they struck us they spread out and came on bent over like jockeys with their sabres up in front of their eyes. Those devils rode right through us, and then cut back, and I actually saw the heads of our men go right off at one stroke and roll to the ground. We've only one cut, and then we come back to position with the sabre,. They cut us Hussars to pieces. After that we shortened our leathers so that we could rise up and put more behind a sabre cut.  

 
 

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