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Title: German Influence on British Cavalry
Author: Childers, Erskine
Language: English
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 [_All rights reserved_]

_Printed in Great Britain_


This essay is meant to be read in connection with the facts and
arguments adduced in my book of last year, "War and the _Arme
Blanche_," with its Introduction by Field-Marshal Lord Roberts. From
the nature of the case I have not been able to avoid a small measure of
repetition, but I have done my best to confine myself to new ground.

A word about my object in writing again. Contemporaneously with the
publication of "War and the _Arme Blanche_," General von Bernhardi
published in Germany his "Reiterdienst," and an English edition,
translated by Major G.T.M. Bridges, D.S.O., under the title "Cavalry
in War and Peace," appeared simultaneously in this country. Like its
predecessor, "Unsere Kavallerie im nächsten Kriege" (translated under
the title "Cavalry in Future Wars"), this new book by General von
Bernhardi was headed with a highly laudatory Preface from the pen of
General Sir John French, who commended it to military students in this
country as a brilliant and authoritative treatise on the employment
of Cavalry in modern war. It was included in the valuable "_Pall
Mall_ Series" of military books, published by Hugh Rees and Co.;
and, in short, unless the critical faculties and native common-sense
of Englishmen can be aroused, it is likely to become a standard
work. There exists, be it remembered, no similar work, modern and
authoritative, by a British author.

My object in this essay is to arouse those critical faculties and that
common-sense. Without any disrespect to General von Bernhardi, who
writes, not for Englishmen, but, as a German reformer, for what he
regards as an exceptionally backward Cavalry, I wish to show, not only
that we have nothing to learn even from him in the matter of Cavalry
combat, but that, if we only have the pluck and independence to break
off the demoralizing habit of imitating foreign models, and to build
on our own war experience and our own racial aptitudes, we have the
power of creating a Cavalry incomparably superior in quality to any
Continental Cavalry.

The indispensable condition precedent to that revival is to sweep away
root and branch the tactical system founded on the lance and sword, and
to create a new system founded on the rifle.

I shall endeavour to show, using von Bernhardi's "Reiterdienst," with
Sir John French's Introduction, and our own official Manuals, as my
text, that in the matter of modern Cavalry warfare no principles worthy
of the name exist among professional men. The whole subject is in a
state of chaos, to which, I believe, there is no parallel in all the
arts of war and peace. And the cause of that chaos is the retention in
theory of a form of combat which is in flagrant contradiction with the
conditions exacted by modern firearms, and is utterly discredited by
the facts of modern war.

The excellence of the translation furnished by Major Bridges has made
it unnecessary for me to introduce into this essay the various terms
and phrases used in the original German text. After a study of that
text, I am satisfied, if Major Bridges will permit me to say so, that,
obscure as the author's exposition often is, no part of the obscurity
is due to the translator. I have not found a technical term of which he
has not given the correct English equivalent, or a passage where he
has not accurately interpreted the original sense.

Let me add that I have been encouraged further to write this essay by
the keen and instructive controversy which followed the publication of
my book of last year. Incidentally I have taken the opportunity in this
volume to reply to some of the criticisms against its predecessor, and
to clear up some points which I think were not fully understood.


 _March, 1911._


 CHAPTER                                                   PAGE

    I. INTRODUCTORY                                          1
        I. THE GERMAN MODEL                                  1
       II. "CAVALRY IN FUTURE WARS"                          7

   II. SIR JOHN FRENCH ON THE ARME BLANCHE                  15


   IV. CAVALRY IN COMBAT                                    53
        I. INSTRUCTION FROM HISTORY                         53
       II. GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF COMBAT                     66

    V. TACTICS AGAINST THE VARIOUS ARMS                     86
        I. THE PURELY CAVALRY FIGHT                         86
       II. THE CHARGE UPON INFANTRY                         94
      III. THE DISMOUNTED ATTACK BY CAVALRY                 98

        I. GERMAN VIEWS                                    103
       II. THE BRITISH VIEW                                124

  VII. THE BATTLE OF ALL ARMS                              133
        I. GERMAN VIEWS                                    133
       II. THE BRITISH VIEW                                154

 VIII. RECONNAISSANCE                                      163
        I. WEAPONS                                         163
       II. THE PRELIMINARY SHOCK-DUEL                      168
      III. DIVISIONAL RECONNAISSANCE                       172
       IV. SCREENS                                         173

   IX. THE RIFLE RULES TACTICS                             186
       II. VIEWS OF THE GENERAL STAFF                      200
      III. OTHER CAVALRY VIEWS                             205

    X. THE MORAL                                           214





IMPARTIAL observers of the recent controversy upon the merits of the
lance and sword as weapons for Cavalry must have been struck by one
singular circumstance--namely, that there exists in our language no
standard modern work upon the tactics and training of Cavalry in modern
war, written by a Cavalryman, accepted by Cavalrymen, and embodying and
illustrating the lessons of the two great modern wars waged since the
invention of the long-range, smokeless magazine rifle. Without such
a work, controversy is seriously hampered. The need for it is beyond

Whatever the extent of the revolution brought about by the magazine
rifle, a revolution, by universal admission, there is. Since 1901
a serious firearm has been substituted for the old carbine formerly
carried by the Cavalry, and the Cavalry Manual has been rewritten, with
increased stress on the importance of fire. It is also the fact that,
from whatever causes, the lance and sword have proved, both in South
Africa and Manchuria, almost innocuous weapons. These facts demand,
to say the least, serious recognition from those who still hold that
the lance and sword are the most important weapons of Cavalry. Angry
letters to the daily press, desultory and superficial articles in
the weekly and monthly press, are not enough. What is wanted is some
comprehensive and authoritative exposition of what Cavalry functions
are in modern war, how they have been modified by the firearm, and
why, with chapter and verse, not by way of vague allegation, the only
great wars in which that firearm has been tested are to be regarded as
"abnormal" and uninstructive.

For illumination and confirmation on these matters, we are constantly
referred, in defence of the lance and sword, by our own Cavalry
authorities to foreign countries whose armies have had no experience at
all of modern civilized war as revolutionized by the modern magazine
rifle. We are referred, above all, to Germany, and, in particular, to
the works of a German officer, General von Bernhardi, who (1) writes
exclusively for the German Cavalry, without the most distant reference
to our own; (2) whose own war experience dates from 1870, when he
fought as a Lieutenant, and who has not seen the modern rifle used in
civilized war; (3) who believes that no wars, ancient _or modern_,
except the American Civil War of 1861-1865, afford an analogy to modern
conditions, and that the modern Cavalryman must base his practice on
"speculative and theoretical reflection"; (4) who states that the
German Cavalry, owing to indifference to the revolution wrought _by the
modern firearm_, and excessive adherence to "old-fashioned knightly
combats," is at this moment wholly unprepared for war and is trained
on Regulations which, though quite recently revised, he makes the
subject of stinging and sustained ridicule; (5) who is so ignorant of
the technique of fire-action by mounted troops that he renders it,
unconsciously, more ridiculous even than shock-action; and (6) who
firmly believes in the lance and sword, and in the shock-charge as
practised "in the times of Frederick the Great and Napoleon."

In this strange list of qualifications the reader will see the makings
of a pretty paradox. And a pretty paradox it is, a bewildering,
incomprehensible paradox; not so much, indeed, that a German author,
born and bred in a German atmosphere, should be so saturated with
obsolete German traditions that even in the act of denouncing them he
can subscribe to them, but that British Cavalrymen, headed by Sir John
French, our foremost Cavalry authority, men who have had three years'
experience of war with the modern magazine rifle, who have _seen_ the
_arme blanche_ fail and the rifle dominate tactics, and who, eight
years before the German Cavalry even stirred in its sleep, acquiesced
in changes in Cavalry armament and training directly based on that
experience--that these men should acclaim the works of the aforesaid
German author as the last word of wisdom on the tactics and training of
modern Cavalry, and represent them as such to young British Cavalrymen,
is a circumstance which almost passes belief.

Still, it is a fortunate circumstance. We have a body of doctrine to
grapple with and controvert. If we succeed in dissipating the myth
of German superior intelligence on Cavalry matters, we go a long way
towards dissipating the whole of the _arme blanche_ myth, which in
the opinion of our greatest living soldier, Lord Roberts--an opinion
founded on lifelong experience of war--is as mischievous a superstition
as ever fettered a mounted military force. The whole of the material
is here--and it is unexceptionable material for controversy--for Sir
John French himself contributes his own views on the subject in the
form of laudatory Introductions to both of General von Bernhardi's

I propose in the following pages (1) to criticize General Sir John
French's views, so expressed; (2) to analyze and criticize General von
Bernhardi's recently published work, "Cavalry in War and Peace," and
to contrast his teaching with that of our own Service Manuals; (3)
to try to show that each General refutes himself, that both refute
one another, and that Sir John French is, by a strange irony, far
more reactionary than the German officer to whom he directs us for
"progressive" wisdom; (4) to expose the backwardness and confusion in
every department of Cavalry thought, here and in Germany, as a direct
consequence of the attempt to found a tactical system upon obsolete
weapons; and (5) incidentally to put forward what I venture to suggest
is true doctrine.

This doctrine, briefly, is that the modern Cavalry soldier is, for
practical purposes, represented by three factors--man, horse, and
rifle--and that it is only by regarding him strictly and constantly
as a mounted, that is to say, an especially mobile, rifleman, as
distinguished from the less mobile foot-rifleman, that we can establish
his war functions on a simple, sound, and logical basis. I ask the
reader to hold that clue firmly as a guide through the perplexities and
obscurities of the topic and the obsolete terminology and phraseology
which not only disturb reasoning but distort and enfeeble practice.

At the outset let the reader grasp the following historical facts as to
the efficacy of swords and lances in civilized war:

1. Franco-German War of 1870-71: Six Germans killed and 218 wounded by
the sabre and clubbed musket counted together. No separate figures for
the lance. [Total German casualties from all weapons, 65,160.][1]

2. South African War, 1899-1902: No statistics as to _death_. About
fifty Boer casualties through lance and sword together, and about fifty
more prisoners taken. [Total Boer and British deaths, and wounds from
all weapons, about 40,000.]

3. Russo-Japanese War, 1904-05: No exact figures, but apparently not
more than fifty casualties from lance and sword together. [Total
casualties in action, over 400,000.]


Two works by General von Bernhardi have been translated into English,
and widely circulated among our military men. I propose to say but
little about the first, "Cavalry in Future Wars," because I have
already endeavoured to criticize it in detail in my own book, "War and
the _Arme Blanche_." It is the second work, "Cavalry in War and Peace,"
published only in 1910, that I wish to make the basis of discussion in
this volume; but in order to explain the history of German influence on
British Cavalry, it is necessary to recall briefly certain features of
its predecessor.

"Cavalry in Future Wars" was first published in German in 1899,
before the Boer War broke out. There was a second edition in 1902,
when the Boer War was drawing to a close, and this second edition,
headed by General French's Introduction, was translated and published
in England in 1906. It was a strange work, strangely sponsored. The
keynote was fire-action for Cavalry, the moral drawn by the English
sponsor shock-action for Cavalry. The chapters on fire-action, urging
the adoption of a firearm even better than the Infantry rifle in
substitution for a mere pop-gun, formed in themselves a complete
refutation of shock; while the chapters on shock, so illogical and
self-contradictory was the method of exposition, formed an equally
complete refutation of fire-action.

It is true that the spirit of fire predominated, that fire was the
General's message to his lethargic brother-officers, but the message
was so strangely expounded that it is no wonder that for ten years
they turned a deaf ear to it. Instead of telling them at the outset
that if they themselves adopted a good firearm, and learnt to use it
properly, they would immensely enhance the value of Cavalry for all
the purposes of war, he opened his argument with a melancholy dirge
over the departed glories of the Cavalry owing to the adoption by other
classes of troops of the deadly modern firearm. They must recognize,
he told them, that they had been "driven out of their place of honour
on the battlefields of the plains"; that they could henceforward only
attack Infantry who were already so shattered and demoralized by the
fire of other Infantry as to have reached the point of throwing away
their arms, and much more in the same sense. Never was such a tactless
prophet! And the pity of it was that he did not really mean all he
said. What he meant was that the ancient glories of the _arme blanche_,
when pitted against the firearm, were gone past recall--a circumstance
scarcely worth an elegy, one would imagine, from a scientific soldier.
War is business, not romance, and if the same or better results can
be produced by an intelligent and dashing use of the firearm, it is
waste of breath to lament the decay of the lance and sword. It was the
main purpose of the General's work to prove that these results could
be so obtained, and whenever he warmed to his subject, and fell into
temporary oblivion of the romantic weapons, he proved his point well
enough, in theory.

But, unfortunately, his oblivion of the lance and sword lasted only
as long as he was criticizing the action of Cavalry against troops
not armed with those weapons. When he came to the action of Cavalry
against Cavalry, both by hypothesis armed, not only with the lance and
sword, but also with the best modern rifle obtainable, the principle
he had just established--namely, that the rifle imposes tactics on the
steel--disappeared, and the opposite principle--that the steel imposes
tactics upon the rifle--took its place. I say "principle," but in
this latter case no reasoned principle based on the facts of war was
expounded, because it seemed never to occur to the General that Cavalry
in combat with Cavalry would have the bad taste to use their rifles.

Needless to say, it was impossible to sustain this daring paradox
with any semblance of logic and consistency throughout a book dealing
with all the phases of war. War is not a matter of definitions, but
of bullets and shells. And, in fact, the General threw logic and
consistency to the winds. In his fire-mood he unconsciously covered
shock-tactics with ridicule, but in his shock-mood (no doubt, much to
the relief of the victims of his wrathful invective in Germany) he
conclusively demolished the principle of fire.

This was easily explicable. In the first place, the General was a
German writing exclusively to Germans, to whom the bare idea of relying
on the prosaic firearm seemed sacrilegious. Merely to implant that
idea in their heads, to persuade them that the rest of the world was
moving while they were asleep, was a vast enough aim for a German
reformer--too vast an aim, indeed, as the event proved. In the second
place, the General, so far as the effect of modern firearms was
concerned, was working wholly in the realm of theory. When he first
published his book those weapons had not been tested in civilized war.
The most recent relevant war experience was that of 1870 and of the
other European wars of that period, when the firearm was exceedingly
imperfect. But even then, as he frankly and forcibly stated, it was
in consequence of their neglect of this firearm, imperfect as it was,
that the European Cavalry, the German Cavalry included, gave such a
painfully poor account of themselves. He looked farther back, just as
Colonel Henderson and many other critics in our own country looked
back, to the brilliant achievements of American Cavalry in the Civil
War of 1861-1865, mainly through the agency of the firearm. But here
the firearm was still more primitive--a fact of which General von
Bernhardi took no account. It was enough for him that inter-Cavalry
shock survived through the Civil War, though the steel came to be
wholly ineffective against Infantry. That forty years of scientific
progress might have produced a weapon which would have banished shock
in any form did not occur to him.

Nevertheless, there seemed to be good ground for the hope that, when he
came seriously to collate and examine the phenomena of the first great
wars since the invention of the modern rifle--those in South Africa
and Manchuria--he would find in the exact confirmation of his views on
fire, and in the complete falsification of his views on shock, ground
for a drastic revision of his whole work, with a view, not perhaps to
a complete elimination of the steel weapons, but to their complete
subordination to the rifle. It is true that the omens were not very

Between 1899 and 1902, when his second edition was published, a
great mass of South African information became available, not in
finished historical form, but in a form quite suitable for furnishing
numberless instructive examples of the paramount influence of fire
and the futility of the lance and sword. But the General made no use
of these examples. He confined himself to a general allusion to the
"very important data obtained in South Africa as to the employment of
dismounted action by Cavalry" (p. 7), and in a later passage (p. 56) to
some commendatory remarks on the "brilliant results" obtained through
mounted charges made with the rifle only by the Boers in the latter
part of the war. Unfortunately, it was plain that he had given no close
technical study either to these charges or to the "important data"
vaguely alluded to; otherwise he would have saved himself from many
of the solecisms which abound in his work. Still, the fact remained
that the war was unfinished when his second edition was published,
while another great war broke out only two years later. It seemed not
unlikely that mature reflection upon the incidents of these wars would
ultimately tend to clarify and harmonize his views on shock and fire.

Meanwhile the English edition was published, with its Introduction by
General Sir John French. By this time (1906) the events of our own war
were fully collated and recorded, while the Manchurian War had also
taken place. Instead of supplying a really useful commentary upon the
German work, written from the point of view of British experience,
instead of drawing attention to its deficiencies and errors, and
pointing out how inevitable they were under the circumstances of its
composition, General French hailed the work as a complete, final, and
unanswerable statement of Cavalry doctrine. Von Bernhardi, he said,
"had dealt with remarkable perspicuity and telling conviction and in
an exhaustive manner with every subject demanding a Cavalry soldier's
study and thought." How Sir John French's readers reconciled this
effusive eulogy with the contents of the book remains a mystery. As
I have said, the only really important feature of the book was the
insistent advocacy of fire-tactics--and not merely defensive, but
offensive fire-tactics--for Cavalry. This feature was minimized in the
Introduction. In its place was a vehement attack on the advocates of
fire-tactics in England, the truth of whose principles had just been
signally demonstrated in our own war.

There was not a word about the "important data" to be derived from the
war; not a word about the Boer charges, of whose terribly destructive
effects Sir John French knew far more than General von Bernhardi. On
the contrary, the war was dismissed in a few slighting and ambiguous
sentences, as wholly irrelevant to the _arme blanche_ controversy,
in spite of the fact that, in direct consequence of the war, our
Cavalry Manual had been rewritten and the Cavalry firearm immensely
improved--facts which would naturally suggest that the war had been

Praise of Von Bernhardi, singular as the form it took, was by no
means academic. In the next revision of our Cavalry Manual (1907) the
compilers borrowed and quoted considerably from "Cavalry in Future
Wars." And yet every sound principle in that work had years before
been anticipated and expounded far more lucidly and thoroughly in the
fascinating pages of our own military writer, Colonel Henderson, whose
teaching had been ignored by the Cavalry of his own country.


[Footnote 1: Report of German Medical Staff. No French figures



SO the matter stood until, early in 1910, General von Bernhardi
produced his second work, "Cavalry in War and Peace." An admirable
English translation by Major G.T.M. Bridges promptly appeared, again
with an Introduction by Sir John French.

It must, one might surmise, have given him some embarrassment to
pen this second eulogy. The previous book had been "perspicuous,"
"logical," "intelligent," and, above all, "exhaustive and complete."
Two wars, it is true, had intervened, but neither, according either
to Sir John French or, we may say at once, to General von Bernhardi,
was of any interest to Cavalry. What fresh matter, either for German
exposition or for British eulogy, could there be? That is one of the
questions I shall have to elucidate, and I may say here that the only
new fact for General von Bernhardi is the recent promulgation of a
revised set of Regulations for the German Cavalry, Regulations which,
in his opinion, though "better than the old ones," are still almost as
mischievous, antiquated, and "unsuitable for war" as they can possibly
be, and whose effect is to leave the German Cavalry "unprepared for
war." But this is not a new fact which could properly strengthen Sir
John French in recommending the German author to the British Cavalry
as a brilliantly logical advocate of the lance and sword, and it is
not surprising, therefore, that the tone of his second introduction is
slightly different from that of the first.

For the first time there appears a reference to the German Cavalry
Regulations, from which the English reader would gain an inkling of the
fact that General von Bernhardi is not a prophet in his own country,
and that all is not harmony and enlightenment among the "progressive"
Cavalry schools of Europe. On one specific point--raids--Sir John
French "ventures to disagree" with General von Bernhardi, and he
writes, also in quite general terms, that he does not "approve of
all that the German Regulations say about the employment of Cavalry
in battle." But even this latter note of criticism is very faint and
deprecatory; nor is there anything to show that the writer, except
on the one point mentioned, is not thoroughly at one with the German
author's principles. The main purpose of this Introduction, as of
the earlier one, is to claim that Bernhardi's book is a triumphant
justification of the lance and sword. It is a "tonic for weak minds,"
an antidote against the "dangerous heresies" of the English advocates
of the mounted rifleman, whose "appeals from ignorance to vanity"
deserved scornful repudiation.

Once more, and in warmer language than ever, the General protests
against the pernicious tendency to attach value to the lessons of South
Africa; but this time, fortunately, he gives some specific reasons for
regarding the war as "abnormal," and I shall devote the rest of this
chapter to an examination of these reasons.

They are four: (1) That the "Boer commandos dispersed to the four
winds when pressed, and reunited again some days or weeks later
hundreds of miles from the scene of their last encounter." This
curious little summary of the war shows to what almost incredible
lengths of self-delusion a belief in the _arme blanche_ will carry
otherwise well-balanced minds--minds, too, of active, able men like
Sir John French, who have actually been immersed in the events under
discussion. One fails at first to see the smallest causal relation
between the phenomena of the war as he sets them forth and the combat
value of the lance and sword, but the implied argument must be this:
that these weapons could not be given a fair trial in combat because
there was no combat, or, rather, only combat enough to cause the
hundred casualties and prisoners for which, by the recorded facts, the
lance and sword were accountable.

We figure a bloodless war, in which at the mere glimpse of a khaki
uniform the enemy fled for "hundreds of miles"--at such lightning
speed, moreover, that one of the chief traditional functions of the
_arme blanche_, pursuit, was wholly in abeyance. Who would gather that
there had been a "black week"; that Botha and Meyer held the Tugela
heights for four months against forces between three and four times
their superior in strength; that Ladysmith (where there were four
Cavalry regiments) was besieged for four months, Kimberley for the same
period, and Mafeking for seven months; that for at least nine months no
"dispersion" took place even remotely resembling that vaguely sketched
by Sir John French; and that during the whole course of the war no
tactical dispersion took place which would conceivably affect the
efficacy of the lance and sword as weapons of combat? A mere statement
of the fact that the net rate of Boer retreat, even during the purely
partisan warfare of 1901-02, was almost invariably that of ox-waggons
(two miles an hour on the average), that until the last year of the war
the Boers were generally accompanied by artillery, and that from the
beginning of the war to the end not a single waggon or a single gun was
ever captured through the agency, direct or indirect, of the lance and
sword, shatters the hypothesis that these weapons had any appreciable
combat value.

But that is only the negative side of the argument. We have to deal
with a mass of plain, positive facts in favour of the rifle as an
aggressive weapon for mounted troops. The Boer rifle caused us 29,000
casualties, over 40 guns and 10,000 men taken in action--losses which,
to say the least, are evidence that some stiff fighting took place;
for men who, when "pressed," run for "hundreds of miles" cannot take
prisoners and guns.

We have before us the details of some hundreds of combats, in which
Cavalry as well as other classes of troops were engaged, and the only
effective way of testing the value of the steel weapons is to see
what actually happened in these combats. The result of this inquiry
is to show that the lance and sword were practically useless both
in attack and defence, whatever the relative numbers and whatever
the nature of the ground. No serious historian has ever attempted to
make out any case to the contrary. No responsible man at the time
would have ventured publicly to assert the contrary. It was patent to
everybody--leaders and men--that the Boers were formidable because they
were good mounted riflemen, and that our bitter need was for mounted
riflemen as good as theirs. It is only when years of peace have drugged
the memory and obliterated the significance of these events--melancholy
and terrible events some of them--that it is possible to put forward
the audacious claim that the lance and sword had no chance of proving
their value because the Boers invariably ran away from them.

It must be evident that if this first reason for the failure of
the lance and sword given by Sir John French is valid, it would be
needless to proffer any others. And the others he does proffer only
demonstrate further the weakness of his case. "Secondly," he says,
"the war in South Africa was one for the conquest and annexation of
immense districts, and no settlement was open to us except the complete
submission of our gallant enemy." Such a campaign, he goes on to
say, "is the most difficult that can be confided to an army," etc.
Perfectly true--we agree; but what bearing has this obvious truth on
the combat value of the lance and sword?

The issue before us is this: Is a certain mode of fighting possible in
modern days? Is it practicable for men to remain in their saddles and
wield steel weapons against men armed with modern rifles? "No," answers
Sir John French, "it is not practicable, if your aim is annexation and
the complete submission of a gallant enemy." Poor consolation for the
unhappy taxpayer who pays for the maintenance of exceedingly expensive
mounted troops, and commits himself to a scheme of conquest and
annexation in the faith that these troops are efficient instruments of
his will! Where would Sir John French's argument lead him, if he only
followed it up and supplied the missing links? But that is the worst of
this interminable controversy. Such nebulous arguments never are worked
out in terms of actual combat on the battle-field.

Thirdly, says Sir John French, the horses were at fault. "We did not
possess any means for remounting our Cavalry with trained horses...."
"After the capture, in rear of the army, of the great convoy by De Wet,
our horses were on short commons, and consequently lost condition,
and never completely recovered it." This is an old argument, expressed
in the old vague, misleading way. The war lasted nearly three years,
beginning in October, 1899. The period referred to by Sir John French
was in February, 1900. Long before this, when there was no complaint
about the horses, the futility of the lance and sword, and the grave
disabilities under which the Cavalry laboured owing to their inadequate
carbine, had been abundantly manifest. The steel weapons may be said to
have been obsolete after Elandslaagte, on the second day of the war.

At the particular period referred to by Sir John French--the period
of the operations against Cronje and Kimberley--heat and drought did
undoubtedly play havoc with all the horses in both armies, with those
not only of the Cavalry, but of the mounted riflemen and Artillery on
both sides. In February, 1900, a third of Cronje's small force was on
foot, a pretty severe disability, since his whole force was scarcely
equal to our Cavalry division alone, with its gunners and mounted
riflemen included, while it was less than a quarter as strong as the
whole army at the disposal of Lord Roberts. Sir John French makes
use of a misleading expression when he says that "the Cavalry horses
lost condition, and never completely recovered it." Nine-tenths of
the horses here referred to succumbed altogether within a few months,
and the Cavalry, like nearly all the mounted troops engaged in the
operations in question, were completely remounted in June, for the
grand advance from Bloemfontein to Pretoria.

During the succeeding two years of warfare all the mounted troops,
Cavalry included, were several times remounted. So were the Boer
troops, who, of course, had no remount organization at all for
"trained" or untrained horses, and had to be content with anything
they could pick up on the veldt. Yet, besides imposing fire-tactics
on the Cavalry in every type of combat alike, they invaded the
traditional sphere of Cavalry (and were imitated to some extent by our
own Colonials and Mounted Infantry) by developing on their own account
a most formidable type of mounted charge, which during the last year
of the war alone cost us 18 guns and 2,500 men killed, wounded, and
prisoners. These charges were made with little rats of starveling
ponies, whose extreme speed was scarcely that of the slow canter of an
ordinary Cavalry charger.

If Sir J. French were to descend to statistics and facts, he would find
it impossible to trace any causal relation between the efficacy of the
lance and sword and the condition of the horses from time to time.
The phenomena are precisely the same under all conditions from first
to last. Everywhere and always the rifle is supreme. The better the
horse, the better help for the rifle--that is all. In point of fact,
he is quite aware that the principal success of the regular Cavalry
was achieved when the horses were at their worst--that is to say, in
the very period he refers to, when the Cavalry headed off Cronje and
pinned him, purely by fire-action, to the river-bed at Paardeberg.
Another good performance--though it was by no means specially a Cavalry
performance; for mounted riflemen and Infantry were associated with the
Cavalry--was the prolonged screening operations in front of Colesberg
(November to January, 1900). There was no complaint about the horses
then, but the sabre never killed or hurt a Boer. It was only once drawn
from the scabbard, and was speedily resheathed, owing to hostile fire.

I pass to the last and strangest of Sir John French's reasons for
regarding the war as abnormal in the sense that it gave no opportunity
for the use of the lance or sword. It is this: That, "owing to
repeated and wholesale release of prisoners who had been captured and
subsequently appeared in the field against us, we were called upon to
fight, not 86,000 or 87,000 men, but something like double that number
or more, with the additional disadvantage that the enemy possessed on
his second and third appearance against us considerable experience of
our methods and a certain additional seasoned fitness." Here again is
a proposition which alone is sufficient to destroy the case for the
lance and sword. If, as a defence of those weapons, it means anything,
it must mean that the Cavalry, by means of their steel weapons, were
perpetually taking prisoners, to no purpose, because these prisoners
were constantly released. Gradually the enemy learnt "experience of
our methods," that is, of our shock-methods with the lance and sword,
and, armed with this experience and the "seasoned fitness" produced
by successive spells of fighting, they eventually countered or evaded
those shock-methods, with what result we are not told. But such an
interpretation is inadmissible. What Sir John French surely should say
is precisely the reverse of what he does imply--namely, that we started
the war in an ignorance of the Boer methods which cost us scores of
millions of pounds; that we slowly learnt experience of those methods,
and ultimately conquered the Boers and ended the war by imitating those
methods. That is the plain moral of the war, as enforced by every

Observe that, for the sake of argument, I am accepting as historically
accurate Sir John French's statement about the advantage possessed
by the Boers owing to the release of their prisoners. It is almost
superfluous to add that the statement, in the sense he uses it, has no
historical foundation. The truth is exactly the opposite. The advantage
was immensely on our side. The Boers took many thousands of British
prisoners, but permanently retained none, because they had no means of
retaining them. During the last year of the war prisoners were released
on the spot. A large proportion of these men fought again, some several
times. No Boer prisoner of war--that is, captured in action--was
released. In December, 1900, we had about 15,000 in our possession; in
May, 1902, about 50,000.

It was mainly by this attrition of the Boer forces that we reduced them
to submission. The element of historical truth in Sir John French's
proposition is this: that in 1900, after the fall of Bloemfontein, a
considerable number of Boers surrendered voluntarily, not in action,
and were dismissed to their farms under a pledge not to fight again--a
pledge which they broke, under circumstances into which we need not
enter. There are no exact statistics as to the numbers of these men,
but at an outside estimate they cannot have amounted to more than 5
per cent. of the total number of Boers engaged in the war. In any case,
the point is totally irrelevant to the question of shock-tactics. That
is a question of combat, and in combat, as Sir John French is aware,
the Boers were, nine times out of ten, greatly outnumbered.

Such are Sir John French's reasons for the failure of the lance and
sword in South Africa. They constitute an instructive revelation of the
mental attitude of the advocates of those weapons. Is it not plain that
we are dealing here with a matter of faith, not of reason; of dogma,
not of argument; of sentiment, not of technical practice? The simple
technical issue--what happens in combat?--is persistently evaded, and
refuge sought in vague and inaccurate generalizations, which, when
tested, turn out to throw no light upon the controversy.

Sir John French himself manages to demonstrate in this same
Introduction that the question is really one of sentiment. It is a
seemingly incurable delusion with him that the whole campaign on behalf
of the rifle is an attack of a personal nature on the war exploits
of himself and the regular Cavalry, instead of being, what it really
is, an attack on the lances and swords carried by the Cavalry. This
delusion carries him to the strangest lengths of professional egotism.
In the whole of this Introduction there is not a line to indicate that
any British mounted rifleman unprovided with steel weapons took part
in the war, or that the tactics and conduct of these men have the
smallest interest for Englishmen or the smallest bearing on the present
controversy. No one would gather that our Colonial mounted riflemen
led the way in tactical development, and frequently, brief and rough
as their training had been, excelled the Cavalry in efficiency, simply
because they were trained on the right principles with the right weapon.

"Even in South Africa," says Sir John French, "grave though the
disadvantages were under which our Cavalry laboured from short commons
and overwork" [as though these disadvantages were not shared equally by
our mounted riflemen and by the Boers themselves!], "the Boer mounted
riflemen acknowledged on many occasions the moral force of the cold
steel, and gave way before it." Then follows a concrete instance, taken
from the action of Zand River in May, 1900.

Anyone familiar with the history of the war must have felt deep
bewilderment at the General's choice, for purposes of illustration, of
this action, which has not generally been held to have reflected high
credit on the Cavalry.

It is needless to discuss the battle in detail, because the accounts
of it are set forth clearly and accurately enough in the "Official"
and _Times_ Histories, and, _inter alia_, in Mr. Goldman's work, "With
French in South Africa." As a very small and unimportant episode in
the battle, there was certainly a charge by a whole brigade of regular
Cavalry against some Boers whom the _Times_ History describes as a
"party," and whom Mr. Goldman, who was present, estimates at 200 in
number; but it is perfectly clear, from all accounts, (1) that the
casualties resulting from the charge were too few to deserve record;
(2) that the charge had no appreciable effect upon the fortunes of the
day; (3) that the Cavalry on the flank in question suffered serious
checks and losses at the hands of a greatly inferior force; and (4)
that Sir John French's turning force, like General Broadwood's turning
force on the opposite flank, completely failed to perform the supremely
important intercepting mission entrusted to them by Lord Roberts, and
failed through weakness in mobile fire-action.

Sir John French's version of the action teems with inaccuracies. All
the cardinal facts, undisputed facts to be found in any history, upon
which the judgment of the reader as to the efficacy of the steel must
depend, are omitted. There are no figures of relative numbers, no
times, no description of the terrain, no statement of casualties. I
will instance only one, but the greatest, error of fact. He writes that
"the rôle of the Cavalry division was to bring pressure to bear on
the right flank of the Boer army, in order to enable Lord Roberts to
advance across the river and attack the main Boer forces."

This is a highly misleading account of Roberts's tactical scheme for
the battle. Eight thousand Boers, disposed in a chain of scattered
detachments, held no less than twenty-five miles of country along the
north bank of the Zand River, their right resting on the railway,
which ran at right angles to the river. We had 38,000 men, including
12,000 mounted men, of whom 5,000 were regular Cavalry. To have used
the mounted Arm merely to "bring pressure to bear" upon the Boer flanks
would have been a course altogether unworthy of Lord Roberts and
the great army he controlled. He set no such limited aim before the
Cavalry. He planned to surround and destroy the enemy by enveloping
movements on both flanks, and gave explicit orders to that effect.
French, with 4,000 men, had orders to ride round the Boer right
flank, and seize the railway in their rear at Ventersburg Road. The
same objective was given to the turning force under Broadwood, 3,000
strong, on the Boer left. Both enveloping operations failed. To "press"
the Boers into retreat was nothing. They must have retreated anyhow,
in the face of an army five times their superior. The point was to
_prevent_ them from retreating into safety, to cut off their retreat,
and with mounted turning forces together nearly equal to the whole
Boer force this aim was perfectly feasible, given one condition, which
was not fulfilled--that our mounted troops, headed by our premier and
professional mounted troops, the Cavalry, could use their rifles and
horses approximately as well as the Boers.

Now let us come to the heart of the matter.

Let us waive all criticism of the accuracy and completeness of Sir John
French's narrative, and test the grounds of his belief that it was
owing to their fear of the sword that the Boers gave way when Dickson's
brigade charged. The Cavalry carried firearms as well as swords, and
outnumbered the party charged by at least five to one. We cannot apply
the test of casualties, because there were so few. The only test we
can apply is that of analogy from other combats. Conditions similar
to those of Zand River were repeated, on a smaller or larger scale,
thousands of times. Do we find that steel-armed mounted troops had
greater moral effect upon the enemy than troops armed only with the
rifle? Did the presence of the lance and sword on the field of combat
make any difference to the result? The answer, of course, is that it
made no difference at all. Anyone can decide this question himself. We
know precisely what troops were present, and how they were armed, in
all the combats of the war.

We can detect many different factors at work, psychological, technical,
tactical, topographical; but there is one factor which we can eliminate
as wholly negligible, and that is the presence of the lance and sword.
The same phenomena reappear whether those weapons are there or not. For
example, during Buller's campaign for the conquest of Northern Natal
(May to June, 1900) very little use was made of regular Cavalry. During
the first phase, the advance over the Biggarsberg, the six regiments
of Cavalry at Buller's disposal were left behind at Ladysmith. The
mounted work throughout was done mainly by irregulars. Was it of a
less aggressive and vigorous character on that account, by analogy,
say, with the mounted operations during the advance of Roberts from
Bloemfontein to Pretoria? We find, on the contrary, that the results
were better. The total relative numbers on the Boer side and our side
were about the same: we were about four to one. But while Roberts had
12,000 mounted men, of whom 5,000 were Cavalry, Buller had only 5,500
mounted men, of whom 2,500 were Cavalry. Do we find that when the
steelless irregulars mounted their horses, as Dickson's brigade mounted
their horses, and made a rapid aggressive advance--"charged," that
is--the Boers were any less inclined to retreat? On the contrary, they
were more inclined to do so. Witness, for instance, Dundonald's long
and vigorous pursuit with his irregular brigade over the Biggarsberg on
May 14.

Or take the Bloemfontein-Pretoria advance, in which Zand River itself
was an incident. Can we trace any further this alleged "terror of
the cold steel"? Allowance must be made for the brief and inadequate
training of the Mounted Infantry and Colonials; but, even with this
allowance, a study of the facts shows that they did as well as the
Cavalry, and sometimes better. The only effective local pursuit was
made by Hutton's Australians at Klipfontein (May 30), where a gun was
captured. These men had no steel weapons, yet they charged, and rode
down their enemy.

Take Plumer's brilliant defence of Rhodesia with mounted riflemen. Take
the relief of Mafeking, one of the most arduous and finely-executed
undertakings of the war. Did the 900 troopers of the Imperial Light
Horse who carried it out suffer from the lack of swords and lances?
They would not have taken them at a gift. Did their work compare
unfavourably with that of the Cavalry Division, 6,000 strong, in the
relief of Kimberley? On the contrary, when we contrast the numbers
employed, the opposition met with and the distance covered (251 miles
in eighteen days), we shall conclude that the achievement of the
irregulars was by far the more admirable of the two.

An infinity of illustrations might be cited to prove the same point,
but, in truth, it is a point which stands in no need of detailed proof.
The _onus probandi_ lies on those who defend weapons which palpably
failed. It is the Cavalryman's fixed idea that "mounted action,"
as the phrase goes, is associated solely with steel weapons; that
soldiers in the saddle are only formidable because they carry those
weapons. Mounted riflemen are pictured as dismounted, stationary, or as
employing their horses only for purposes of flight. These fictions were
blown to pieces by the South African War, and the irony of the case is
that Sir John French gratuitously brings ridicule on the Cavalry by
reviving them. If they are not fictions, the Cavalry stand condemned
by their own pitifully trivial record of work done with the steel.
But this is to slander the Cavalry. They do not stand condemned; their
steel weapons stand condemned. They themselves, like all other mounted
troops, did well precisely in proportion to their skill in and reliance
on the rifle and horse combined. Their lances were soon returned
to store; their swords, after rusting in the scabbards for another
year, were also, in the case of nearly all regiments, abandoned; a
good Infantry rifle replaced the weak carbine, and the Cavalry became
definitely recognized as mounted riflemen.

No one has ever regarded Sir John French himself as otherwise than
a leader of conspicuous energy and resource. But, so far from owing
anything to the lance and sword, he suffered heavily from the almost
exclusive education of his troops to those weapons, and from the
inadequacy of their firearm.



AND now, what in Great Britain is the real theory on this question?
Let us go to Sir John French again. The South African War, he says, is
no guide for the future. It is abnormal, for the reasons stated above.
The Manchurian War he has also stated to be abnormal. Where, then, is
the theoretical advantage of the lance and sword over the modern rifle?
We are left in ignorance. The physical problem is untouched. All we
have is the bare dogmatic assertion that the steel weapon can impose
tactics on the rifle. This is how Sir John French expresses the theory
on p. xi of his Introduction: "Were we to do so" (_i.e._, to "throw
our cold steel away as useless lumber"), "we should invert the rôle
of Cavalry, turn it into a _defensive_ arm, and make it a prey to the
first foreign Cavalry that it meets; for good Cavalry can always compel
a dismounted force of mounted riflemen to mount and ride away, and when
such riflemen are caught on their horses, they have power neither of
offence nor defence, and are lost."

Eight years have elapsed since the Boer War. Memories are short,
and it is possible now to print a statement of this sort, which,
if promulgated during the dust and heat of the war itself, when
the lance and sword fell into complete and well-merited oblivion,
and when mounted men on both sides were judged rigidly by their
proficiency in the use of the horse and the rifle, would have excited
universal derision. The words which follow recall one of the writer's
"abnormalities" already commented on: "If in European warfare such
mounted riflemen were to separate and scatter, the enemy would be well
pleased, for he could then reconnoitre and report every movement, and
make his plans in all security. In South Africa the mounted riflemen
were the hostile army itself, and when they had dispersed there was
nothing left to reconnoitre; but when will these conditions recur?"
When, indeed? There was nothing, it seems, to reconnoitre, because the
enemy always "scattered and dispersed." And the Generals were "well
pleased"! "Nothing left to reconnoitre"! One can only marvel at the
courage of Sir John French in breathing the word "reconnoitre" in
connection with Cavalry work in South Africa.

He ought to admit that Cavalry reconnaissance was bad, and that the
army suffered for it. No historian has ever defended it. It was the
despair of Generals who wanted information as to the position of the
enemy. Wits apart, the rifle ruled reconnaissance, as it obviously
always must rule it. _Ceteris paribus_, the best rifleman is the best
scout. The Cavalry were not good riflemen, and were therefore not good
scouts. Not a single Boer scout from the beginning to the end of the
war was hurt by a sword or lance. Those weapons were a laughing-stock
to foe and friend alike. And Sir John French's proposition is, not so
much that the reconnaissance was good--presumably, that goes without
saying--but that there was nothing to reconnoitre, thanks, apparently,
to the terror spread by the lance and sword.

Such a travesty of the war may be left to speak for itself. But it is
very important to comprehend the root idea which underlies it, an idea
which, as we shall see, reappears in a less extreme form in General von
Bernhardi's writings. It is expressed in the words "we should invert
the rôle of Cavalry, turn it into a defensive arm." The rifle, it will
be seen, is regarded as a _defensive_ weapon, in contradistinction
to the lance and sword, which are offensive weapons. To sustain this
theory, it is absolutely necessary, of course, to proceed to the
lengths to which Sir John French proceeds--to declare, in effect, that
there was no war and no fighting; for if once we concede that there was
a war, study its combats and compute their statistical results, we are
forced to the conclusion that the rifle must have been used in offence
as well as in defence. Abstract reflection might well anticipate this
conclusion by suggesting that a defensive weapon and a defensive class
of soldiers are contradictions in terms.

There must be two parties to every combat, and, unless there is
perfect equilibrium in combat, one side or the other must definitely
be playing an offensive rôle; and, even in equilibrium, both sides
may be said to be as much in offence as in defence, whatever weapons
they are using. The facts mainly illustrate the abstract principle.
The Boers could not have taken guns and prisoners while acting on the
defensive. Talana Hill, Nicholson's Nek, Spion Kop, Stormberg, Sannah's
Post, Nooitgedacht, Zilikat's Nek, Bakenlaagte, were not defensive
operations from the Boer point of view. Nor were Magersfontein,
Colenso, Elandslaagte, Paardeberg defensive operations from the British
point of view. Whether the rifles were in the hands of Infantry or
mounted troops is immaterial. A rifle is a rifle, whoever holds it.
It is just as absurd to say that the Boers who rode to and stormed on
foot Helvetia and Dewetsdorp belonged to a defensive class of soldiers
as it is to say that the Infantry who walked to and stormed Pieter's
Hill belonged to a defensive class of soldiers. It is still more absurd
to say that the Boers who charged home mounted at Sannah's Post,
Vlakfontein, Bakenlaagte, Roodewal, Blood River Poort, and many other
actions, and the British mounted riflemen who did similar things at
Bothaville, were performing a defensive function, while the Cavalry
who pursued at Elandslaagte were performing an offensive function.
Take this action of Elandslaagte, the solitary genuine example of
a successful charge with the _arme blanche_. By whom was the real
offensive work done? By the Infantry and by the Imperial Light Horse
acting dismounted, and by the Artillery. After hours of hard and bloody
fighting, these men stormed the ridge and forced the Boers to retreat.
In the act of retreat they were charged by the Cavalry, who had
hitherto been spectators of the action.

It might be objected that I am taking a verbal advantage of Sir
John French. He is guilty, it may be argued, only of the lesser
fallacy--that of thinking that the rifle is a defensive weapon for
mounted men as distinguished from Infantry. Not so. He perceives the
logical peril of admitting that the rifle is an offensive weapon for
any troops, and in another passage, when deprecating attacks on the
"Cavalry spirit" (p. vii), makes use of the following words: "Were we
to seek to endow Cavalry with the _tenacity and stiffness_ of Infantry,
or take from the mounted arm the _mobility and the cult of the
offensive_ which are the breath of its life, we should ruin not only
the Cavalry, but the Army besides." (The italics are mine.) It may be
pointed out that, but for their firearms and the mobility and offensive
power derived from them, the Cavalry in South Africa would indeed have
been "ruined" beyond hope of rehabilitation.

But let us look at the underlying principle expressed. Infantry are
"stiff and tenacious" (that is, obviously, in _defence_). Cavalry
have the "cult of the offensive." Those are the distinctive "spirits"
of the two Arms. The bitter irony of it! Which Arm really displayed
the most "offensive spirit" in South Africa? Study the lists of
comparative casualties in the two Arms during that period of the war
in which Infantry were mainly engaged. If at Talana, the Battle of
Ladysmith, Colenso, Dronfield, Poplar Grove, Karee Siding, Sannah's
Post, Zand River, Doornkop, or Diamond Hill, the Cavalry in their
own sphere of work had shown the offensive power displayed by the
Infantry in the battles on the Tugela, or in Methuen's campaign from
Orange River to Magersfontein, or at Driefontein, Doornkop, Bergendal,
and Diamond Hill, the war would have showed different results. There
was no distinction in point of bravery between any branches of the
Services. Fire-power and fire-efficiency were the tests, and lack of a
good firearm and of fire-efficiency on only too many occasions fatally
weakened the offensive spirit of the Cavalry.

And what of the "tenacity and stiffness" with which we must not
"seek to endow" Cavalry? Ominous words, redolent of disaster! Have
not they fully as much need of those qualities as Infantry? Imagine
our Cavalry doing the work that the Boers had to do on so many score
of occasions--to fight delaying rearguard actions against immensely
superior numbers, with no reserves, and a heavy convoy to protect. We
shall be fortunate if, through reliance on and skill in the use of
the rifle, they display as much tenacity and stiffness as Botha's men
at Pieter's Hill or Koch's men at Elandslaagte against forces four
times their superior in strength, to say nothing of such incidents
as Dronfield, where 150 Boers defied a whole division of Cavalry
and several batteries; of Poplar Grove and Zand River, where small
hostile groups virtually paralyzed whole brigades; or of Bergendal,
where seventy-four men held up a whole army. There was nothing
abnormal tactically or topographically about any of these incidents.
Any function performed by the Boer mounted riflemen may be demanded
from our Cavalry in any future war. Suppose them, for example, vested
with the strictly normal duty of covering a retreat against a superior
force of all arms; suppose a squadron, like the seventy-four Zarps at
Bergendal, ordered to hold the cardinal hill of an extended position,
and their leader replying: "This is not our business. We are an
offensive Arm. We cannot entrench, and we have not the tenacity and
stiffness of Infantry. Our business is to charge with the lance and
sword." Would the General be well pleased?

The reader will ask for the key to this curious discrimination between
the "spirits" of Cavalry and Infantry. It is this: The lance and sword,
_when pitted against the rifle_, can, if they are used at all, only be
used in offence. Men sitting on horseback, using steel weapons with a
range of a couple of yards, plainly cannot defend themselves against
riflemen. Even the Cavalry tacitly admit this principle, and if they
accepted its logical consequence, a logical consequence completely
confirmed by the facts of modern war, they would admit, too, that the
sword and lance cannot be used for offence against riflemen in modern
war. But they will not admit that. "Tant pis pour les faits," they say.
"All modern war is abnormal. Our steel weapons dominate combat. Without
them we are nothing."

In these circumstances they are forced to set up this strange
theory--that Cavalry is a peculiarly "offensive" Arm, a theory which
the reader will find expressed in all Cavalry writings. On the face
of it the theory is meaningless. It is a mere verbal juggle, because,
as I said before, there are two parties to every combat, and defence
is the necessary and invariable counterpart of offence. All combatant
soldiers, including Cavalry, carry firearms, and if Cavalry choose
to use these firearms in offence, by hypothesis they will impose
fire-action on the defence, whether the defence consists of Cavalry
or any other class of troops. Conversely, if they use their rifles in
defence, as by hypothesis they must, they will impose fire-action on
the attacking force, be it Cavalry or any other Arm. In other words,
the rifle governs combat. That is why the lance and sword disappeared
in South Africa. Both in offence and defence the Boer riflemen forced
the Cavalry to accept combat on terms of fire.

And what kind of Cavalry do our Cavalrymen count upon meeting in our
next war? They count, incredible as it seems, upon meeting Cavalry not
superior, but inferior, to the Boer mounted riflemen, inferior because,
as I shall show from von Bernhardi, they defy science, shut their
eyes to the great principle of the supremacy of fire, are prepared
deliberately to abdicate their fire-power, and hope to engage, by
mutual agreement, as it were, and on the understanding that suitable
areas of level ground can be found, in contests of crude bodily weight.

And what of the action of Cavalry against other Arms? We know Sir John
French's opinion about mounted riflemen. They will gallop for their
lives "defenceless" at the approach of "good" Cavalry. But Infantry,
riflemen without horses, who cannot gallop, but can only run? Their
case, it would seem, must be still more desperate. They are not only
defenceless, but destitute even of the means of flight. And yet even
Sir John French credits them, if not with an offensive spirit, at least
with "tenacity and stiffness," derived, of course, from their rifles.
But their mounted comrades, armed with these same rifles, lack these
soldierly qualities. We arrive thus at the conclusion that the horse,
which one would naturally suppose to be a source of immensely enhanced
mobility and power, is a positive source of danger to a rifleman unless
he also carries a lance or sword.

Here is the _reductio ad absurdum_ of the _arme blanche_ theory, and
I beg for the reader's particular attention to it. Of course, the
conclusion is in reality too absurd; for Sir John French himself does
not really believe that Infantry are a defensive Arm. In point of fact,
no serious man believes that Infantry in modern war have anything
whatever to fear from the lance and sword, and their training-book is
written on that assumption. Nor does Sir John French really believe
that Mounted Infantry are a defensive Arm who run from Cavalry;
otherwise, he would never rest until he had secured the complete
abolition of our Mounted Infantry, who are now, under his official
sanction, designed to act, not only as divisional mounted troops
against steel-armed Continental Cavalry, but to co-operate with, and
in certain events take the place of, our own regular Cavalry in far
wider functions, and are presumably not going to be whipped off the
field at the distant glimpse of a lance or sword. And I may say here
that the reader can obtain no better and more searching sidelight on
the steel theory than by studying the Mounted Infantry Manual (1909)
for the rules given about similar and analogous functions. Nor, if
Sir John French went the whole length of the theory, would he, as
Inspector-General, have permitted our Colonial mounted riflemen to
think that they might be of some Imperial value in a future war. It is
only in order to sustain his _a priori_ case for the steel weapons that
he finds himself forced into the logical _impasses_ to which I have
drawn attention.

There is one further point to deal with before leaving Sir John
French's Introduction. He admits the necessity of a rifle for Cavalry,
and we may presume him to admit that the Boer War proved the necessity
for a good rifle and the futility of a bad carbine. When, in his
opinion, is this rifle to be used? "I have endeavoured to impress upon
all ranks," he writes on page xvii, "that _when the enemy's Cavalry
is overthrown_, our Cavalry will find more opportunities of using
the rifle than the cold steel, and that dismounted attacks will be
more frequent than charges with the _arme blanche_. By no means do I
rule out as impossible, or even unlikely, attacks by great bodies of
mounted men against other arms on the battle-field; but I believe that
such opportunities will occur comparatively rarely, and that undue
prominence should not be given to them in our peace training." (The
italics are mine.)

This is a typically nebulous statement of the combat functions of
Cavalry in modern war, and, like the generality of such statements,
will be found to contain, if analyzed, a refutation of the writer's
own views on the importance of the _arme blanche_. We ask ourselves
immediately why he thought it necessary to account for the failure
of the _arme blanche_ in South Africa by the elaborate accumulation
of arguments for "abnormality" developed a few pages earlier. After
all, it seems, the war, in its bearing upon the efficacy of weapons,
was normal. The Boers had no "Cavalry" in the writer's use of the
word--that is, steel-armed Cavalry. What he assumes to be the primary
and most formidable objective of our own steel-armed cavalry was,
therefore, by a fortunate accident, non-existent. There was no need
to "overthrow" it, because there was nothing to overthrow, and our
Cavalry was free from the outset to devote its attention to the
"other Arms"--that is, to riflemen and Artillery--assumed evidently
by the writer to be a secondary and less formidable objective. But
here, apparently, "opportunities" for the _arme blanche_ are to occur
"comparatively rarely" in any war, European or otherwise, whether
the riflemen show "tenacity and stiffness" or "disperse for hundreds
of miles"; whether the horses are perennially fresh or perennially
fatigued; whether we outnumber the foe or they outnumber us; whether
annexation or mere victory is our aim.

If only, we cannot help exclaiming, this principle had been recognized
in 1899! We knew the Boers had no swords or lances: we had always known
it. If only we had prepared our Cavalry for the long-foreseen occasion,
trained them to fire, given them good firearms, and impressed upon
them that opportunities for shock would occur "comparatively rarely,"
instead of teaching them up to the last minute that fire-action was an
abnormal, defensive function of their Arm, worthy of little more space
in their Manual than that devoted to "Funerals," and much less than
that devoted to "Ceremonial Escorts."

The root of the fallacy propounded by Sir John French lies in his
refusal to recognize that a rifle may be just as deadly a weapon in the
hands of Cavalry as in the hands of "other Arms," and, indeed, a far
more deadly weapon, thanks to the mobility conferred by the horse. If,
for example, Infantry can, as he tacitly admits they can, force Cavalry
to adopt fire-action, _a fortiori_ can Cavalry, if they choose, force
Cavalry to adopt fire-action. In other words, the rifle governs combat,
as it did, in fact, govern combat in South Africa and Manchuria. But
Cavalry operating against Cavalry, according to Sir John French,
are not so to choose. We can only speculate upon what may happen if
one side is so unsportsmanlike as to break the rules and masquerade
as another Arm. The stratagem is simple, because the rifle kills at
a mile, and the orthodox Cavalry may be unaware until it is too late
that the unorthodox Cavalry is playing them a trick. Meanwhile the best
riflemen, whether they have horses or not, _will win_, and horsemen who
have spent 80 or 90 per cent. of their time in steel-training will have
cause to regret their error.

But Sir John French contemplates no such awkward contingencies. We may
surmise, however, that it is owing to an uncomfortable suspicion of
his own fallacy that in this paragraph and elsewhere he is so careful
to isolate inter-cavalry combats from mixed combats, and to postulate
the complete "overthrow" of one Cavalry--an overthrow effected solely
by the _arme blanche_--before permitting the surviving Cavalry, in
Kipling's words, to "scuffle mid unseemly smoke." He has a formula
for the occasion. In this paragraph it is "when the enemy's Cavalry
is overthrown." On page xiv, speaking of raids, which he deprecates,
he says: "Every plan should be subordinate to what I consider a
primary necessity--the absolute and complete overthrow of the hostile
Cavalry"; and on page xv: "If the enemy's Cavalry has been overthrown,
the rôle of reconnaissance will have been rendered easier," a truism
upon which the Boer War throws a painfully ironical sidelight.

If the reader is puzzled by this curiously superfluous insistence on
the "overthrow" of the enemy analogous to the equally superfluous
insistence on the "offensive" character of the Cavalry Arm, he will
once more find an explanation in the anomalous status of the _arme
blanche_. No one would dream of repeatedly impressing upon Infantry,
for example, as though it were a principle they might otherwise
overlook, that their primary aim must be the absolute and complete
overthrow of the hostile Infantry. But the advocate of the _arme
blanche_ is always on the horns of a dilemma. He dare not admit that
the rifle in the hands of Cavalry is as formidable a weapon as in the
hands of Infantry, if not a far more formidable weapon. He therefore
instinctively tends to picture steel-armed Cavalry as perpetually
pitted against steel-armed Cavalry. Both sides are always in offence
until the moment when one is "completely and absolutely overthrown."
Then some other rôles, very vaguely delineated, open up to the victor.
Needless to say, this picture bears no resemblance to war. Troops are
not, by mutual agreement, sorted out into classes, like competitors in
athletic sports. Every Arm must be prepared to meet at any moment any
other Arm, _and any other weapon_.

Nor do these "complete and absolute" obliterations of one Arm by its
corresponding Arm ever, in fact, happen. That they could ever happen
through the agency of the lance and sword is the wildest supposition of
all. Compared with rifles, these weapons are harmless. Even the most
backward and ignorant Cavalry, trained to rely absolutely on the lance
and sword, would, if it found itself beaten in trials of shock, or,
like the Japanese Cavalry, greatly outnumbered, resort to the despised
firearm, imitate the tactics and vest itself with something of the
"tenacity and stiffness," as well as with the aggressive potency, of
those "other Arms," which, by hypothesis, must be attacked with the
rifle; and in doing so it would force its antagonist to do the same.




I HAVE gone at considerable length into the opinions of Sir John
French, as expressed in his Introduction to von Bernhardi's
work--partly because it is more important for us to know what our own
Cavalrymen think than what German Cavalrymen think, and partly because
it will be easier for the reader to estimate the value of the German
writer's views if he is already familiar with Sir John French's way of
thinking. We should expect, of course, to find identity between the
views of the two men, since Sir John French acclaims the German author
as the fountain of all wisdom; but on that point the reader would be
well advised to reserve judgment.

I shall now discuss "Cavalry in War and Peace," and first let me say
a few more words on a very important point--the circumstances of its

When General von Bernhardi wrote his first book, "Cavalry in Future
Wars," he did not take the current German Cavalry Regulations as his
text, because they were too archaic to deserve such treatment. He
condemned them in the mass, and, independently of them, penned his
own scheme for a renovated modern Cavalry. After about nine years of
complete neglect, during which the two great wars in South Africa
and Manchuria were fought, the German authorities decided that some
recognition of modern conditions must be made. They have recently
re-armed the Cavalry with a good carbine, and issued a new book of
Cavalry Regulations. These circumstances induced the General to write
his second book, "Cavalry in War and Peace," and to throw it into
the form of a direct criticism of the official Regulations, which
he constantly quotes in footnotes and uses in the text of his own
observations and constructive recommendations.

What is the result? The first point to notice is that he regards
the new official Regulations, "though better than the old ones," as
thoroughly and radically bad. His writings, he says, "have fallen on
barren soil." He condemns them almost invariably for precisely the
same reason as before, namely, that they virtually ignore the rifle
in practice, and continue the ancient and worn-out traditions of the
steel, with mere lip-service to the modern scientific weapon. But a
disappointment was in store for those who had hoped that the mental
process involved in criticizing concrete Regulations, as well as the
vast mass of instructive phenomena presented by the two wars which,
when he wrote first, were still "future wars" to him, would arouse the
General himself to a realization of the inconsistencies in his own
earlier work.

These hopes have been falsified. The fascination of the _arme blanche_
was proof against the test, and the result is one of the strangest
military works which was ever published. Bitter satire as it is on
the official system of training, any impartial reader must end by
sympathizing, not with the satirist, but with the officials satirized.
They at any rate try to be logical. Their concessions to fire are the
thinnest pretence; their belief in shock undisguised and sincere.
Whatever follies and errors this belief involves them in, they pursue
their course with unflinching consistency, sublimely careless of
science and modern war conditions.

Their critic, on the other hand, keenly alive to the absurdities
inculcated, has not the mental courage to insist on the only logical
alternatives. Faced with the necessity of proving their absurdity,
he refuses to use the only effective weapon available, gives away
his own case for fire by weak concession to shock, and succeeds in
producing a work which will convince no one in Germany, and the greater
part of which, as a practical guide to Cavalrymen, in this country
or any other, is worthless. A mist of ambiguity shrouds what should
be the simplest propositions. We move through a fog of ill-defined
terms and vague qualifications. We puzzle our brains with academical
distinctions, and if we come upon what seems to be some definite
recommendation, we are pretty sure to find it stultified in another
chapter, or even in the same chapter, by a reservation in the opposite
sense. The key to each particular muddle, to each ambiguity, to each
timid qualification, to each confusing doctrinaire classification, is
always the same--namely, that the writer, from sheer lack of knowledge
of what modern fire-tactics are, at the last moment shrinks from his
own theories about their value. What has happened is exactly what one
would expect to happen. In Germany the General admits his failure, and
in England he is hailed by Sir John French, who politely ignores his
blunders about fire-action, as the apostle of the steel, instead of
what he really is, the apostle, though the ineffectual apostle, of the

Let us first be quite clear as to his opinion of the present German
Cavalry. "While all other Arms have adapted themselves to modern
conditions, Cavalry has stood still," he says on the first page of his
Introduction. They have "no sort of tradition" for a future war (p. 5).
Their training creates "no sound foundation for preparation for war."
It is "left far behind in the march of military progress." "It cannot
stand the test of serious war." It is trammelled by the "fetters of the
past," and lives on "antiquated assumptions" (p. 6). Its "mischievous
delusions" will result in "bitter disappointment" (p. 175). Many of the
new Regulations "betoken failure to adapt existing principles to modern
ideas" (p. 361); others "do not take the conditions of reality into
account"; or "cannot be regarded as practical"; or are "provisional";
and of one set of peculiarly ludicrous evolutions he uses the
delightful phrase that they are "included in the Regulations with a
view to their theoretical and not for their practical advantages"
(p. 333). He stigmatizes "the formal encounters," the "old-fashioned
knightly combats," the "_pro forma_ evolutions," the "survivals of the
Dark Ages," the "spectacular battle-pieces," the "red-tape methods,"
the "tactical orgies," the "childish exercises," and "set pieces" of
peace manoeuvres. The origin of the trouble, he says, is "indolent
conservatism" (p. 366). "Development in our branch of the Service has
come to a standstill" (_ibid._). The officers do not study history or
the progress of foreign Cavalries. And he reiterates again and again
his general conclusion that the Cavalry is unprepared for war.

Such is the material which forms his text. And we may ask at once,
is a book based on such an appalling state of affairs, and addressed
exclusively to a Cavalry described as being given over to ancient
shibboleths, mischievous delusions and antiquated assumptions--is such
a book likely to deserve the effusive and unqualified praise of our
own foremost Cavalry authority? Is it likely to be worthy of becoming
the Bible of a modern and progressive Cavalry, such as Sir John French
considers our own Cavalry, trained under his own guidance, to be? Is it
likely to be "exhaustive," "convincing," "complete"?

To suppose so is to insult the intelligence of our countrymen. We do
not teach the ABC in our Universities. Our natural science schools
do not assume that their pupils belong to the "Dark Ages," and waste
two-thirds of their energy in laborious refutations of such extinct
superstitions as witchcraft. The education of our sailors to modern
naval war is not conducted on the assumption that the Navy consists of
wooden sailing-vessels whose inadequacy to modern conditions must be
elaborately demonstrated. A gunnery course--and the reader will note
the analogy--does not consist mainly of arguments designed to prove
that the cutlass is no longer so important a weapon as the long-range
gun and the torpedo. Nor--in the military sphere--are our Infantry and
Artillery instructed with a view to weaning them from the cult of the
pike and the catapult.

So, too, we may be quite sure that there is something radically wrong
when our Cavalry, in their search for an authoritative exposition of
modern Cavalry tactics, are reduced to relying on a foreign writer
who writes for a Cavalry ignorant of the elements of modern Cavalry
tactics, and a good half of whose work is taken up with scoldings and
appeals which from our British point of view are grotesquely redundant.
All that is good in what von Bernhardi says about fire-action we know
from our own war experience. All his errors about fire-action we can
detect also from our own war experience.

We should expect Sir John French to comment on these facts, to warn his
readers that the book under review was written for a Cavalry unversed
in modern war and blind to its teaching. We should expect some note
of pride and satisfaction in the fact that his own national Cavalry
did not need these scathing and humiliating reminders that war is not
a "theoretical" and "childish" pastime, but a serious and dangerous
business; some hint to the effect that perhaps we, with our three
years' experience of the modern rifle, may have something useful to
tell General von Bernhardi about principles which he has framed in
the speculative seclusion of his study. Not a word, not a hint of any
such warning or criticism. The topic is too dangerous. Once admit that
South Africa counts--to say nothing of Manchuria--once begin to dot
the "i's" and cross the "t's" of the German's speculations, and the
_arme blanche_ is lost. Instead, we have the passionless reservation
from Sir John French that "he does not always approve" of those German
Regulations, so many of which von Bernhardi thinks prehistoric and
ludicrous, and at the end of his Introduction we have a fervent appeal
to the British Cavalry not to "expose our ignorance and conceit" by
overvaluing our own experience, but to "keep abreast with every change
in the tendencies of Cavalry abroad," and to "assimilate the best of
foreign customs" to our own. "Keep abreast!" What an expression to use
in such a connection! "Best foreign customs!" Where are these customs?
There appears to be only one answer--namely, that these customs are in
reality the very customs which von Bernhardi attacks with such savage
scorn, and yet by such ineffective and half-hearted methods that he
leaves them as strong as before. His qualifications and reservations
give Sir John French a loophole, so that what, read through English
eyes, should be a final condemnation of the steel becomes to him a
vindication of the steel.

The link between the two writers is that both disregard the facts of
modern war. Since these facts are fatal to the steel theory, both
are compelled to disregard them. What wars, then, according to the
German expert, are the uneducated German Cavalry to study? He deals
with this point on page 5. He dismisses the wars of Frederick the
Great and Napoleon. He dismisses the Franco-German War of 1870-71,
as we might expect from his earlier work, where he pointed out how
meagre and feeble were the performances of the Cavalry compared with
those of other Arms. He dismisses the Russo-Turkish War for the same
reason, and, by implication, the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. All these
wars, he says, "present a total absence of analogy." Then, entirely
disregarding the whole period in which science perfected the firearm,
he dismisses the wars in South Africa and Manchuria. And he comes back
to what? The American War of Secession of 1861-1865, which "appears
to be the most interesting and instructive campaign for the service
of modern Cavalry," but which is "almost unknown" in Germany. In any
other branch of study but that of Cavalry an analogous recommendation
would be received with a compassionate smile. The element of truth and
sense in it--and there is much truth and sense in it--is so obvious
and unquestioned as not to need expression for the benefit of any
well-informed student. The American horsemen discovered that the rifle
must be the principal weapon of Cavalry, and through that discovery
made themselves incomparably more formidable and efficient in every
phase and function of war than the European Cavalries, who ignored and
despised the American example in the succeeding European struggles. So
far the writer is on the sound ground of platitude.

But has nothing notable happened since 1865? A very important thing
has happened. The Civil War firearm is now a museum curiosity. Science
has devised a weapon of at least five times the power--smokeless,
quick-firing, and accurate up to ranges which were never dreamt of in
1865. Even the American weapon reduced shock to a wholly secondary
place, and gave fire unquestioned supremacy. The modern weapon has
eliminated shock altogether, and inspired new and far more formidable
tactics--just as mobile, just as dashing, just as fruitful of
"charges," but based on fire. Von Bernhardi cannot bring himself to
contemplate this result. He must have his lances and swords, and is
compelled therefore to go back to 1865, when the death-knell of those
weapons was already being sounded; and in doing so he writes his own

This is how his book opens: "The great changes which have taken place
in military science _since the year 1866_ have forced all arms to adopt
new methods of fighting. It was first and foremost _the improvement in
the firearm_ which wrought the transformation on the battle-field."
(My italics.) Since the year 1866! And yet the Cavalry are to go back
to a war prior to that year for their instruction, and are to neglect
the only wars in which the improved firearm has been tested! In point
of fact, General von Bernhardi shows no sign of having closely studied
even the American War of 1861-1865 with a view to finding out how the
Americans used their firearms in conjunction with their horses. On this
vital technical matter he writes throughout from a purely speculative
standpoint, without a single allusion to the American technical
methods, much less to the methods of our own and the Boer mounted
riflemen of 1899-1902.

We must add in fairness that the General seems to be conscious that a
war half a century old cannot be implicitly relied on for instruction,
and he concludes his historical remarks, therefore, by the depressing
conclusion that "there remains, then, nothing for us--with no practical
war experience to go on--but to create the groundwork of our methods of
training from theoretical and speculative reflection."

On this question of the most instructive war for Cavalry study Sir
John French preserves an eloquent silence. He dismisses South Africa
and Manchuria, but he does not echo the recommendation as to America.
Thereby hangs a tale. For years before the South African War, for
years before von Bernhardi was heard of in England, the ablest
military historian of our time, the late Colonel Henderson, had been
dinning the moral of America into the ears of our Cavalry authorities,
without producing the smallest effect. His prophecies were abundantly
justified--more than justified, for he wrote on the basis of the rifle
of 1865, and the rifle of 1899 totally eliminated the shock-tactics
which were still practicable in 1865. He died in 1902, before the Boer
War was over, but in one of the last essays written before his death
he told the Cavalry that shock was extinct. "Critics of the Cavalry
work in South Africa," he says, "do not seem to have realized that the
small bore and smokeless powder have destroyed the last vestiges of the
traditional rôle of Cavalry" ("Science of War," p. 376).

It can be readily understood, therefore, that to refer our Cavalry of
the present day to Colonel Henderson's brilliant and learned writings
upon the American Civil War, would be a course highly dangerous to the
interests of the lance and sword. Sir John French confines himself
to urging his subalterns to read such "acknowledged authorities" as
Sir Evelyn Wood and General von Bernhardi. But why is Sir Evelyn Wood
singled out? Eminent as he is, he has not the requisite modern war
experience. Why not Lord Roberts, who has, and who is the only living
British officer with a European reputation? General von Bernhardi
himself has not been on active service since 1870, when he served
as a Lieutenant in the war against France. Sir John French will not
advance the cause of the _arme blanche_ in that way. He cannot stifle
knowledge by an index. He need not agree with Lord Roberts, but to
ignore him when speaking of "acknowledged authorities," to accuse
him by implication of making "appeals from ignorance to vanity," is
unworthy of Sir John French. If he believes in his cause, let him urge
the Cavalry to hear both sides; it can do no harm. For my part, I would
most strongly urge every Cavalry soldier to read von Bernhardi and Sir
John French.


To return to the book under discussion. Is it possible to gain
from it any clear and definite idea of the respective functions
and the relative importance of the rifle and the lance and sword
as weapons for Cavalry? Unfortunately, no. We have to deal with
hazy generalizations scattered over the whole volume, each with its
qualification somewhere else. It is true that warnings against the
use of the steel greatly preponderate; and although, by selecting
quotations from various chapters, each party to our controversy could
easily claim the General as an adherent to his cause, the advocates of
the rifle could certainly amass more favourable texts. The following
passage might almost be regarded as conclusive--"We must be resolute
in freeing ourselves from those old-fashioned knightly combats, which
have in reality become obsolete owing to the necessities of modern
war" (p. 111)--if its teaching were not weakened by such a maxim
as this: "The crowning-point of all drill and of the whole tactical
training is the charge itself, as on it depends the final result of
the battle" (p. 325). But let us get closer to his actual argument.
The reader should carefully study pp. 101 to 105, where, under the
heading "B.--The Action of Cavalry" and sub-heading "1.--General," the
author discusses in close detail the action of "Cavalry in the fight."
The reader may wonder why he should have to wait till the hundredth
page for this discussion. With the exception of some introductory
pages, whose general sense, on the question of weapons, is against
the lance and sword, the greater part of the first hundred pages are
devoted to "Reconnaissance, Screening, and Raids," functions none of
which, least of all the third, can be performed without fighting, or
at least the risk of fighting, while fighting cannot be performed
without weapons. The reason probably is that the author, in arranging
his scheme, instinctively tended, like all Cavalry writers, to regard
reconnaissance as a sphere where Cavalry can confidently rely on
meeting only Cavalry of exactly the same stamp as themselves, and where
combats will as a matter of course be decided in the old knightly
fashion by charges with steel.

Such a state of things has no resemblance to real war. Raids, for
example, are invariably levelled against fixed points and stationary
detachments. The author himself is acutely aware of this truth, as
we shall see hereafter; but the postponement of the topic of weapons
until the middle of the book is typical of the confused arrangement of
the whole, a confusion attributable to the ubiquity of the rifle in
all combats and the insuperable difficulty of supposing it to be an
inferior weapon to the steel.

It is impossible, therefore, to adhere strictly to the order in which
the author arranges his treatise. I shall begin with the general
chapter just referred to, and proceed, as far as possible, according to
his own order from that point onwards.

First of all, he finds it necessary to reject the plan of "dividing
tactical principles according to the idea of the pre-arranged battle
and the battle of encounter," a course which gives one an insight into
the lifeless pedantry he has had to combat in the branch of military
science he has made his own. Unfortunately, his own classification,
so far as it bears upon weapons, is little better. He distinguishes
the "great battle," in which "the fighting is always of a pre-arranged
nature," from "the fight of the independent Cavalry," where "it is
possible to distinguish between an encounter and an arranged affair."
This is vague enough, but what follows is vaguer. One infers that
there is to be little or no shock in the "great battle," where the
Cavalry "must conform to the law of other arms in great matters and
small." And then he goes on: "But the fight is deeply influenced even
in the former case [_i.e._, in the combats of the independent Cavalry]
by the co-operation of these other arms, and I believe that only in
exceptional cases will a purely Cavalry combat take place--at all
events, on a large scale. When squadrons, regiments, and perhaps even
brigades, _unassisted by other arms_, come into collision with one
another, the charge may often suffice for a decision. But where it
is an affair of large masses, it will never be possible to dispense
with the co-operation of firearms, and in most cases a combination of
Cavalry combat, of dismounted fighting, and Artillery action, will

What lies behind this ambiguous language, which, remember, is the
outcome of pure "speculation"? What principle is he trying to express?
Let us proceed: "We must not conceal from ourselves the fact that in a
future war it will be by no means always a matter of choice whether we
will fight mounted or dismounted. _Rather by himself seizing the rifle
will the opponent be able to compel us to adopt dismounted action._ On
our manoeuvre grounds the charge on horseback is always the order of
the day, as against Artillery or machine-guns. The umpires continually
allow such attacks to succeed, and the troops ride on as if nothing had
happened. Equally fearless of consequences, do they expose themselves
to rifle-fire; but there are no bullets. In real war it is different."

It is needless to point out that the words I have italicized destroy
the whole case for the steel. They are an admission of the true
principle that the rifle governs combat, whether the rifle is used
by men with horses or men without horses. It is characteristic of
the author that he cannot bring himself in this perilous context
in set words to include Cavalry among those who "seize the rifle";
but the words themselves imply it, for we do not speak of Infantry
"seizing the rifle." At a later point the author is a little bolder
in the development of his meaning. "Our probable opponents, too,
will certainly often advance dismounted. At all events, they are
endeavouring to strengthen Cavalry divisions by cyclist battalions and
Infantry, _and perhaps by Mounted Infantry_, and thereby already show
a remarkable inclination to conduct the fight, even of Cavalry, with
the firearm, and only to use their horses as a means of mobility, as
was the custom of the Boers in South Africa"--and he might, of course,
add, of the British mounted riflemen and of the British Cavalry. If
only the author, who has advanced thus far on the path of common
sense, would just for one experimental moment assume an open mind on
the question of the steel, assume that it may perhaps be not merely
partially, but wholly obsolete, and study the Boer War with real care
from that point of view! He evidently thinks there is something in
this idea of using horses as a means of mobility and the rifle as the
operative weapon. He expressly warns his Cavalry that their probable
enemy is showing ominous signs of adopting this system, and that their
adoption of it will force the German Cavalry to conform.

Now mark that magical word "mobility." It is the germ of a new idea,
a faint effort to escape from the dupery of phrases. Hitherto he has
always spoken of "dismounted action" as distinguished from "mounted" or
"Cavalry" combat. These phrases are always used by Cavalry theorists.
They take the place of argument, implying as they do that the use of
the rifle reduces horsemen to the condition of Infantry, robbing them
of mobility and all that glamour of dash and vigour which illuminates
the mounted arm. The truth lies in the contrary direction. Without
rifle power Cavalry lose all effective mobility. They can ride about
_in vacuo_, so to speak; but directly they enter the zone of rifle-fire
they are paralyzed, unless they can use their horses and their rifles
in effective combination. Then they can do what they please. Then,
if necessary, they can even charge mounted, though that function is
no more inseparably associated with their action than the charge at
the double is inseparably associated with the action of Infantry. But
is it not somewhat ludicrous to describe as "dismounted action," in
contradistinction to "mounted action," a charge which ends, as the Boer
charges ended, within point-blank or decisive range of the enemy and
culminates in a murderously decisive fire-attack?

The worst of it is that General von Bernhardi will not analyze his
own warnings and suggestions and see what they really lead him to. He
appears to see in these troublesome hordes of "cyclists" and "Mounted
Infantry" who menace the old order of things and are forcing Cavalry
to conform to fire by fire, only auxiliaries to the orthodox Cavalry.
But Cavalry themselves carry the very weapon which is promoting the
revolution; nor should any self-respecting, properly trained Cavalry
need to fortify itself from these external sources. At a later stage I
shall have to show, from our own Mounted Infantry Manual, how grotesque
are the results obtained by the theoretical co-operation of steel and
fire in two different types of troops.

And Sir John French? He has read these passages, and with one word
of manly pride in the war experience of his own countrymen, home and
colonial--experience bought at terrible cost, and not without bitter
humiliation, in three years of "real war"--he could set the speculative
German author right, illuminate the tortuous paths in which his
reason strays. So far from taking this course, he proves himself more
reactionary than his foreign colleague; for the reader will see at once
that the spirit of passages quoted above is quite different from the
spirit of Sir John French's Introduction. Von Bernhardi is alarmed by
the prospect of meeting mounted riflemen who, as he knows and expressly
admits, will impose upon his Cavalry fire-tactics of which they are
contemptuously ignorant. He is alarmed at the prospect of the hostile
Cavalry themselves "conducting the fight with the firearm." Sir John
French, as I have shown, believes, and says, that our mounted riflemen
and our Cavalry, if they act as such, will "become the prey of the
first foreign Cavalry they meet," running defenceless and helpless
from the field. This is an example of the way in which Cavalry science
proceeds, and it is a wonder that collaborators of the eminence of
General von Bernhardi and General Sir John French do not see the humour
of the thing, to use no stronger expression.

One watches with amusement the process by which the German author
endeavours to soften the shock of the revelations he has just made to
a Cavalry acutely sensitive about its ancient traditions. One of his
plans, here and in many other parts of the book, is to play with the
words "offence" and "defence," which, as I pointed out in commenting
on Sir John French's Introduction, have such a strangely perverse
influence on the Cavalry mind. "It lies deeply embedded in human
nature," he says (p. 105), "that he who feels himself the weaker will
act on the defensive"; and on the next page: "In general, it may be
relied upon that defence will be carried out according to tactical
defensive principles, and that with the firearm." Here is another
example (italicized by me): "Mounted, the Cavalry knows only the
charge, and has no defensive power, _a circumstance which strengthens
it in carrying out its offensive principles by relieving its leader
of the onus of choice_" (p. 113). Observe the idea suggested by
these passages--namely, that the rifle is only a defensive weapon.
Subtle indirect flattery of those who carry those terrible weapons
of "offence," the lance and sword! But, alas! what he calls the
"offensive spirit" must accept the terms imposed by the baser weapon.
"It requires an enormous amount of moral strength," he says, "to
maintain the _offensive spirit_, even after an unfavourable conflict,
and continually to invoke the ultimate decision anew." There is a
romantic atmosphere about this which might appeal to his hearers.
Spent with charges, brilliant, but perhaps not wholly successful, they
must resign themselves eventually to more sober, if less "knightly,"
methods. But this is not what he really means. He has just said that
even in combats of the independent Cavalry the shock-charge will occur
only "in exceptional cases." The probable opponents are to "_advance_
dismounted"--in other words, to _attack_ dismounted. This, he warns the
Cavalry, will necessitate fire-action on their part. Why talk, then,
about "relief from the onus of choice"? What is to happen when both
sides are at grips on terms of fire? Is there a mutual deadlock, both
remaining in "defence"? In that case there would be no battles and no
necessity to go to war at all. Surely the common sense of the matter
is that the rifle rules tactics, and that, _ceteris paribus_, the best
riflemen will attack and win.

At heart the General believes this--his whole book is a witness to
this fact--but how can he expect to get his beliefs accepted if he
continually stultifies those beliefs by soothing ambiguities about the
"offensive spirit"? Nor does he confine himself to ambiguity. Take a
passage like this from p. 19, at the very outset of his chapter on
"Reconnaissance, Screening, and Raids": "The very essence of Cavalry
lies in the offensive. Mounted, it is incapable of tactical defence,
_but in order to defend itself_, must surrender its real character as a
mounted arm, and seize the rifle on foot." (The italics are mine.)

Conceive the mental chaos which can produce an expression of an opinion
like this at the beginning of a work designed to reform the backward
German Cavalry. Here, stated in formal, precise terms, is the very
doctrine upon which that Cavalry works; which, as the author himself
a hundred times assures us, is the source of all its "antiquated
assumptions" and of its total unpreparedness for real war. The framers
of the Regulations have only to point to this passage, and then, with
perfect justice, to consign all the General's tirades first to mockery
and then to oblivion. Sir John French, again more reactionary than his
German confrère, seizes on this passage, to the exclusion of all which
contradict it, and triumphantly produces his own analogous formula. To
neglect the steel, he says, is to "invert the rôle of Cavalry, and turn
it into a defensive arm."

While Sir John French sticks to his point, and elaborates it even
to the implicit denial of an offensive spirit to Infantry, General
von Bernhardi is perfectly conscious of the absurdity of maintaining
that it is only "in order to defend itself" that Cavalry "seize the
rifle" on foot. We obtain, perhaps, the best insight into his method
of reasoning in A II. ("Attack and Defence"). On p. 112 he says that
Cavalry should "endeavour to preserve their mobility in the fight,
and that mounted shock-action, _therefore_, should be regarded as its
proper rôle in battle." This quotation is an excellent one for the
advocates of the steel, but it would reduce to impotence any Cavalry
which acted upon it. And we ask immediately, what is the sense of
calling shock the "proper rôle" of Cavalry, when, according to the
author himself, it is only to be used in exceptional cases, even in
fights of the independent Cavalry, and when riflemen, who advance
dismounted, can render it impracticable? Why not say at once that the
proper or normal rôle of Cavalry is fire-action, and the exceptional
or abnormal rôle shock-action?

The fallacy, of course, lies in the word I have italicized,
"therefore," implying that mounted action and shock-action are
synonymous, and that there is no mounted action without shock-action.
It is natural enough that the author should turn his back on South
Africa and Manchuria when he has to maintain such a proposition as
this; but how does he reconcile it even with the facts of the American
Civil War, which he holds up as the most valuable guide to modern
Cavalry? Stuart, Sheridan, Wilson, and the other great leaders, would
have laughed at it, and they used wretchedly imperfect firearms. They
rode just as far and to just as good purpose whether they used the
firearm or the steel, and they fought to win, with whatever weapon was
the best weapon at the moment.

The General himself expresses the right idea when he says in another
passage "that it is not a question whether Cavalrymen should fight
mounted or dismounted, but whether they are prepared and determined to
take their share in the decision of an encounter, and to employ the
whole of their strength _and mobility_ to that end." That is plain
common sense; but how is he to get it acted upon by a Cavalry to whom
the very idea is strange if he calls shock the "proper rôle" of
Cavalry, and contrasts the "offensive spirit" inherent in it with the
defensive use of the rifle?

Yet he redeems the rifle handsomely enough in numbers of other
passages. "It must be kept in view," he says on p. 113, "that it is the
_offensive_ on foot that the Cavalry will require," and he condemns
the Regulation which inculcates the opposite principle and deals with
the fire-fight only as a method of action from which Cavalry "need not
shrink." He shakes his head gravely over the ominous suggestion in the
same Regulation that cyclists and Infantry in waggons are to be added
to the Army Cavalry, in order, by fire, to "overcome local resistance."
In a flash of insight he perceives the possibility of those heretical
Mounted Infantry masquerading as the hostile Cavalry, and necessitating
cyclists and Infantry in waggons to dislodge them before the "knightly
combats" can be brought about. "It is a matter of significance,"
he solemnly observes, "that Infantry in waggons may be detailed to
accompany the strategic Army Cavalry." There will soon be a demand,
he prophesies, "for Infantry from the Army Cavalry when there is any
question of a serious attack on foot, and herewith the free action of
the Cavalry will be limited once and for all." Is there no lesson from
South Africa here?

The fact is that the kind of thing he fears happened from the first,
and continued to happen until the Cavalry abandoned steel weapons
and became mounted riflemen. During the first year of the war there
was no independent Cavalry force operating strategically without
the assistance of mounted riflemen. There could not have been,
because the fire-power of the Cavalry was insufficient, and there
is and can be no independence in modern war without a high degree
of fire-power. Cavalry leaders usually asked also for the tactical
assistance of mounted riflemen. The theory, surviving even now in the
current manuals, was that those troops were to form a "pivot" for the
shock-action of Cavalry. The theory, of course, was exploded from the
first, and sometimes the mounted riflemen became the most effective and
mobile portion of the composite force. Mounted riflemen were a truly
independent Arm. They never asked for the assistance of Cavalry on the
ground that Cavalry carried steel weapons. The rifle was all they cared
about, and they had good rifles of their own, while the Cavalry had bad
carbines. The only big independent Cavalry enterprise during the first
year of the war--the divisional march across the Eastern Transvaal in
October, 1900--was a fiasco. The Cavalry formed but an escort to their
own transport, and developed no offensive power.

Von Bernhardi, just now thoroughly in his fire-mood, strongly condemns
the theory of dependence on other Arms, which will "tie the Cavalry"
to the very troops from which they expect support. "The army Cavalry,
then, can only preserve its independence if it can rely upon its own
strength even in an attack on foot." He goes on to criticize Regulation
No. 456, which lays down that "Cavalry must endeavour to bring
dismounted attacks to a conclusion with the utmost rapidity, so that
they may regain their mobility at the earliest possible moment." The
regulation, which has its counterpart in the British Manual, indeed,
is laughable to anyone who has seen modern war. Troopers who spend 90
per cent. of their time on exercises with the steel will necessarily
attack badly, clumsily, and slowly on foot, and it is a cruel jest to
tell them to attack quickly and brilliantly. In a fire-contest the best
riflemen will attack the quickest and do the best.

But the General wastes his breath in scolding the Regulations. They are
more logical than he is, because they do not seriously contemplate this
derogatory work of fire. He says, indeed, that unnaturally accelerated
attacks on foot by men who do not know how to attack on foot only
succeed in peace, and will "lead inevitably to defeat in war," and that
to set a time limit to a fire-attack is absurd; but by interspersing
qualifying phrases about loss of mobility and loss of time he himself
nullifies his own warnings. "The result of an attack on foot," he
says (p. 116), "must, of course, justify the lives expended and the
time occupied, _which must both be regarded as lost in estimating
the further operative value of the force_." Men who read that will
say: "Why waste time at all, then?" It is in flagrant contradiction,
of course, with his previously expressed principle that hostile
fire imposes fire-action on Cavalry; that there is no choice; that,
whether they like it or not, they _must_ engage in this rôle, which,
nevertheless, is not their "proper rôle." The clue to the confusion, as
always, is his view, founded on mere word-play, that mounted action is
unthinkable without shock with steel weapons.

At the end of this section on "Attack and Defence" he continues to play
into the hands of the framers of the Regulations which he denounces.
Here is an immortal phrase: "The same holds good of the defence.
_Cavalry will only undertake this when absolutely obliged._" This is
the kind of maxim which one finds scattered broadcast through Cavalry
literature--as if there could be any offence without defence, between
or against whatever classes of soldiers. Fancy telling Infantry or
Artillery in so many words that they should only undertake defence when
absolutely obliged! And yet they are just as much offensive Arms as
Cavalry, and by the light of historical facts during the last century a
great deal more so.

I need not go into the reason again. The General is in his steel-mood,
and is unconsciously limiting offence to the steel weapons. The next
instant he is in his fire-mood, pointing out that, however much Cavalry
in defence may yearn once more for "free movement" (he means shock),
they must be prepared on occasion to defend themselves--_i.e._,
with fire--to the last man. And he very aptly illustrates from the
Manchurian War (which at an earlier point he had said to be without
interest for Cavalry), pointing to the stubborn defence of Sandepu by a
Japanese Cavalry Brigade. We cannot help wishing that Sir John French
would quote and confirm an opinion like this, flatly contradicted
though it is a little later,[2] and use his influence to erase from
our own Cavalry Manual (p. 215) that disastrous injunction that the
defences of a position which Cavalry have to hold should be "limited to
those of the simplest kind."

If the words "attack" and "defence" have a fatal fascination for both
the German and the British authors, General von Bernhardi is equally
influenced by another verbal formula, and that is "the combination
of Cavalry combat" (or, what is the same thing to him, mounted
combat--that is, shock-combat) "with dismounted fighting." "The rôle
of Cavalry in the fight will then apparently consist," he says on
page 106, "of a combination of the various methods of fighting."
It is a tempting formula, tempting by its very vagueness, and
calculated on that account to appeal, perhaps, to the less hopelessly
conservative German Cavalry officers; but it remains throughout his
book literally a formula. How the thing is to be done in practice,
how shock is to be "combined" with fire, he never attempts, even from
a speculative point of view, to explain. It may sound perhaps easy
enough. In the war of 1861-1865, which he professes to take as his
model, it undoubtedly was possible, if by no means easy. But times
have changed. The modern rifle, whose profound influence on combat he
admits, has made impossible the old formations. In his own phrase,
it has revolutionized war. It enforces a degree of extension which
renders impracticable those sudden transformations to close mass which
alone can lead to shock, while the zone of danger it creates is so
far-reaching that these mass formations on horseback cannot subsist.
The conditions which used to permit leaders to resolve on shock have
vanished. The fire-zone used to be so limited that bodies of Cavalry
could hang on its outer limit, and seize the rare opportunities which
might arise for a short gallop ending in shock. Now we have to deal
with artillery and rifles of immense range and deadliness. And if
by a miracle you do get into close quarters in your mass formation,
you find--crowning disillusionment!--nothing solid on which to exert
shock. You used to find it a century ago, because men used to fight in
close order, but science has altered that. However, that point does
not immediately arise from the question of "combination." The narrow
issue there is how to effect the transition from fire to shock, and
there is not a word in this volume to elucidate the point. There is
not a word in our own Cavalry Manual. The thing has never been done in
modern war. The combination of shock and fire tactics is an academical
speculation. What we know is that shock has failed, and that the
open-order rifle-charge, which has superseded the shock-charge, is
evolved naturally from the fire-fight. You must, in the words of Lord
Roberts, fight up to the charge, if charge there be; but you can win,
as Infantry can win, without any mounted charge at all.


[Footnote 2: See _infra_, pp. 122-123.]




("_Das rein reiterliche Gefecht._")

THESE two sections which I have been criticizing will give the reader
a general idea of the way in which von Bernhardi regards the action of
Cavalry in modern war, and of the perplexities which beset him through
mingling of the old philosophy and the new. Let us follow him through
subsequent sections of head B ("Action of Cavalry"). The third section
deals with "Cavalry in combat against the various Arms, mounted and
dismounted," and he first deals with what he calls the "purely Cavalry
fight," which he now assumes to be a fight with the steel against other
Cavalry. We must remember that if either side elects to use the rifle;
or if the ground is unsuitable (and on page 201 he argues at length
that "possible European theatres of war are but little suitable for
charges," and that suitable areas are only found in peace by deliberate
selection); or if either side, from numerical weakness or choice, is
acting on the "defensive" (defence with the steel being _ex hypothesi_
impossible), this steel combat will not take place.

Under the circumstances it seems scarcely worth while to talk about it,
but let us waive that objection. We at once become impressed with a
very remarkable fact--namely, that after all the centuries, extending
far back into the mists of time, during which the mounted steel-combat
has been used, its most learned and enthusiastic advocates cannot at
this day agree upon the elementary rules for its conduct. Observe that
I am excluding the modifications caused by missile weapons. Following
the author, I am assuming a combat between two bodies of Cavalry who
decline to use their firearms, and mutually agree to collide with
steel weapons on horseback, outside the zone of fire, on a piece of
level ground without physical obstruction. For this type of combat the
conditions are the same as in the year one. The three factors--horse,
man, and steel weapon--have undergone no appreciable change, and by
this time the rules ought to be fixed. Yet we find the General at once
falling into tirades against erroneous systems, and bitterly denouncing
the Regulations of his own Army.

"The lance," we learn on page 267, "is the Cavalryman's most important
weapon," yet the drill laid down for the lance the author declares to
be worthless. "No one would fight in this manner in war; how this is
to be done our men are not really taught." What a confession after all
these ages, from the Crusades onwards! And if the lance is really the
most important weapon, and if Sir John French really believes, as he
says he believes, in the infallibility of General von Bernhardi, why
has he not seen to it that all British Cavalry regiments are armed
with lances? It would seem to be mad folly to permit our Hussars to
go into battle destitute of their "most important weapon." But let us
look a little closer into the characteristics of this terrible weapon.
On page 175 we learn that "in the close turmoil of the fight it is
very difficult to handle with success, besides which it easily becomes
unserviceable on striking an object too heavily. Should it pierce a
body at the full speed of a horse's gallop, it will generally bend on
being drawn out (if, indeed, the rider in his haste extricates it at
all), and then becomes unserviceable." So there must be a sword also,
which is to be drawn, apparently, on the instant after the impalement
of the first hostile horseman. Our own authorities take a brighter
view. In their Manual the trooper is bidden to impale the foe through
and through with his lance, but he is to "withdraw it with ease from
the object into which it has been driven." On the other hand, the
object in question is to be represented in peace by a sack filled with
chopped hay or a clay dummy, neither of them objects of a texture quite
adequate to the purpose (see "Cavalry Training," pp. 309-310).

It is almost cruel to lift the veil from these domestic mysteries and
differences, and, indeed, I am almost afraid my readers will suspect me
of quoting, not from eulogies, but from skits on the _arme blanche_.
But the words are there for anyone who cares to look them up, and
I ask, is not it almost inconceivable that serious soldiers in the
year of grace 1911, when war is a really serious matter of scientific
weapons, should solemnly call a weapon with such characteristics the
most important weapon of the Cavalryman? Needless to say, the author
himself refutes his own proposition in a hundred passages of this
very work. But Sir John French ignores those passages, and in his
own Introduction pens a warm defence of the lance; though whether he
believes in the "pin-prick policy" which the German authority seems
to advocate, or in the plan of "striking the object heavily" at all
costs, he does not inform us. After all, it matters little. The
taxpayer need not quail at the expense of providing fresh lances to
every regiment after every charge. The rest of the world looks on with
languid interest while the Cavalry authorities carry on their solemn
controversies as to the relative merits of steel weapons used from
horseback. Even in the Franco-German War the killing effect of lances
and swords was negligible. Six Germans were killed by the sabre, and
perhaps as many by the lance. Of the total of 218 German casualties
from the sabre and clubbed musket, 138 were in the Cavalry, whose total
losses by fire and steel combined were 2,236. In the great civilized
wars since the invention of the smokeless magazine rifle the casualties
from lance and sword have reached vanishing-point.

But if lances and swords are harmless to the enemy, they are
emphatically harmful to those who carry them. They not only inspire the
wrong spirit, but they mean extra weight and additional visibility. Sir
John French (p. xvi) cheerfully defies physical laws. He scouts the
idea that "a thin bamboo pole will reveal the position of a mounted
man to the enemy." That is one of the fond illusions of peace. And
in peace even a short-sighted layman could prove the contrary by
ocular demonstration, and digest the moral, too, by watching Lancers
operating among the lanes and hedges of England. In war there are
field-glasses--and bullets.

It is the same with tactics as with weapons. The German author is for
the knee-to-knee riding of Frederick the Great, as opposed to the
looser stirrup-to-stirrup riding which has been introduced because
"the modern firearm obliges us to take refuge in broken country, where
the closest touch cannot always be kept." A pretty sound reason, we
should imagine, but the General will have none of it, and I think
this passage is the only one in the book where he disagrees with
the Regulations in the matter of a concession to the modern rifle.
Generally it is the other way, and, indeed, it is a most bizarre
paradox to hear him calling upon the shades of "Frederick the Great,
Seydlitz, and the prominent Napoleonic leaders," after saying at the
beginning of the book that the wars of these heroes "presented a total
absence of analogy" to modern Cavalry students. Reverting suddenly to
common sense, he goes on to denounce the rally from the mêlée, which
all Cavalry, including our own, assiduously practise in peace. The
motive for this wonderful manoeuvre is "that troops may quickly be got
in hand ready to be led against a fresh foe." "It is astounding," he
complains, "that we should give way to such self-deception." Rallies
are "delightfully easy in peace," but an "absolute impossibility in

The troops who have charged are apparently to be useless for any
purpose whatever for an indefinite period, and strong supporting
squadrons immediately behind them must carry on the fight. But the
new Regulations do not allow for these supports. What do they enjoin?
We are not told here, and have to look in another part of the book
under "Depth and Echelon" (p. 221 _et seq._), when, calling once
more upon Frederick the Great and Napoleon, he attacks in unmeasured
terms, as the offspring of mere "peace requirements," the German
system of echelon formation, which leads to "tactical orgies" at
manoeuvres. Echelon apparently is designed to permit of easy changes of
front, but in war the opportunity for such changes "never--literally
never--occurs." And yet somehow we sympathize with the framers of the
Regulations. Read their inimitable disquisition on echelon, quoted as
a footnote on page 224. "In the collisions of Cavalry" there is going
to be "uncertainty as to the strength and intentions of the enemy."
But Cavalry acting against Cavalry (supposing, we wonder, they turn
out _not_ to be Cavalry?) never demean themselves by dismounting to
reconnoitre. They reconnoitre for one another in mass, and gain
the necessary "flexibility" by echelon--if need be, by a double
echelon. When they find the enemy, they can at the last moment, if
necessary, change front completely, and have at them. "If this did
occur," says the General, "it would presuppose the entire failure of
reconnaissance, and the corresponding incapacity of the leader." He
proceeds to a pitiless exposure of the puerilities and unrealities of
the system; but, to tell the truth, the exposure excites only a feeble
interest. Insensibly he trenches on the realms of fire, and immediately
stultifies his own appeals to Frederick the Great and Napoleon.
After pages of obscure lucubration about Cavalry combat, he suddenly
envisages (p. 230) what is, of course, the invariable case, when "total
uncertainty prevails as to whether the combat will be carried out
mounted or dismounted," and says that in such cases there can be no
"stereotyped tactical formations either of units or of smaller bodies
within them." "Cadit quæstio," we exclaim, with relief. Why appeal to
Frederick the Great?

In "Formations for Movement" (pp. 232-238) he continues his unconscious
_reductio ad absurdum_ of shock. "Movements in such close formation
right up to the moment of deployment" (and he describes those enjoined
by the Regulations) "cannot go unpunished upon a modern battle-field."
The Regulations "cannot be regarded as practical," and are "pretexts
for hidebound drill enthusiasts." It is all very well, but these
hidebound gentlemen are perfectly right in their own way. They are
following his own models, Frederick the Great and Napoleon, in whose
days such movements were perfectly possible. They _believe_ in shock
and minimize fire, and their Regulations, if unpractical, are at least


So much for the "purely Cavalry fight." We come on page 128 to the
mounted charge upon dismounted riflemen, whom, in the manner usual
with Cavalry writers, he assumes to be Infantry, though it is obvious,
of course, that they may be unconventional Cavalry, who, from a sense
of fun or a sane instinct for fighting, have determined to play a
practical joke on devotees of the pure faith. Here both he and the
Regulations are up to a certain point in harmony with one another. As
a concession to modern conditions, the charge is to be in _extended
order_. Here the General has changed his views since writing "Cavalry
in Future Wars." There the principles of Frederick the Great were
supreme in all charges, with just a faint concession towards a
"loosening of the files" in a charge against Infantry. Now "wide
intervals" are to be employed. Sir John French ignores the change of
view on an absolutely vital point of tactics, but allows us to infer
that he, one of the very men who saw the imperative necessity for the
new view, favours the old view; for he described von Bernhardi's first
book as absolutely complete and faultless. To return, however, to the
German author. It is amazing that, having reached this point, he should
not trouble to investigate the phenomena of modern war with a view
to finding out what actually happens in an extended change of this
sort. He writes in the clouds, just as though there were not a mass of
experience bearing on the point.

The experience, which a child can understand, amounts to this: If you
extend, and, _a fortiori_, if your enemy is extended also, you lose all
hope of "shock," that is, of physical impact; and with the loss of this
impact you lose the fundamental condition precedent to the successful
use of steel weapons on horseback--the condition which Frederick the
Great's leaders had, but which ours have not. You also lose momentum,
speed, because the modern rifle, by immensely widening the bullet-swept
zone, necessitates a far longer gallop for the charging force. The
German Regulations realize this, for they enjoin a slower pace,
expressly on the ground that "impact" is not to be aimed at. Very
well: no shock; comparatively low speed. What is going to happen? Your
steel charge is useless. Individual troopers, bound by their code of
honour to remain in the saddle, and pitted against individual riflemen
on foot, are helpless, an object of derision to gods and men. Our own
Infantry Manual openly treats them as helpless and negligible, and in
a few curt lines gives directions, proved in war to be sound, for the
event of such a charge, should it take place.

But, in fact, it does not take place. Our Cavalry in South Africa had
literally thousands of chances of making such charges, supposing that
they were feasible. But they were not; instinctively the leaders felt
that they were not, and ceased to think of making them. At the time
when, if ever, any given leader should have made up his mind to charge,
he was, unfortunately, as a general rule, in that condition of painful
"uncertainty as to the strength and intentions of the enemy," to which
the German Regulations allude. He could not, in the German fashion,
ride about in mass to reconnoitre, because the Boers, perversely
refusing to believe in the tactics of Frederick the Great, did not
co-operate in the game. He had, therefore, the choice between idleness
and fire-action. He chose fire-action, and once engaged in fire-action,
he found that he had to stick to it. It was physically impossible to
"combine" fire-action and steel-action, even if there had been an
opening for steel-action, which there was not. That is the whole story,
and Sir John French, if he chose, could tell General von Bernhardi all
about it.

I believe Sir John French himself never saw a Boer or British mounted
riflemen's charge, but he ought to know the evidence on the point;
it is extensive and precise.[3] It goes to show that it is sometimes
possible, even against the modern rifle, to charge in widely extended
order, even at a canter, and even into close quarters, on horseback;
but it can be done only by fighting up to the charge in the normal
way of fire-action, and by casting to the winds the ancient notion
that it is beneath a trooper to dismount. Sooner or later he has _got_
to dismount, so as to use effective aimed fire against the riflemen
opposed to him. They will not mind his sword, whose range is a couple
of yards, while their weapon is of any range you please, and squirts
bullets like a hose.

Frederick the Great's Infantry firearm was another matter. Even in
1861-1865, as von Bernhardi would discover if he cared to look close
enough into his own chosen war, steel-charges by Cavalry against
Infantry eventually became extinct. The Confederate Infantry used to
jeer at the futile efforts of the Federal Cavalry.

Needless to say, the German Regulations only touch the fringe of what
is practicable. It is only the leading line, they lay down, and not
necessarily the whole even of that, which is to adopt wide intervals.
Von Bernhardi easily shows the folly of these half-measures, and of the
"arbitrary assumption that a line of Cavalry 1,500 or 2,000 yards wide
can cross a mile of country stirrup to stirrup at the regulation pace
of the charge" (p. 128).


We pass to the dismounted attack by Cavalry, and the reader will
realize now, if he has not before, that it is due to unfamiliarity
with the technique and true possibilities of fire-action that the
General clings to the discredited tactics of Frederick the Great in
defiance of his professed enthusiasm for the rifle. For the dismounted
attack by Cavalry, "the principles," he says, "are the same as for an
attack by Infantry" (p. 133). But the led horses render the business
"considerably more difficult." "There is also a certain difference
according as the opponent is Cavalry or Infantry"; for in the former
case he may charge your led horses. It is here and in the pages which
follow that the reader can get the clearest insight into the mental
attitude of Cavalrymen towards that arbiter of modern war, the rifle.

All turns on the magical word "Cavalry," which derives its significance
from the _arme blanche_. Those weapons give Cavalry their "proper
rôle." If under stress of fire they "abandon" this rôle, they become
Infantry; but they are worse off than Infantry, because they are
embarrassed by their led horses, which present difficulties from which
Infantry are free. The horse becomes a danger and an encumbrance,
just as Sir John French tacitly assumes it to become, when he says
that mounted riflemen always flee defenceless before good Cavalry,
while Infantry show "tenacity and stiffness." No wonder, then, that
Cavalrymen grow indignant at the criticism of their steel weapons. It
is bad enough to be converted into a hybrid between good Cavalry and
bad Infantry, but it is worse still to undergo a metamorphosis into a
pure type of bad Infantry, that is, into mounted riflemen.

If we once grasp this point of view, we bring light into this tangled
controversy, and we can bring into sharp contrast the rational point
of view, as the facts of war demonstrate it. We perceive instantly
the falsity of the antithesis between the weapon and the horse. The
mounted rifleman is a foot rifleman plus a horse, and the horse is not
an embarrassing encumbrance, but a source of enhanced power. It is
the intrusion of the steel weapons, not the intrusion of the horses,
which introduces "difficulties." Witness von Bernhardi's own scathing
exposure of the German Regulations for combat with the steel.

Space forbids me to follow him far into his remarks upon his bugbear,
the led horses. There are probably about 150,000 persons now living
who, by war experience, know more than he does about this purely
technical question; yet he spins feverish dreams about it out of his
own brain, without a glance at the rich and varied material provided
by three years of war in South Africa; without a glance at Manchuria,
where the Japanese Cavalry converted themselves into excellent
mounted riflemen; without a glance even at the American methods of
1861-1865, where the problems that worry him were successfully solved.
As usual, he has no difficulty in exposing the absurdities of the
Regulations, but his own comments and suggestions are sometimes even
less admissible. Behind the incubus of the horse we perceive that
additional incubus, the lance. He pictures the unhappy horse-holders
wrestling ("a practical impossibility") with armfuls of lances, as the
Regulations bid them (p. 137), and concludes that if you are to make
these men guardians, not only of the horses, but of these precious
but exacting impedimenta, it will not do to detail only one man out
of four to act as horseholder. On the other hand, if you detach more,
you weaken the firing line so much that the whole business becomes
scarcely worth while. And yet, if you don't weaken the firing line,
how are you to guard the led horses against attack from some other
quarter? They, it appears, must have a complete firing line of their
own. But, disregarding this necessity, the Regulations contemplate
reinforcing the main firing-line from the horse-holders (p. 139), so
making the armfuls of lances still bigger. And then what is to happen
if, in a "real fight," the brigade wants to advance and the Brigadier
is told it can't, because some of the horse-holders are fighting,
and the lance-encumbered remnant cannot move? And so on. He seems,
so far as I understand him, eventually to throw up in despair the
problem of keeping the led horses "mobile," and to fall back on the
plan of "immobility," a plan which he himself in several passages
admits can be used only when there is no likelihood whatever of any
sudden call upon the led horses either for advance or retreat. If the
Regulations, as he says, are "not suitable for real war," neither is
his counsel of despair. The chapter is quite enough to cure the most
liberal-minded Cavalryman of his last lingering inclination towards
fire-action, even though he is told that fire-action _must_ be used
in all but "exceptional cases." "Abandon my proper rôle for this?" he
might answer. "No. My proper rôle is good enough for me, as it was good
enough for Frederick the Great."

There is worse to come; but let me comment here upon the astounding
fact that Sir John French should regard chapters like this as sound
instruction for war. Our Cavalry profess, at any rate, to have now
solved the lance-problem during fire-action by their latest method of
carrying the lance. But that is a minor point. It is the ignorance of,
and pessimism towards, fire-action, as disclosed in this and subsequent
chapters, which ought chiefly to strike English readers. And all Sir
John French has to say is that "we expose our ignorance and conceit" in
accepting the teaching of our own war experience, and that our duty is
to assimilate the best foreign customs.


[Footnote 3: See "War and the _Arme Blanche_," Chapter XI.]




FROM his general remarks on the action of Cavalry, mounted or
dismounted, against the various Arms, mounted or dismounted, the
author passes to "IV.--The Fight of the Independent Cavalry" (p.
141), and the reader almost at once finds himself straying in a fog
caused by the author's refusal to face straightforwardly the simple
dominant fact that "Cavalry" are also riflemen. What does "Independent"
mean? One would naturally assume it to mean what it means in our own
Cavalry's phraseology, the "strategical" Cavalry which operates on a
self-supporting independent basis, as distinguished from the divisional
Cavalry, which is attached to, and dependent on, the various Infantry
divisions. And this is the signification which the author gives to
it in the opening words of the chapter. "Such fights," he says,
"will occur during the offensive reconnaissance of the Cavalry, in
screening, and in enterprises against the enemy's communication and
lines of approach" (that is, in raids), functions which are classified
in the same order in the early part of the book as the normal functions
of the Independent Cavalry, operating, in the first instance at any
rate, against a hostile Independent Cavalry of the same stamp and
vested with corresponding functions. We expect, accordingly, to hear
a great deal about the "purely Cavalry fight," or shock-combat; but,
to our bewilderment, after less than a page of exceedingly obscure
reference to the "exceptional cases," where, owing to the absence
of "other arms," such combats occur, the author proceeds to examine
what he evidently regards as the normal case, "when the co-operation
of other arms can seriously be counted on," and the whole of the
forty-eight pages which follow implicitly assume that other Arms,
whether in the shape of Artillery, Infantry, cyclists, or what he
vaguely calls "partisans," are present. Artillery alone are enough, he
says, to scatter to the winds "purely Cavalry tactical principles,"
and "to set the stamp of fire upon the development of the fight" (p.
144). The unfortunate Cavalry subaltern must feel the ground sinking
under his feet. The book he is studying, "Cavalry in War and Peace,"
is a treatise for Cavalry on purely Cavalry tactical principles,
and yet these principles cease to exist if even Artillery are on the
scene, as in most normal cases it is assumed to be on the scene. Both
in Germany and in England Horse Artillery is a recognized and integral
part of the Independent Cavalry force whose functions the author is
now considering. What is more, rifles are an invariable factor in the
same force, German or English, or, indeed, in any force of Cavalry
of whatever size, and however engaged, because they are carried by
the Cavalry troopers themselves. And rifles, as the author will soon
explain, make still worse havoc of purely Cavalry tactical principles.
In other words, there _are_ no such principles.

We may cut the matter short by merely advising the reader to solve his
perplexities in the succeeding chapters by substituting for the word
"Cavalry," whenever it occurs, the words "mounted riflemen," which,
steel weapons apart, are what Cavalry are. There he will have a key
to most of the contradictions and ambiguities, and can form his own
opinion on the lucidity and force of the injunctions laid down. The
truth is that the General, in speaking of "other arms," really means
not only other Arms of the service (_i.e._, Infantry and Artillery),
but other _weapons_, as distinguished from lances and swords, carried
by Cavalry themselves--that is, _rifles_.

Armed with this clue, let us begin.

We must classify, says the author, with his critical eye on the
Regulations, "for if we take all the various principles evolved from
different tactical situations, and jumble them illogically together,
or discuss them from points of view which are not closely based on
the probable happenings of reality, we run a danger of confusing the
judgment instead of clearing it." He proceeds himself to involve our
judgments in irremediable confusion.

First of all, fights, according to the old phrase, are either
offensive or defensive. Offensive fights are of two sorts: "battles of
encounter," where the "enemy is also pressing forward," and "attacks
against localities or positions." Defensive fights are of only one
main character: they require the defence of localities, positions,
and defiles. Then, in quite a separate category, comes a third class
of fights--namely, "surprises, which merit separate consideration"--a
consideration, it may be noted, that they never get. The author forgets
all about them. It matters little. His classification as it stands is
as far removed from the "happenings of reality" as any classification
could be; and to divorce surprise, generally supposed to be the soul
of all mounted action (because horses mean high mobility) from "battles
of encounter," "attacks on localities," and other sorts of fights, is
only to supply the crowning element of unreality. It must be remembered
that his most comprehensive classification (of which the above is
a subdivision) distinguishes between "the fight of the Independent
Cavalry" and the "action of Cavalry in battle," by which latter phrase
he means the great battle of all Arms; and that battle, he has said, is
"always of a pre-arranged nature"--that is, lacking in opportunities
for surprise. One would have imagined, therefore, that if he wanted an
antithesis between surprise and something else, he would oppose the
pre-arranged battle to the fight of the Independent Cavalry. Not so.
"Surprises" are left out in the cold and eventually forgotten.

And what of these other sorts of fights defined under their various
heads? Perhaps I had better take them in detail, rather than attempt a
general diagnosis.

What is the battle of encounter? I have collected all the allusions
I can find to this battle, in the hope of supplying an intelligible
definition, but have to admit failure. On page 102 it is distinguished
from an "arranged affair," a distinction which in peace suggests
those carefully-planned "knightly combats" on level pieces of ground,
but which in war does not carry us very far. On page 147, however,
the special case of a battle of encounter where "an opponent is
unexpectedly met with," receives separate consideration. On page 142 it
seems to denote the case "where the enemy is also pressing forward,"
again a somewhat nebulous description, for it is the common way of
enemies to press forward. On page 143 one thinks for a moment that it
is to be confined to "lesser bodies of Cavalry, unaccompanied by other
arms"; but one speedily finds allusion to "larger bodies of Cavalry,
accompanied by a proportion of other arms," and the co-operation of
other arms becomes the predominant feature of the whole discussion. Yet
on page 194, in discussing the action of the army Cavalry on the flank
of a great battle, the author speaks of a battle of encounter between
the rival Cavalry masses, as though this type of fight were confined
to Cavalry. Again, on page 154 it is held to include the passage
of defiles, though the defence of defiles, a function which is the
necessary counterpart of the passage of defiles, is, as we have seen,
regarded as belonging to a separate type of combat.

We have noted also the distinction between the battles of encounter
and "attacks of localities," and between these latter and the defence
of localities (as though there were any antithesis between an encounter
on the one hand and an attack or defence on the other!). But what
is a "locality," an attack on which is distinguished from a battle
of encounter? Here is a fresh mystery. A "locality," on page 174,
is distinguished from a "prepared position," which Cavalry, he says
here, are never to attack or defend,[4] and it appears, in fact, to be
simply a place on which troops are (a "place within the meaning of the
Act," we cannot help exclaiming). In the first words of the section on
"Attack of Localities" this attack is explained as one upon "an enemy
who takes up a defensive attitude."

If, therefore, in a battle of encounter, when both sides are "pressing
forward," one side or the other halts temporarily (without preparing
or entrenching a position), the other side is in the position of
attacking a locality; and if the former party repulses the attack
and resumes its advance, then the position is reversed. Or if there
is a temporary equilibrium in the fight, when neither party can make
headway, then both are attacking and both are defending localities. But
some such phenomena as these are common to all combats. Where, then, is
the battle of encounter?

This is no idle question, and these are no hair-splitting criticisms,
because the rules are held to differ in important respects in these
various types of combats. In the battle of encounter there are some
exceedingly dim indications of an opening for the steel, but an attack
upon a "locality" "_can obviously only be carried out dismounted_" (p.
165). Pass by the old fallacious antagonism between mounted action and
rifle action, and regard the essence of this proposition. Once again
you have the refutation of the steel theory. The sentence means "fire
governs combat." He who fires compels his enemy to accept combat on
terms of fire.

But "Where am I?" the harassed student may exclaim. "What of these
steel-charges against extended Infantry (and, by inference, against
dismounted Cavalry), whose fire enforced extension in the attacking
Cavalry?" Well, let him read on. There is hope yet. For immediately
after saying that an attack upon an enemy who takes up a defensive
attitude can obviously only be carried out dismounted, he adds
the sinister words: "It must be a matter, therefore, for serious
consideration, whether such an operation shall be undertaken or not."
The truth is that he has suddenly remembered those tiresome led horses.
"There must be considerable numerical superiority to insure success."
There must be a dismounted reserve for fire purposes, and a mounted
reserve to secure the safety of the led horses, and "for reconnaissance
and for operating against the enemy's flank and rear"; and then follows
an acrimonious wrangle with the Regulations on the question of making
one reserve, and that mounted, perform incompatible and contradictory
functions. But, as usual, our sympathies are with the Regulations.

"Should the Cavalry commander not have at his disposal sufficient
force to meet all these demands," says the General, "he will be
generally better advised to abstain from the attack and to carry out
his mission in some other manner...." "It is only when conscious of
great moral and tactical superiority, or when there is any prospect
of surprising the enemy, that an attack should be dared without the
necessary numerical preponderance" (p. 166). In other words, after
his _reductio ad absurdum_ of the steel, the writer in the next breath
proceeds to an equally conclusive _reductio ad absurdum_ of the
rifle. Any Cavalry leader who acted on the General's principles would
be instantly sent home in disgrace. According to these principles,
numerically equal bodies of Cavalry cannot fight one another at all
unless in those "exceptional cases" where the ground is favourable for
the "purely Cavalry fight," when there are no other Arms to complicate
the situation, and where neither side even for a moment "takes up a
defensive attitude" for any purpose whatever. If any one of these
conditions is unsatisfied, the numerically equal forces are mutually
paralyzed, and each must seek to "carry out its mission in some other
manner." But, alas! by hypothesis there is no other manner. "The
attack obviously can only be made dismounted." Presumably, then, these
Cavalries are to do nothing at all in modern war.

I am not making an unfair use of isolated passages. In later portions
of his work the General frequently repeats his warnings against
fire-action without great numerical and moral superiority, though
not, perhaps, so frequently and emphatically as he inveighs against
impracticable shock-action. Under "VIII.--The Various Units in the
Fight" (p. 239), we learn that a "squadron is generally too weak to
carry out an offensive fight on foot." By the time you have abstracted
horse-holders, "mounted and dismounted reserves," and "patrols and
sentries," there is nothing left with which to fight. Similarly,
a squadron must never "undertake a defensive fight on foot unless
absolutely necessary, or when the led horses can be disposed in a safe
place in the neighbourhood, where the flanks cannot be turned, or
where the arrival of reinforcements can be relied on." Observe that
there is no limitation here as to the strength of the enemy, no demand
for numerical or moral superiority. The rule is almost absolute. A
squadron can only charge on horseback. So that in average enclosed
country, where charges cannot be arranged, two opposed squadrons must
maintain a masterly inactivity. We think of the 74 isolated "Zarps" at
Bergendal in their desperate defence against enormous odds, and of the
150 Griqualanders who defied a division of Cavalry for a whole day at

But the General is far from stopping with the squadron. "The _regiment_
will seldom be called upon to fight independently, but will operate
in more or less close co-operation with other troops." It can act
dismounted, but only "against weaker hostile detachments." In defence,
however, it is "formidable," because--strange reason--it can detach
two whole squadrons to guard the led horses! Well, it is no wonder that
the author neglects and discourages the study of modern war. Supposing
De Wet, for example, had acted on his principles! His brilliant
intervention at Paardeberg was made with 350 men. Or go to Manchuria.
Naganuma's masterly raid of January to February, 1905, when he rode
round the Russian army and blew up the great bridge of Hsin-kai-ho,
was made with 172 Cavalrymen, who acted throughout solely by fire, and
would have been impotent without it. The author professes to admire
the exploits of the Americans in 1861-1865. What does he suppose their
Cavalry leaders would have thought of his theories?

The brigade of two regiments, we learn next, is almost as feeble a
unit as a regiment. "It cannot," he says vaguely, "engage an opponent
of any strength who may have to be dealt with by mounted or dismounted
action, or the two in combination." "In view of its small offensive
power, it will run a great risk of suffering defeat, _especially when
dismounted_." In defence, "if the led horses do not require too large
an escort," etc., it "may be an important factor of strength."

The division of six regiments (of 400 men per regiment) is a
somewhat more useful unit. "If its full strength can be employed in
the charge," it "represents, even against troops using the rifle"
(what troops? of what strength?), "a considerable fighting power."
Nevertheless, it can attack "only weak detachments with a prospect of
success." "The resistance of a body of equal strength" (a body of what?
how composed?) "when circumstances demand a dismounted attack can never
be overcome." Mounted, however, and "charging in close formation," it
can attack even a stronger enemy (what sort of enemy?), "regardless of

Finally, a corps of two divisions "can aim at decisive results," and,
alone of all units, can engage in "independent strategic missions,"
which we may suppose, without further explanation, to mean raids. But
in these "fire-power is an important factor," and it is hinted that
even the corps will not have enough fire-power.

The General complains that his writings "fall on barren soil." Well
they may. Antiquated as the methods of the German Cavalry are, they
at any rate intend to fight. A Cavalry educated on the maxims of the
author might as well be left at home.

And this is the author that Sir John French, who knows what our own
mounted riflemen did in South Africa, holds up as a model to our
Cavalry. He has not one word of criticism, not a single reservation,
to make on any of the passages I have quoted. On the contrary, he
tells our men, in general terms, that it is all true, and implies that
the greatest of his compatriot soldiers, Lord Roberts, makes "appeals
from vanity to ignorance." A perusal of this chapter, and of Sir John
French's effusive eulogy, ought to make every British soldier, home or
colonial, indignant.

Its conclusion (pp. 245-246) is not the least remarkable part of it.
"It will seldom be possible," says the General, conscious, seemingly,
that his counsels have not been vividly luminous, "and generally
unnecessary to undertake or carry out the very best course of action,
for we may certainly count on numerous errors and vacillations on the
part of the enemy, _especially in the case of Cavalry warfare_." Well,
we may heartily endorse the words I have italicized.

Then, as a last desperate resort, come high-sounding generalities. "The
indomitable will to conquer carries with it a considerable guarantee of
success ... and the offensive is the weapon with which he [the Cavalry
leader] can best enforce his will." Offensive!

The reader may infer from the passages I have quoted that it is not
necessary to examine in close detail the General's instructions
for the "battle of encounter" and the "attack of localities." He
will trip at every ambiguous sentence, baffled by contradictions or
qualifications somewhere else, and perpetually befogged either by
the vague word "enemy" or the implied distinction between "Cavalry"
and "other arms"--a distinction which is generally irrelevant, since
all Arms are linked together by that great common denominator, the
firearm. I have already noted how the presence of artillery dissipates
"purely Cavalry tactical principles." Modern artillery fire, he says,
necessitates deployment at 6,500 yards from the enemy at least. That
is nearly four miles away, and the questions at once arise, Who
are these invisible troops with Artillery? What is their strength
and composition? Have they some of those troublesome cyclists and
Infantry, or some of those unorthodox Mounted Infantry or Cavalry
acting improperly as Mounted Infantry, who will make an additional
complication in a situation already compromised by Artillery?

The German Regulations are superbly indifferent to these questions,
and accordingly come in for fresh condemnation. Cavalry are supposed
to know at four miles what the composition, strength, and intentions
of the enemy are, and if the enemy is Cavalry (the cyclists and
Infantry prescribed by the Regulations themselves are ignored),
the echelon system (previously outlined) is to provide for all
contingencies. The author pitilessly dissects this childlike scheme.
"In peace manoeuvres," he remarks caustically, "there is always a
tacit understanding that the enemy is no stronger than one's own
force." In war it is otherwise. To clear up the situation "energetic
contact with the enemy by fire-action is necessary." "Only by a
protracted action can the enemy be forced to disclose his strength
and intentions," and "a protracted fight can only be carried out by
fire-action." Perfectly sound, we agree; and then we remember, with a
start, those terrible led horses, and the doctrines founded on them.
"It is only when conscious of a great moral and tactical superiority,
or when there is any prospect of surprising the enemy, that an attack
should be dared without the necessary numerical preponderance." In
other words, the author once more categorically contradicts himself.
After first saying that fire-action--and "protracted," "energetic"
fire-action--is the only means of forcing the enemy to disclose his
strength and intentions, he adds in the next breath that such action is
on no account to be undertaken unless the enemy's strength is already
known, and he is known to be greatly inferior, either numerically, or
tactically and morally! Is it any matter of surprise that the Germans
are slow to listen to General von Bernhardi?

The same deadly instinct for self-refutation dogs the General through
his satire on the regulation method of "passing a defile" (p. 154). In
peace "one side is kept as far from the defile as possible, in order
that the passage on the other side may be possible," and that both
may have the luxury of a knightly combat. These practices the General
prophesies will lead to "enormous losses in war," and he pleads for
a modicum of commonplace fire-action. "Whether," he gravely remarks,
"the attack be undertaken mounted or dismounted will depend upon the
attitude of the enemy and the attendant circumstances." Yes, but we
know from other sources what that means--namely, that if the enemy
shows a "defensive attitude," the attack will be by fire; but that
there will be no attack at all, even so, unless he is greatly inferior,
either morally and tactically or numerically.

Later we have a condemnation of Regulation No. 519, which directs the
Army Cavalry, not only to drive the hostile Cavalry from the field, but
to press back or break through "detachments of all arms." "I cannot
conceive," says the General, "any real case in which Cavalry can break
through hostile detachments of all arms." Poor Cavalry! If mounted
riflemen laboured under such a disability, there would have been no
South African War at all--literally none.

Then Regulation No. 403 falls a victim. It is certainly an easy prey.
"Personal observation [_i.e._, by the commander] is always the best,
and is _essential in the case of offensive action against Cavalry_."
The Regulations, of course, assume that both Cavalries disdain to
use their rifles, and whirl about in huge ordered masses up to the
moment of contact; but the author plaintively argues that fire rules
the situation, and makes the zone of combat such that it is utterly
impossible for one individual to have ocular perception of all that is
going on. "One brigade will often fight on foot, the other mounted,"
he complains, "so that a handling of a division according to rule is
practically impossible." True comment, but how futile!

Then, conscious (as he so often is conscious) that his counsels may
have a damping effect on his hearers, he ends in a burst of poetry.
"The enemy's fire must not paralyze the idea of offensive action"
(he means shock, though he does not like to say so). "We must act
'regardless of consequences,' 'wrest victory,'" etc., according to
the hackneyed Cavalry phraseology, upon which modern war throws such a
pitilessly searching light.

The next section, "Attack of Localities," needs little further comment.
This attack must be done exclusively by fire, but in practice it can
never be done. That is the only deduction we can arrive at. But there
is one highly important point. At the end of the section the bewildered
reader finds himself involved in a lengthy discussion on the sword and
lance in mounted combat--a discussion from which I have already quoted,
and which arises out of a radically false analogy between those steel
weapons and the bayonet carried by the foot-soldier. If Cavalry have
to do the same work as Infantry, should not they carry bayonets? That
is how the debate arises. It is an interesting debate, on which anyone
must frankly admit there may be legitimate difference of opinion. Even
for Infantry the bayonet is somewhat under a cloud, as the General
himself contends; and Mounted Infantry, or Cavalry acting as such,
have powers of surprise and envelopment derived from the horse which
may perhaps be held to compensate them for the doubtful advantage of
a bayonet. Instead of reasoning thus, the General treats the bayonet
only as a possible _substitute_ for the sword, and rejects it on that
ground. But what has the sword to do with the bayonet? The sword is
meant for use on horseback; the bayonet is fixed to the rifle, and is
used on foot as a factor in fire-tactics. The essence of the whole
controversy we are engaged upon is whether it is any longer possible in
modern war to fight on _horseback_, and whether the rifle should not be
the weapon _par excellence_ of mounted troops. Whether you reinforce it
with the bayonet or not is a distinct question, which has no relation
whatever to the value of the sword and lance. It seems absolutely
hopeless to get this distinction grasped. Over and over again in the
letters and articles on this controversy the same old fallacy recurs,
and, as I shall show later, it influences the German General more
deeply than he realizes.

The section on "Defence" (p. 176) is short, and mainly consists of the
elaborated truism that all defence should have an offensive character.
The General seems to think that this maxim applies especially to
Cavalry. It is the old delusion that Cavalry is a more offensive Arm
than Infantry, and it leads him inexorably to the fatal conclusion that
Cavalry cannot be trusted to undertake a "completely passive defence."
They will only attempt to do so--but observe the comprehensive breadth
of the exceptions--when it is a case of "holding a crossing over
some obstacle, defending an isolated locality, or gaining time." In
these cases a retirement may be involved "which is difficult to carry
out on account of the led horses, and _should only be attempted in
very favourable country_. It demands that the fight shall be broken
off--always a difficult matter, and, to Cavalry _encumbered_ by these
led horses, one of considerable danger." "Remounting when pressed by
the enemy is always a critical matter." It makes one hot to hear this
sort of thing commended to British soldiers by Sir John French. It
spells disgrace in war. Troops who cannot break off a fight cannot
fight at all. "Colonel X., be good enough to cover my retreat with
your regiment. Defend that crossing, please, or that locality, and
gain me time." "Very sorry, sir, but the ground is unfavourable, and
my led horses encumber me." Supposing our gallant Colonials had said
that at Sannah's Post? They found, indeed, how "critical a matter" it
is to remount when pressed by the enemy, for the Boers charged right
into them again and again; but they did not flinch, and they saved
their column from ruin, while the Cavalry engaged, equally brave men,
but ignorant of their true rôle in war, failed in the task set them.
But all this is "abnormal," Sir John French would say. A respectable
hostile Cavalry would have summoned us to knightly combats with the

And then (on p. 184) we come, as usual, to the corresponding _reductio
ad absurdum_. "In mounted combat [_i.e._, with the steel] the breaking
off of the fight is quite impossible. Troops once engaged must carry
the fight through. Even when retreating from the mêlée fighting Cavalry
has no means of extricating itself. It is then entirely dependent on
the enemy, and can only retire at the most rapid speed," etc. "Whoever
expects to rally a beaten Cavalry division after a mounted fight by
blowing the divisional call lays himself open to bitter disappointment."

No wonder so much stress is laid on the offensive character of Cavalry!


We have now completed our review of the author's theories on the
action of the Independent Cavalry, and I must ask the reader for a
moment to compare with his views the instruction on the same topics
contained in our own Manual, "Cavalry Training." The same fundamental
error vitiates the whole of this instruction, but in an infinitely
more mischievous form. The German author makes both shock and fire
equally absurd, but his respect for shock never deters him from
telling in his own strange way home-truths about fire which at least
force the reader to construct for himself cosmos out of chaos. Our
authorities, conscious that the intermingling of shock and fire will
create difficulties only too apparent to Englishmen with any knowledge
or memory of South Africa, divorce them completely from one another. In
their Manual, Cavalry _acting against Cavalry_, whatever the terrain
or other circumstances, are assumed never to employ fire-action, whose
results are described as "negative," but only to employ shock. If the
reader will turn to pages 196-212, which deal with the Independent
or strategical Cavalry, he will observe with what really remarkable
ingenuity the compilers manage to avoid even the remotest recognition
of the fact that Cavalrymen carry rifles. The word "fire" is not
breathed, though to the intelligence even of the most ignorant layman
it must be plain that fire must dominate and condition the functions
described, especially those beginning with the "approach march when
within striking distance of the hostile Cavalry" (p. 202).

The various problems bravely but confusedly tackled by General von
Bernhardi are here quietly ignored. Everything is so arranged as to
lead up without hitch to the physical collision on horseback of the two
opposing Cavalry "masses." There is no echo of von Bernhardi's rule
about early deployment in view of Artillery fire. Our own Artillery, it
is true, is to "throw into confusion" the enemy's Cavalry--a compliment
which no doubt the enemy may return (p. 208). But, confusion or no
confusion, the climax is to be the purest of pure Cavalry fights.
Scouts and patrols are to observe the enemy and to prevent our own
commander from "engaging his brigades on unfavourable ground" (note
that pregnant warning); but there is no suspicion or suggestion of von
Bernhardi's "protracted fire-fight" in order to discover the strength
and intentions of the enemy, especially in view of the possibility that
the enemy may, with unsportsmanlike perversity, choose ground which is
"unfavourable to our brigades." Our Cavalry Commander (p. 205), it is
to be inferred, is to perform the physical impossibility enjoined by
the German Regulations, and criticized by von Bernhardi (pp. 160-162),
of personally overlooking the whole of the attack and the ground which
it is to cover. Needless to say, there is not a whisper about those
sinister prophecies of the German author that "one brigade will often
fight on foot, the other mounted"; that it will be impossible "to put
a division into the fight (_i.e._, shock-fight) in proper cohesion";
that, in view of fire, "the situation during the rapidly changing
phases of the Cavalry fight will often be quite different from what was
expected when the tasks were allotted"; and that, fire apart, European
topography is such that opportunities for the "collisions" of Cavalry
masses will be very rare.

With our authorities all goes by clockwork on Frederician and
Napoleonic lines. "The enemy should be surprised," so that the
charge may follow immediately after the deployment. The attack is
to be on the echelon system ridiculed by von Bernhardi, but the
encounter, nevertheless, is not to be "broken up," but is to be by the
"simultaneous action of all brigades." The artless enemy co-operates,
allows himself to be surprised upon the right piece of "favourable"
ground, and courteously presents an objective which may be struck
simultaneously. The Artillery of both sides ceases fire, fascinated by
the sublime spectacle of the "collision"; the machine-guns, which have
been "affording a means of developing fire _without dismounting_," also
retire from business, and the knightly combat rages on its appointed
level arena. Then comes the pursuit (p. 211). Troops are either to
"pursue at top speed in disorder," or to "rally at once at the halt";
and on page 128 elaborate directions will be found for the practice of
this "rally," which von Bernhardi says is an "absolute impossibility
in war," and that it is "indeed astounding that we should give way to
such self-deception." Is the rally, we wonder, one of the "best foreign
customs" which Sir John French urges us to assimilate, or one of the
worst, which he has accidentally overlooked?

It is only when our authorities have finished with the pursuit,
which is to "completely exhaust and disorganize the beaten enemy,"
and when, the hostile Cavalrymen vanquished, our own Cavalry has
been safely launched on its reconnoitring duties (p. 212), that they
consider, under quite a distinct heading, and without a hint that it
may have anything to do with what precedes, the dismounted action
of Cavalry against what is described with judicious vagueness as an
"enemy" (pp. 213-216). Then we have the same demoralizing injunction
that von Bernhardi, in his fire-mood, so strongly combats--namely,
that a "fire-fight is not to be protracted"; and the same equally
vicious suggestion that von Bernhardi, in his steel-mood, acquiesces
in--namely, that defence in any shape is a somewhat abnormal function
of Cavalry; that they are not supposed to conduct stubborn defences
("tenacious" is Sir John French's own term); and that they should
never demean themselves by constructing anything serious in the way
of entrenchment (p. 215). But it is scarcely necessary to add that
the led horses are not the nightmare to our authorities that they are
to von Bernhardi, and that we do not yet stultify our own directions
for fire-action by warnings about the minimum size of units, and the
imperative need for moral, numerical, and tactical superiority. Yet
these warnings are regarded, according to his own account, as inspired
wisdom by Sir John French, whose own introductory remarks are conceived
in an even more reactionary spirit than those of the "acknowledged
authority" whom he recommends to British readers.

The finishing touches to the comedy of the shock-duel are given in
the revised Mounted Infantry Manual of 1909; for, although in this
connection the Cavalry Manual never breathes a word about its sister
Arm, it is, as I have before mentioned, one of the regular duties
of the Mounted Infantry to co-operate with the Cavalry, not only
in reconnaissance, but in battle. Under the heading "Co-operation
with Cavalry when Acting Offensively against Hostile Cavalry," the
Mounted Infantry are to "seize points of tactical importance from
which effective rifle and machine-gun fire can be brought to bear on
the flanks of the opposing Cavalry before the moment of contact." We
picture an amphitheatre, like Olympia, both rims of the horseshoe lined
with hidden riflemen, and two solid blocks of Cavalry galloping towards
one another in the arena below, and we are alarmed for the fate of
the horsemen, exposed in such a formation to a sleet of bullets. But
we come to a fortunate reservation. "Fire will rarely be opened upon
the hostile Cavalry or Artillery until contact is imminent. The object
aimed at is the defeat of the hostile Cavalry, and a premature opening
of fire is liable to cause it to draw off and manoeuvre, in order
to bring off the Cavalry encounter outside effective rifle-range."
Surely some humorist of the Mounted Infantry, coerced by the General
Staff into finding a rôle for his Arm which should not trench upon the
sacred preserves of the Cavalry, penned these exquisite lines by way
of stealthy revenge! What delicate consideration for the "knightly"
weapons! What an eye for theatrical effect! What precautions against
the disturbance of the collision by the premature discharge of vulgar
firearms! And what a tactful show of apprehension lest these reminders
of the degenerate twentieth century should scare away the old-world
pageant to regions beyond "effective rifle-range"! It will be noticed
that even the Artillery of the enemy is to be immune until "contact is
imminent"--a somewhat doubtful risk to take without a written guarantee
from the enemy that his Artillery will reciprocate the courtesy. (For
the Gunners' view, see below, p. 204.)

Finally, with what unerring neatness, under his veil of genial irony,
does our humorist manage to expose and satirize the futility of the
lance and sword and the deadly pre-eminence of the rifle! He recognizes
that it is only by the indulgence and self-restraint of riflemen that
swords and lances can be used, and he knows, as we all know, that it
is physically impossible for modern Cavalry, in war or peace, to find
any spot on the globe which is "outside effective rifle-range"--unless
they take the unsoldierly course of throwing away their own rifles. In
peace, of course, as von Bernhardi constantly reminds us, rifles may
be, and frequently are, ignored, even if they are not left in barracks;
but in "real war" there is no use for troops who can only fight
outside effective rifle-range. I need only add that the ideal Cavalry
combat, as envisaged by our authorities, is precisely the combat
which von Bernhardi stigmatizes in peace manoeuvres as a "spectacular
battle-piece." Mounted Infantry to him represent a force which, by
"seizing the rifle," will "compel" the opposing Cavalry to "advance
dismounted." The case imagined is what he regards as the normal case of
"co-operation with other arms," and it will be remembered that "he can
conceive no case in which Cavalry [_i.e._, using the steel] can break
through a hostile detachment of all arms."

One stands in awe before the almost miraculous tenacity of a belief
which can give birth to such puerilities as I have quoted from our
Manuals without perishing instantly under the ridicule of persons
conversant with war. If the thing described had ever once happened, it
would be different, but it never has happened, and never can or will
happen. In war no Commander-in-Chief would tolerate even a tendency
towards such child's-play. Otherwise, in pessimistic moments, one
might tremble for the Navy. Supposing our Dreadnoughts were trained to
withhold their fire so as to decoy hostile wooden three-deckers into
collisions with our wooden three-deckers, and encounters settled by
cutlasses on the lines of Salamis and Syracuse?

The parallel is not discourteous to the Cavalry. When they will it,
they can be Dreadnoughts. But their shock-charge is as obsolete as
sails and wood in naval war.


[Footnote 4: "With them [the Cavalry] it will never be a case of
prepared positions--which Cavalry as a rule will neither attack nor
defend--but of actions resulting from a battle of encounter."

This is directly contradicted on p. 342, where it is laid down that
"attacks on an enemy in position," as explicitly distinguished from
"battles of encounter," are said to be "very necessary in time of war,"
and should be "repeatedly practised" in peace. The same injunction is
repeated on pp. 343 and 345.

This is a typical example of the textual self-contradictions in which
the book abounds.]




WE have now come to the exposition of the part Cavalry will play in
the great battle of all Arms, which, says von Bernhardi, is always
"pre-arranged." But it will occur to the reader at once that, so far as
our inquiry about fire and the steel in combat is concerned, there can
be nothing new to be said. There are firearms in all warfare, and the
tactical principles they enforce will be approximately constant. Every
great battle takes the form of a series of "attacks on localities,"
or "battles of encounter," however we interpret those phrases. If an
enemy, to whatever Arm belonging, who takes up a "defensive attitude"
can only be attacked by fire in a fight of the Independent Cavalry,
he can only be attacked by fire in a pre-arranged battle; and if the
led horses are a paralyzing encumbrance in the one case, they are
equally so in the other. The great battle, it is true, presents a
more positive and obvious example of the co-operation of the various
Arms; but, as we have seen, the co-operation "of other arms" has been
regarded by the author as a normal incident of the combats he has
already described, and the "purely Cavalry fight" as an altogether
exceptional incident. And since even the purest Cavalry carry the
rifle, they can at any moment sully the purity of the said fight by
resort to that sordid but formidable weapon.

The author, as we might expect, only dimly appreciates the universality
of his own principles--if the mutually destructive propositions
which he alternately lays down can be properly termed principles. He
constantly confuses tactics with combat. Different rules, of course,
must always govern the action of mounted troops and horseless troops,
because the one class is more mobile than the other; but it is
impossible to lay down any lucid and intelligible principles for modern
war until we realize the ubiquity and the supremacy of the missile
weapon, rifle or gun.

The Army Cavalry, he tells us, as distinct from the divisional
Cavalry, "must be engaged _en masse_, and not in detail." "It must
simultaneously engage its whole fighting strength," as an undivided
entity (p. 190 _et seq._), and its proper position is forward of one
of the flanks. We have no sooner grasped this principle than we find
a separate chapter devoted to the action of "those portions of the
Cavalry which find themselves behind the fighting-line, not on the
exposed flank." This subdivision, we are vaguely told, "may be the
result of circumstances," but there is no indication of what those
circumstances are. But this is only one infraction of the principle of
unity. In spite of the distractingly vague use of terms such as "front"
and "flank," "enemy," "hostile forces," "troops within hostile reach,"
we are able to distinguish the following functions for the Cavalry mass
during the battle: It must conduct (1) a "far-reaching exploration"
on the enemy's extreme rear and "probable lines of approach and
communication," so as to give warning of the approach of fresh
reserves; (2) an "immediate tactical reconnaissance," evidently of the
whole battle-front--though the vague expression "against such hostile
troops as may be within tactical reach" might mean almost anything.
But we are told explicitly later that during the whole course of the
battle the Cavalry mass "must in all cases prevent the enemy's patrols
from making observations as to the disposition of our own _Army_,
while, on the other hand, its own reconnaissance should never cease"
(p. 199). We receive a sort of mental dislocation, therefore, when
the author resumes: "Screened by these various measures, the Cavalry
mass now advances fully deployed for the fight." Were "these measures,"
then, only to screen the Cavalry mass? But how can detachments, perhaps
twenty miles away on the other flank, be said to screen the Cavalry
mass? (3) The mass is to provide for the occupation of "defiles and
other important places to the flank and front of the main body"
(_i.e._, of the main _Army_).

Let us pause and think. Supposing the initial battle-front is thirty or
forty miles in extent. Even in the Boer War it was frequently thirty
miles, while in Manchuria the fronts were sometimes enormously more
extensive--at Mukden nearly 100 miles. How in the world is the entire
Cavalry mass, _posted outside one flank_, to provide for the continuous
reconnaissance, close and distant, of such a front, the occupation of
advanced points, and for the maintenance of a reserve behind the front,
while remaining a practically undivided force for united action? What
is the enemy's Cavalry supposed to be doing? In theory, we are told,
they will do the right thing, that is, post themselves by instinct
outside one flank exactly opposite our own mass. But supposing they
do not. Whatever they do, they have got (4) to be "driven from the
field" (the reader will recollect the well-known formula), which will
involve dispersion, if they disperse. But the author is not nearly so
strong on the formula as Sir John French. It is a very small matter (p.
191), this driving of the hostile Cavalry from the field. "It has a
certain value, but is comparatively useless for the main issue of the
battle, unless, further, the possibility is gained of intervening in
the decisive battle of all arms."

Is not the reader conscious of an extraordinary artificiality and
unreality in the terms employed? Why speak of Cavalry driving the
hostile Cavalry off the field, with more emphasis than of Infantry
doing the same to Infantry? Presumably, because Cavalry, as we have
already learnt, cannot break off the fight either in their pure or
debased capacity. But on page 198 the beaten Cavalry is to "seek
shelter behind occupied points of support," where it is to be attacked
by the greatest possible fire-power, words which seem to imply that
hitherto the attack has been by shock. Yet we have had it laid down
as an axiom that neither party to a shock-combat can be used as a
manageable unit for an indefinite time.

(5) The indivisible mass is now subject to fresh disintegration. "All
portions of it not required for the pursuit" just described are to
"regain their tactical cohesion" (an admission that the whole has
lost its tactical cohesion), and, leaving their comrades to carry on
the fire-fight, which may, of course, last for a week or more, are "to
prepare for fresh effort." They are to occupy "localities" near the
ground won, and "garrison" them with dismounted men--a direction we can
scarcely take seriously when we recollect the crushing disabilities
under which Cavalry acting in passive defence have been supposed by the
author to labour (see _supra_, pp. 122-123).

(6) What is left of the mass now "takes up a position of readiness"
secure from the view and fire of the enemy, and disposed in what the
author calls "groups of units." The expression seems to lack precision,
but "this is the most suitable formation." Subsequent action is to
be according to the "circumstances of the various cases," and it is
here that the reminder is casually interpolated that a protective
and offensive reconnaissance along the whole battle-line is to be a
continuous duty of the mass. But this action is "not to be regarded as
sufficient." "The mass is to insure its own advance to that portion
of the field where the decisive battle will probably take place, so
that the charge will not meet with unexpected resistance and obstacles
when the moment comes to ride it home. When this crisis of the battle
approaches, the Cavalry must be ready to intervene.... As the crisis
approaches, endeavours must be made to get as close to the enemy as
possible, in order to shorten the distance that will have to be covered
in the charge." Observe how naturally, how mechanically, the author
associates the "crisis" with a gigantic Cavalry charge, and with
what simple trustfulness he believes that unexpected resistance and
obstacles will melt away, if only the mass can insure its advance to
the right spot in time.

As I shall show, he ruthlessly shatters his own hypothesis in the next
breath; but consider, in the light of "real war," the utter futility
of all this so-called instruction for the "pre-arranged battle," with
its pre-arranged crisis. Note the complete neglect of all the really
important factors, the tremendous power of modern rifles and guns, and
the vast extent and duration of modern battles, as contrasted with
the limited physical powers of the horse and the small proportion
which Cavalry in all armies bears to other Arms. Take Liao-yang, the
Sha-Ho, Mukden, battles which lasted ten days, two weeks, and three
weeks, and try and find from the author's remarks any practical,
tangible guidance for such situations. Fancy one indivisible mass
maintaining a continuous reconnaissance over such distances, occupying
defiles and "localities" to the front, leaving a reserve behind the
battle-front, driving the entire hostile Cavalry from the field, and
utterly destroying its power of further action; garrisoning points in
the ground won, and at the same time advancing towards the "probable"
point of crisis. But this point may be two days' march from the flank,
where the mass--or what remains of it--was posted, and when it gets
there it will certainly find that the crisis is centring round some
strong, defensible position where lances and swords will be less useful
than bows and arrows. No such picture as the author draws occurred in
the Franco-German, Austro-Prussian, or Russo-Turkish Wars. It did not
occur at Vionville, the only battle in which a situation came about
even approximately resembling the circumstances he outlines. So far as
there was a crisis there, and so far as it was dealt with by a Cavalry
charge, the circumstances have radically altered, and there is a "total
absence of analogy," as the author himself expressly states. Bredow's
steel-charge was made against unbroken Infantry and Artillery, flushed
with the hope of victory. Such charges, he has told us with truth, are
utterly impossible in modern war. "I cannot conceive any real case in
which Cavalry can break through detachments of all arms" (p. 160).
"Nowadays, when Infantry can cover the ground to a distance of 1,500
or even 2,000 yards with a hot and rapid fire, and offer in their wide
extension no sort of objective for shock-action, an attack on unshaken,
steadily-firing Infantry, which has any sort of adequate field of fire,
is _quite out of the question_" (p. 127).

It seems odd to have to recall these matters, for the author, as I
said before, shatters his own hypothesis in the paragraphs immediately
following his pages on the crisis and the charge. "However important
and desirable it may be to contribute to the great decision by
a glorious Cavalry charge, it should be borne in mind that the
possibility of this will occur in very rare cases." He goes on to
insist emphatically on this point, saying nothing here about the
vastly enhanced effect of the modern rifle, but basing his argument
on terrain. Great charges, he says, were almost impracticable in the
Franco-Prussian, Russo-Turkish, and Manchurian Wars, and "possible
European theatres of war are but little suitable for charges, owing to
the extent to which they have been cultivated." Peace operations are of
no practical significance, because uncultivated country is expressly
chosen. And so on.

Then, why, we ask, all this reasoned instruction about Cavalry making
its way to the crisis and delivering its charge? Why not have said at
the outset that their normal action must be something quite different?
Instruction for remote improbabilities is practically useless. What the
commander wants to know is what to do as a general rule, especially
when a wrong decision may, owing to the extent of the battle-field,
involve him in ignominious impotence. Such is Cavalry literature.
Serious men in any other walk of life would not tolerate exposition of
this sort.

We discover now that the Cavalry are not, after all, to make their way
to the crisis and charge. That was conventional rhetoric. In reality
they are to _act on the rear of the hostile army_, "upon the reserves,
the column of supply, the heavy Artillery, etc." "It is here that
opportunities for decisive action must be sought." Well, obviously
that is a different proposition altogether. Why not have begun with
it? Habit--just the irresistible habit of associating Cavalry with
shock, and of calling shock their "proper rôle," although it is only
their "exceptional" rôle. For, of course, such action as the author
now indicates is purely a matter of fire. That is why no such decisive
attack upon the rear of a great Army has ever in recent times been
accomplished by European Cavalry. The Cavalries of the sixties and
seventies in the last century were absolutely incapable of such action,
owing to their lack of fire-power. He is no doubt thinking of his model
war, the American struggle of 1861-1865, and if he were truly candid,
he would tell his countrymen that the brilliant exploits of the Civil
War leaders in raiding communications and "hostile reserves" were
performed solely through the rifle.

The author is perfectly aware that the modern rifle has five times
the power of the rifle of 1865, but he has not the courage of his
own opinions, and descends to misty compromise. "Such action must,
of course, be conducted with a due co-operation between mounted and
dismounted action." What is the use of a rule like that? "Against
intact hostile reserves the firearm will be principally used." Why
"principally"? Will not these intact reserves, to say the least, "take
up a defensive attitude," and therefore render a fire-attack, according
to his own repeatedly formulated rule, absolutely indispensable?
"Against columns of waggons it will be well to commence by
fire-action." Why "commence" only? Is there no lesson from South Africa
here? On what single occasion were lances and swords of the smallest
value in attacks on transport? Not on one. And on how many occasions
did mounted riflemen, destitute of these weapons, capture transport
and guns and rout reserves? We all know--Sir John French knows--what
our troops suffered in this way. Why does he not warn his countrymen,
instead of telling them that these German speculations are brilliant,
logical, conclusive, complete?

Look once more at the great Manchurian battles. Observe, for example,
the great battle of Mukden, (with its awful record of massacre by
firearms), when a Japanese Cavalry brigade, acting with Nogi's turning
force, endeavoured to operate on the Russian rear. It was miserably
weak numerically, and it failed to accomplish anything "decisive";
but it did wonders, as it was, purely through fire. Has any critic,
however enamoured of the _arme blanche_, ever suggested that, however
strong, it could have accomplished anything with the lance and sword?
The very suggestion is preposterous. Fire ruled that terrific struggle
from first to last. Look at Mishchenko's pitiful Cavalry raid on the
Japanese communications in January, 1905; and observe the shame which
overtakes Cavalry who cannot fight on foot: whole brigades paralyzed
by squads of isolated riflemen, reminding us only too painfully of
Dronfield and Poplar Grove; Cossacks pathetically charging stone
walls with drawn swords; disaster and humiliation clouding the whole
sordid drama. Sir John French's contribution to our enlightenment on
the Manchurian War, in his Introduction to Bernhardi's first book,
"Cavalry in Future Wars," was that the Cossacks failed through excess
of training as riflemen. He has not repeated that statement in his
Introduction to the second book. He scarcely could.

All the world knows the truth now--namely, that the Cossacks, as one
who rode with them said, "once dismounted, were lost." They did not
know how to handle rifles, and all their humiliations may be traced
to that fact. Nor did the Japanese Cavalry at first, and they were
equally impotent. But they learnt, and learnt to admirable purpose, as
the records show. If he cannot repeat and confirm what he said in his
first Introduction, why is Sir John French altogether silent on the
point in his second Introduction? Well, it was an awkward dilemma for
him; for Bernhardi himself (p. 97), in his chapter on Raids, alludes
to Mishchenko's raid in highly significant, though characteristically
obscure, language. And if he follows up the clue, the reader may
understand why it is that only on this one solitary question of raids,
out of all the multitude of topics dealt with in the two books, Sir
John French "ventures to differ" from the German author, pronouncing,
for his own part, against them. Von Bernhardi expressly founds his
advocacy of the raid on the American Civil War. "The idea," he says
naïvely, "is taken" from that war. As though the Boers who made the
raids of 1901, of which he never seems to have heard, took their ideas
from that war or any other! Their ideas were the fruit of their own
common sense. Now, the Civil War is particularly dangerous ground in
England for advocates of the _arme blanche_, although it is safe enough
ground in Germany, where nobody studies it, and where there has been
no Henderson to immortalize the exploits of the great Cavalry leaders.
Fire, and fire alone, rendered the American raids possible.

I need scarcely say that there is no incongruity in discussing together
the raid proper and the attack on the reserves and communications of a
great Army from which my digression originated. The weapon factor is
precisely the same in both. Rifles are rifles and lances are lances,
whatever the strategical or tactical scheme which bring them into play.

We turn lastly to the rôle of that portion of theoretically
indivisible Cavalry mass which is maintained as a "reserve behind the
front" (p. 204). The author's method is the same: first, to expound
at length the duties and powers of this body as though they were its
normal duties and powers, and then to state that these normal duties
and powers--in other words, the "proper rôle"--of the force concerned
are, in nine cases out of ten, impracticable and visionary. He first
represents the great mounted charge as the primary object, the great
mounted charge, moreover, against _Infantry_; for in this case there
will be little chance, he says, of having "to deal with the hostile
Cavalry." He proceeds to lay down the truly delightful maxim that the
force is to mass behind "that part of the fighting line where the
ground is adapted for a charge of large masses," though he has taken
great trouble to show in the previous chapter, quite correctly, that
this is precisely the kind of ground upon which important struggles
will not centre. Then, in flat defiance of all he has said about
charges against Infantry, he advocates what in effect is our old
discredited friend the "death ride" against unshaken and victorious
Infantry (p. 208), "in order to relieve our own exhausted Infantry,"
etc. The Cavalry are to "ride through the hostile Infantry, and fall
upon the Artillery," although we know already that the author "can
conceive no case in which Cavalry can break through detachments of all
arms," and that an enemy who takes up even a defensive attitude can
only be attacked by dismounted action. But in a flash of recollection
of a prior maxim, he enjoins that not only the preliminary deployment,
but the formation for attack in widely extended order, must take place
"beyond the effective range of the enemy's fire"; for "once outside
this zone ... nothing else can be done but to gallop straight for the
front." Beyond the effective range of the enemy's fire! What is that
range? He has told us before that it must, for average purposes, be
reckoned 6,500 yards, or nearly four miles. Conceive a charge of four
miles, begun out of sight of the enemy, and in the blissful confidence
that at the end of it the "ground will be suitable" for fighting on
horseback with steel weapons! He proceeds in this strain for four
pages, elaborating his topic with detailed tactical instructions, and
then comes the usual nullifying paragraph:

"It must be clearly understood that in this case, as in the other
where the Cavalry is on the flank of the army, there will seldom be
an opportunity for a charge." What, then, if not a charge? Half a
page of fervid generalization. "The first essential is that victory
shall be won.... The Cavalry must not shrink from employing its whole
force on the fire-fight." We are bidden, rightly enough, to study the
ancient lesson of Fredericksburg. But it is now 1911. And we know what
the author's views of the fire-fight for Cavalry are--that, owing to
the burden of led horses, it is never on any account to be attempted,
unless there is an assurance of complete moral, tactical, and numerical
superiority. _Cadit quæstio_ once more. Our reserve becomes a dummy.

There remain two topics in connection with the great pre-arranged
battle of all arms--"Pursuit and Retreat" and the "Rôle of the
Divisional Cavalry." I shall take the latter first, and, with little
comment, merely appeal to the reader's sense of humour. "In the battle
of all arms," says the General, "as soon as fighting contact has been
established with the enemy, and the close and combat reconnaissance
is then probably at an end, the divisional Cavalry must endeavour to
gain touch with the Army Cavalry in order to strengthen the latter for
the battle. In so doing it must not, of course, lose all connection
with its own Infantry division." Remember that the Army Cavalry is, by
hypothesis, well outside our flank of a battle area which may be of
any extent from ten to seventy miles. Picture the various divisional
Cavalries along this front endeavouring to "gain touch" with the
Army Cavalry, while not losing connection with their own respective

It may be that this particular injunction has aroused merriment in
Germany. That is not our business. But that Sir John French, with
undisturbed gravity, should solemnly pass it on to Englishmen as the
last word of military wisdom--that is extraordinary. Observe that, as
usual, the _arme blanche_ is responsible for the aberrations of the
German writer. In the succeeding sentence this becomes clear. "When
this cannot be done, and _when no other chance of mounted action
offers_, the divisional Cavalry must seize the rifle, and act as an
immediate support for the Infantry." The words I have italicized show
that the physical feats contemplated in the original injunction are
to be performed in the interests of shock, and that, if in the cold
prosaic light of day they daunt the imagination of the leaders on the
field, there is nothing left but to "seize the rifle."

"Pursuit and Retreat" is a chapter which almost defies any brief
analysis. Only those who are thoroughly acquainted with the curiously
ambiguous vocabulary which hampers Cavalry writers at every turn can
fully appreciate the bankruptcy of the steel weapons as disclosed in
these pages, and, at the same time, the disastrous effect of these
useless bits of steel upon the reasoning faculties of those who still
believe in them. The first few pages leave us only the impression
that both pursuit and retreat are very dubious topics for Cavalry.
We approach the kernel of the matter at p. 215, where the writer
deprecates "direct frontal pursuits," which "will generally yield but
meagre results against the masses of the modern Army and the firearm
of the present day." The enemy will occupy "localities, woods, and the
like," and "bring the Cavalry pursuit to a standstill." "Only when
completely demoralized troops are retreating in the open, and cannot be
reached by fire" (what this last clause means I cannot conceive), "will
a charge be feasible." Very good; but why not have followed the same
principle in earlier chapters, instead of talking of Cavalry charging
Infantry under cover, etc.? "Frontal pursuit is essentially a matter
for the Infantry, who must press the retreating enemy to the utmost."
This seems a fairly definite rule, but we have no sooner grasped it
than it is cancelled.

"On the other hand, it is, of course, the duty of the Cavalry to
maintain touch with the enemy under all circumstances. With this object
in view, it must continue the _frontal pursuit_, sometimes even
without seeking to draw on a fight, by day and night." How one can
continue a _frontal_ pursuit by day and night without seeking to draw
on a fight I leave the reader to guess. We turn to "Retreat," which
is, of course, the counterpart of pursuit, only to be involved in a
fresh tangle. Whether the enemy's Cavalry is assumed to be conducting
a frontal pursuit by day and night in spite of its "meagre results,"
or whether our own Infantry are bearing the brunt of the retreat in
the face of the frontal pursuit of the enemy's Infantry--a pursuit
which is "essentially" their business--we are left in uncertainty.
All we have are vague heroics about the "maintenance of morale" (the
writer seems to be very nervous about the morale of Cavalry), about
never renouncing a "relentless offensive," and about attacking the
"enemy," wherever possible, with the cold steel. We find ourselves
wondering how it is that "completely demoralized troops retreating in
the open" (by hypothesis the only proper subjects for a steel-charge)
can be, nevertheless, conducting a victorious pursuit, and our only
escape from the entanglement is that in the case now considered by the
author "enemy" means "Cavalry," who are, apparently, so far inferior
to Infantry (though they carry the very weapon which makes Infantry
formidable) that they can be "relentlessly attacked," even when they
are not completely demoralized.

One soon ceases to be surprised at anything in this species of
literature, or one would gasp with amazement at the levity with which
Cavalrymen throw ridicule on their own Arm. Suddenly and very tardily
we come upon an indication of the alternative to that frontal pursuit
which gives such meagre results and yet must be continued day and
night. "Thus, when it becomes no longer possible to show a front to
the pursuing Cavalry in the open, measures must be taken to block the
routes upon which his _parallel_ pursuit is operating," etc. Does not
the reader feel his brain going when he reads a sentence like this?
What antithesis can there be between Cavalry "pursuing in the open"
and Cavalry conducting a "parallel pursuit"? There is no more or less
probability of open ground in a parallel than in a frontal pursuit. It
is the old story. One half of the writer's brain is back in the days of
Frederick the Great; the other half is in working in the medium of the

That is the key to this chapter, from which a Cavalry leader could
not gain one concrete, definite rule for his guidance in real war.
On pursuit, as on many other topics, the author was more clear and
instructive in his earlier work, "Cavalry in Future Wars" (Chapter
IV.), where he was not hampered by having to consider Regulations with
any pretence to modernity, and where he accordingly spoke with freedom
on the absolute necessity of fire-action in pursuit; though he could
not even then wholly grasp the corollary, the absolute necessity of
fire-action in retreat.


Let us now, as in the case of the fight of the Independent Cavalry,
contrast the directions given by our own authorities for the great
battle of all Arms ("Cavalry Training," pp. 225-229). One point of
difference we may dispose of at once. The divisional Cavalry (who are
Mounted Infantry) and the "protective" Cavalry (to which there is no
German counterpart) behave rationally. They remain with, or drop back
to, their respective main bodies, and there make themselves generally
useful. The rules for the Independent or Army Cavalry, on the other
hand, present a curious study. On the German model, this main mass is,
generally speaking, to be posted forward of one of the flanks. (There
is no suggestion of a "reserve behind the front.") But we notice at
once, with some surprise, that nothing is said about the corresponding
hostile Cavalry mass, which, according to von Bernhardi, should be the
primary objective, and whose "absolute and complete overthrow" is,
according to Sir John French (p. xiv), a "primary necessity."

The explanation is that one of the opposing Cavalry masses is assumed
to have been already absolutely and completely overthrown--that is,
during the pre-battle reconnaissance phase, whose central incident, as
described in pp. 192-194 and 200-212 of the Manual, and criticized by
me in the last chapter, is the great shock-duel of the two Independent
Cavalries--a duel which is to result in the annihilation of one side or
the other, and to which I shall have to return once more in the next
chapter. The thread is resumed on p. 224 with the words, "Once the
Independent Cavalry has defeated its opponent," etc., and from that
point onwards nothing is heard of the hostile Independent Cavalry.
The explanation of Sir John French's expression is the same. On p.
xv he, too, assumes that _before the battle_ the hostile Cavalry has
been disposed of, and says, somewhat vaguely, that the "true rôle
of Cavalry on the battle-field is to reconnoitre, to deceive, and
finally to support"--functions which he distinctly suggests should be
carried out mainly through fire-action by troops "accustomed to act
in large bodies dismounted." And we seem to recognize this view in the
functions outlined in the Manual on p. 225. "Reconnoitre," it is true,
disappears. We find no echo of von Bernhardi's chimerical conception
of a double reconnaissance, distant and close, along the whole
battle-front; nor, we may add, of his injunction to "occupy defiles and
other important places to the flanks and front" of the Army.

The rôles suggested for the flank Cavalry mass are:

1. To "act against the enemy's flanks."

2. To combine _fire_ concentrically with the main attack.

3. To pursue on parallel lines--a function which it is laid down on p.
229 is to be performed mainly with the rifle.

4. To force the enemy away from his direct line of retreat; which is
merely a corollary of No. 3.

So far, good; but the _arme blanche_, as we might expect, is not
going to be suppressed in this summary fashion, and when we pass
from pious generalization to the actual "crisis," which "offers the
greatest opportunities for Cavalry action," we breathe once more the
intoxicating atmosphere of the great shock-charge, not against Cavalry
now (for they are _ex hypothesi_ extinct), but against Infantry and
Artillery. There is a mild caution about the "modern bullet," but it
is evidently not intended to be taken very seriously. The relation
between the "flank" phase and functions and the "crisis" phase and
functions is passed over in silence. Von Bernhardi's difficulty about
deployment and advance under modern fire is surmounted by the simple
direction that for what is called the "approach" surprise is essential;
yet in the next breath "fire-swept zones" are envisaged which are to
be passed over in a "series of rushes from shelter to shelter in the
least vulnerable formation"--a process exclusive of surprise; and on
the absolutely vital point of the formation for the actual attack one
can positively watch the compilers struggling to reconcile Cromwellian
principles with modern facts, and embodying the result in studiously
vague and misleading language. The front of the Cavalry is not to be
"too narrow," but the imperative necessity insisted on by von Bernhardi
of _wide extension_ in the whole attacking force is implicitly denied
by the direction that "squadrons in extended order may be used to
divert the enemy's attention from the _real attack_." Then, there is to
be the stereotyped rally, which is to be in "mass," and the resulting
mass is apparently to escape from further fire by using "another route."

When will our soldiers base their rules on war facts? As I have said,
the facts show that it is still possible, in certain conditions, for
men on horses, big target as they are, to penetrate a modern fire-zone,
and attack and defeat riflemen and Artillery; but it is impossible to
do so if they insist on conforming their methods to the assumption
that they are to do their killing work by remaining in the saddle and
wielding steel weapons. That idea is fatal. It is that idea which
promotes these rules about not too narrow fronts, these grotesque
mounted rallies in mass, and this pregnant silence about the real point
of interest--what actually happens when a line of horsemen, stirrup to
stirrup, or in extended order, wielding lances and swords, impinges on
an extended line of dismounted riflemen. We know from war experience
that such a charge, stirrup to stirrup, is as extinct as the dodo, and
is advocated in set terms by no rational being. It has not even been
tried or contemplated since 1870. We know that the widely extended type
has shared the fate of the other, because, with the loss of physical
"shock," the steel weapons have lost their whole historical _raison
d'être_. The only practicable mounted charge known to modern war is
that of the mounted riflemen, who _fight up to the charge_, and use the
only weapon which is effective against riflemen--namely, the rifle,
fortified, if need be, by the bayonet. This charge is not an essential
to victory. Heaven knows we lost guns and men and transport enough in
South Africa without any mounted charging. The very object of a missile
weapon is to overcome distance in a way that the lance and sword cannot
overcome it. For all we know, even the mounted rifle charge may wholly
disappear as science improves the firearm. But that improved firearm
will itself rule combat, and banish into still remoter realms of memory
the reign of the lance and sword.

I have excepted the case of the "utterly demoralized" enemy--utterly
demoralized, of course, by _fire_. He is, naturally, fair game for
any weapon, and experience proves that the firearm once more is
incomparably the best weapon. Lances and swords are, relatively, slow,
cumbrous, and ineffective. A magazine pistol used even from horseback
is a better weapon than either.

Nothing is said by our authorities as to attack during the battle
upon the enemy's reserves and transport, enterprises in which von
Bernhardi, after dismissing as a rare exception the great shock-charge,
concludes that Cavalry are to seek their decisive opportunities. We
may assume that, like raids on communications, they are ruled out.
But no alternative to the shock-charge at the crisis is suggested,
for the parallel pursuit is, of course, a subsequent phase. There is
only the ominous reservation that, if the _ground_ is not favourable
to the shock-charge, the "Cavalry commander must look for his chance
elsewhere, _or wait for a more favourable opportunity_" (p. 227).

That is just what we have to fear. That was the old, narrow, ignorant
outlook of the continental Cavalries, who were always waiting for
favourable opportunities, and accounts for the idleness and lack of
enterprise which von Moltke stigmatized in 1866, and for the paltry
character of their performances as a whole, which von Bernhardi
recognizes and condemns. It accounts for the miserable failure of
the Cossacks in Manchuria, and explains the success of the Japanese
Cavalry, once they realized the worthlessness of their German
instruction and textbooks, and discovered for themselves the worth of
the rifle as a stimulus to activity and mobility. Von Bernhardi says
(p. 202): "The greatest imaginable error ... is to adopt a waiting
attitude ... in order that the possibility of a great charge might not
slip by unutilized." That error is precisely what we have to fear.
Teach Cavalry that their lances and swords are their principal weapons,
and that the rifle is a defensive weapon; tell them that the "climax of
training" is the steel charge, "since upon it depends the final result
of the battle"; found their "spirit" on the steel; make it in theory
their "proper rôle"; give it a vocabulary of stirring epithets, like
"glorious," "relentless," "remorseless," and all the rest, and they are
only too likely, eager for battle as they are, to "wait for favourable
opportunities" which will never occur, when they ought to be busy and
active with their horses and rifles.

The sections on pursuit and retreat are modelled on similar sections
in von Bernhardi's earlier book, "Cavalry in Future Wars," and escape
therefore some of the contradictions of the later work. Since they
lay predominant stress on fire, we can only hope that their obvious
blindness to the true reasons for fire does little harm. Pursuits,
whether by Infantry or Cavalry, be they frontal, parallel, or
intercepting, will always be governed by fire. The thing that really
distinguishes Cavalry from Infantry is that they have horses, which
give them a vast scope for a class of intercepting tactics which
Infantry cannot undertake so easily. But even Infantry will be better
at any form of pursuit than a purely shock-trained Cavalry. Sir John
French would have intercepted the Boers, not only at Paardeberg, but at
Poplar Grove, Karee Siding, Dewetsdorp, and Zand River, if his Cavalry
had understood the rifle as well as they understood the horse. Retreat
is the counterpart of pursuit, and the same principles apply. Cavalry
ought to be able to fight a rearguard action better than Infantry,
because, thanks to their mobility, they can choose defensive points
more freely, hold them longer, and fall back to others quicker. But
if they are taught that it is beneath them to entrench and to defend
a fire-position with stubborn tenacity, and that their proper rôle is
to be performing Frederician fantasias with the lance and sword, then
they are likely, "in real war," to be relegated to a sphere "outside
effective rifle-range," and to find their place usurped by Infantry
and mounted riflemen. There is very little to be known about rearguard
actions which the Boers have not taught us, and yet they were, in
Cavalry parlance, "defenceless"--in other words, steelless riflemen.




I COME lastly to the author's chapters on "Reconnaissance, Screening,
and Raids." As I explained before, it is the critic's simplest course
to leave them to the last, because, although they come first, they
almost ignore the subject of weapons and combats, on the assumption,
apparently, that the opposing Cavalries, at any rate in the first two
of the functions in question, will, as a matter of course, fight with
the lance and sword in the pure and proper fashion. But we have now
considered and tested the worth of the author's views on combat and
weapons, and can apply our criticisms to these chapters.

Combat and weapons are not wholly overlooked. At the very outset comes
the maxim which I quoted further back, to the effect that "the essence
of Cavalry lies in the offensive," and that for defence they are to
"abandon their proper rôle and seize the rifle on foot." The reader
can appreciate now the value of this maxim, when we are dealing, as
the author in these chapters is dealing, with two opposing Cavalries
who are assumed to be acting against one another independently of
other Arms. To tell both these Cavalries that their essence lies in
the offensive is, to say the least, a superfluous platitude. To say
that it is only in defence that they are to "seize the rifle" is to
say something wholly meaningless. Unless by seizing it they can force
their antagonists also to relinquish shock as useless and to seize the
rifle, they might as well not seize it at all. If they can force their
antagonists to seize it--and the whole mass of modern experience shows
that they can and do--then their antagonists, whether we call their
rôle proper or improper, are acting in _offence_ with the firearm, and
the maxim is stultified--as, indeed, any maxim which applies medieval
language to modern problems must be stultified. Experience shows that
if you arm men with long-range, smokeless, accurate missile weapons,
whatever their traditions of etiquette and sportsmanship in peace,
they will in war use those weapons to the exclusion of lances, swords,
battle-axes, scimitars, and the various other weapons which were highly
formidable before the days of gunpowder, but which have steadily
declined since the invention and the progressive improvement of arms of

Besides this general maxim upon the functions of the rifle and the
steel, there are a few incidental allusions which must be noticed.
The reader will remember the rule as to the powerlessness of the
squadron as a unit for fire-action. The rule is anticipated here in
directions for reconnoitring squadrons (p. 44), which, even by night,
are only to fight with the _arme blanche_, "because dismounted action
is generally dangerous, and, on account of the weakness of the force,
usually leads to failure"; and we wonder again how _both_ of two
opposing reconnoitring squadrons can "fail," and how such a situation
is actually to be dealt with on such principles in "real war"--say in
the hedge-bound country which covers two-thirds of England. We are also
told (p. 57) that patrols, "on collision with the enemy's patrols," are
to take action "in as offensive a spirit as possible, but after due
reflection." "Should a charge promise any kind of success, the opponent
must be attacked in the most determined way." Nothing is said about
fire, but we are left with the impression that a fire-attack can be
neither "offensive" nor "determined," and for the rest we have to be
content with guidance like the following: "It does not promise success
to attack the front of an advancing squadron under the apprehension
that it is a single patrol."

One day's personal experience of modern war would teach the author
the perilous futility of all these "speculative" conjectures. Has he
forgotten altogether the power and purpose of the modern rifle--the
rapidity, accuracy, and secrecy of its fire--when he speaks of patrols
indulging in due reflection about their determined offensive charges?
It is to be feared that at the hands of any but utterly incompetent
troops his own contemplative patrols would receive short shrift. And
the lesson of South Africa? It is hard to see why, in the matter of
patrols at any rate, those three years of war should be regarded as
abnormal. Yet it is the fact, as I must repeat, that no Cavalry patrol
or scout from the beginning to the end of the war ever used the lance
or sword; that in reconnaissance no Boer ever came near being hurt by
those weapons; and, furthermore, that the Cavalry were consistently
and thoroughly outmatched in reconnaissance, which was governed
universally by the rifle. It was exactly the same in Manchuria. Instead
of reminding his German _confrère_ of these facts, Sir John French
complains that the difficulty of the Cavalry in South Africa was that
they had nothing to reconnoitre, while he implicitly approves and
applauds the conception of the reflective charging patrol.

To clinch the matter, we need only remind ourselves that our own
divisional mounted troops, whose sole weapon is the rifle, are
entrusted not only with reconnaissance for their own division, but, in
certain events, with exactly the same duties as the Independent and
protective Cavalry. In these duties they will be pitted (in the event
of a Continental war) against steel-armed Cavalry. If steel weapons
were of any use, this would be criminal.

Such are the scanty clues as to combat which we obtain from the
chapters on reconnaissance. It remains to ask, What is von Bernhardi's
view upon the great question of the employment of the Army or
Independent Cavalry (as distinguished from the divisional Cavalry) in
the most important of all its functions in modern war--reconnaissance?
I defy anyone to answer that question. So far as it is possible to
construct any positive view from a series of obscure and contradictory
propositions, it appears to be a view which is in direct conflict with
that of Sir John French and of the Cavalry Manual which presumably he
approves, while approving equally of General von Bernhardi. Anyone
familiar with Cavalry literature will know of the old controversy
between the theories of concentration and dispersion. Is the Army
Cavalry at the opening of a campaign to concentrate and "drive from the
field" the enemy's Army Cavalry, or is it from the outset to begin its
work of exploring the various lines of approach of the various hostile
columns over the whole front--an enormously extensive front--upon which
great modern armies must develop their advance?


In view of the great size and vast manoeuvring areas of modern armies
and of the small numbers and transcendently important reconnaissance
duties of Cavalry, that question would, I think, be decided in favour
of dispersion, were it not for the fatal influence of the _arme
blanche_. But Cavalrymen must have the gigantic shock-duel which I
described and criticized in Chapter IV., 2. The idea of dispersion for
sporadic bickering and scouting before this imposing tournament has
been arranged is unthinkable to them. Our Manual therefore (pp. 193,
194) sets forth in all its naked crudity the idea of the preliminary
shock-duel between the _concentrated_ masses of the two Independent (or
strategical) Cavalries--a duel that cannot, it is expressly laid down,
be conducted by fire-action, which is negative and inconclusive, but
which, conducted with the steel, is assumed to result in the complete
and final "overthrow" of one party or the other. One side, in the words
of the Manual, is "disposed of," and the surviving party proceeds to
disperse and reconnoitre undisturbed in the vast area of war.[5]

Needless to say, the theory is purely academic. Such things have never
happened in any war, ancient or modern, and assuredly never will
happen. One Cavalry or the other may be depended upon in the future
to act at the last moment with common sense. If it does not at once
set about its work of reconnaissance, it will, at any rate, shiver to
pieces with fire the massed shock-formations of its opponent.

General von Bernhardi seems to be conscious of the weakness of the
theory, though he cannot bring himself to shatter it outright. There
are, of course, two distinct questions involved: (1) Should the
Independent Cavalries concentrate at the outset? (2) If so, should the
resulting collision be a shock-collision? Number 1 is at any rate open
to debate. Number 2 is not, but it always confuses the discussion of
Number 1. The General could dispose of Number 2 merely by references
to other parts of his own work--to the passages, for example, where
he says that not only in the great battles of all Arms, but in the
contests of Independent Cavalries, shock-charges are only to be
"rare" and "exceptional" events. For "squadrons, regiments, and even
brigades, _unassisted by other arms_, the charge may often suffice
for a decision. But where it is an affair of larger masses, it will
never be possible to dispense with the co-operation of firearms" (p.
103). And there is the passage about modern European topography where
he shows the physical difficulty of bringing about these combats. On
the broader question (No. 1) he speaks with two voices. In direct
contradiction of Sir John French's introductory remarks and of our own
Manual, he says (p. 20) that the strategical Cavalry is not necessarily
"to seek a tactical battle"; that it is "by no means its duty under all
circumstances to seek out the enemy's Cavalry in order to defeat it,"
because "by such conduct it would allow the enemy's Cavalry to dictate
its movements." "On the contrary, it must subordinate all else to the
particular objects of reconnaissance," etc.

It is clearly in his mind that, since the various corps or columns
which are the objects of reconnaissance may be "advancing to battle" on
a total front of 50 to 100 miles (this is his own estimate, p. 81), it
will be advisable to explore their zones of approach at once. But there
are other passages which support the opposite principle: for example,
on page 15: "The circumstances of modern war demand that great masses
of mounted men shall be used as Army Cavalry and concentrated in the
decisive direction.... The front of the army, therefore, can never be
covered throughout its entire length by the Army Cavalry," etc. On
page 87 also he is quite decisive in the same sense: "The universal
principle most always good for Cavalry, that when a decisive struggle
is in prospect all possible strength must be concentrated for it"--an
unexceptional truism, applicable as it stands to all struggles, great
or small, by land or sea, but in its context only too suggestive of
the gigantic shock-duel.[6] But on the whole he stands committed to
nothing more definite than the following: "It remains for the leader to
make his preparations in full freedom, and to solve the task confided
to him in his own way." Profoundly true, but not very helpful in an
instructional treatise on war.


The chapter on "Divisional Reconnaissance" is still less intelligible.
It would be interesting to know how Sir John French would sum up its
"logical" and "convincing" doctrines. The divisional Cavalry are in
all cases to "cleave to the Infantry" (p. 75) of their respective
divisions, yet they are to take the place of the Army Cavalry "when
a concentration of that force in a decisive direction takes place"
(another hint of the gigantic preliminary shock-duel), and are even
to indulge in "strategical exploration" (pp. 72-75). In fact, these
amazing super-Cavalry are to perform physical feats in reconnaissance
analogous to the feats designed for them in the pre-arranged battle of
all arms (_vide_ p. 149). Yet they cannot "fight independently" even
with the hostile divisional Cavalry, nor clear the way for their own
patrols, nor find their own outposts (pp. 75-76).

And then we come to a passage which, quite parenthetically and as it
were by accident, throws a searching light upon the many dark places of
this volume. The divisional Cavalry, _inter alia_, is to perform the
"close reconnaissance along by far the greater part of the front of
the army." But the close reconnaissance, owing to the range of modern
firearms, is "considerably more difficult." "It thus becomes possible
for the Cavalryman in general to get no closer to the enemy than his
rifle will carry" (p. 80). "_His_ rifle," be it noted. And the hostile
Cavalryman (surely an "enemy") is presumably in the same case. What,
then, of the charging patrols and squadrons?

I suppose I should add that only two pages later (p. 82) the author, in
a fit of remorse, rehabilitates the charging patrol. "Rude force can
alone prevail, and recourse must be had to the sword." Rude force! The
tragi-comic irony of it!


As to the chapter on Screens, we can only respectfully appeal to
Sir John French to explain it. The ordinary reader can only give up
the problem of elucidation in despair. What is the connection with
his previous chapters on reconnaissance? Is the "screen" something
different from or supplementary to the normal reconnoitring,
patrolling, and protective duties of the Army and divisional
Cavalry, as described under the headings, "Main Body of the Army
Cavalry," "Reconnoitring Squadrons," "Distant Patrols," "Divisional
Reconnaissance," etc.? One would infer from the opening paragraph that
it is something wholly different. "The idea of the screen," runs the
opening sentence, "is first touched on in the 'Field Service Manual'
of 1908; it is also, however, demanded by the conditions of modern
war"; and from what follows we gather that the screen means an inner
and purely _protective_ cordon of Cavalry, as distinguished from a
distant offensive reconnoitring cordon. The same distinction is drawn
in page 13 of the first chapter of the book. This is the kind of
distinction drawn by our own Manual, which, though it does not speak of
a "screen," divides the Cavalry into three bodies--one "Independent"
or "strategical," the second "protective," while the third is the
divisional Cavalry. Logically, of course, the distinction has but a
limited value, unless, indeed, one regards the protective force as
merely a chain of stationary outposts or sentries. All reconnaissance
must obviously be defensive as well as offensive, because it represents
a conflict between two opposing parties. If the protective Cavalry are
pressed, it is their duty, as the Manual does, in fact, lay down, not
only to resist the scouts and patrols of the hostile force, but to find
out the strength and disposition of that force, and even in certain
cases, explicitly provided for, to take the place of the Independent
Cavalry; just as it is the duty of the Independent Cavalry, not only
to pierce the hostile Independent Cavalry and inform themselves of the
strength and disposition of the hostile Army, but to resist similar
action on the part of their opponents. These principles would be taken
for granted, with a vast improvement in the simplicity of regulations,
if it were not for the influence of the _arme blanche_, impelling
Cavalry writers to call their Arm a peculiarly _offensive_ Arm, and
inspiring the grotesque idea of the great preliminary shock-duel
for the opposing Independent Cavalries, who are both presumed to be
perpetually in offence as regards one another.

Still, within reasonable and well-understood limits, the metaphorical
term "screen," as denoting the protective aspect of a widespread
observing force, is both useful and illuminating. To regard it,
as General von Bernhardi does, as a brand-new idea, the result of
"reflection and experience" on the needs of modern war, is to convict
himself of ignorance of war. Screens of a sort there always have
been and always must be: the only new factor is the vastly increased
efficacy of modern firearms; and if he could bring himself to
concentrate on that new factor, of whose importance he shows himself in
other passages to be perfectly aware, he would be able to convert into
an intelligible, practical scheme his strange medley of inconsequent
generalizations. He is, of course, handicapped by the official
Regulations, which, unlike our own, do not formally provide for a
"protective Cavalry" as distinguished from the divisional Cavalry,
and which seem to be more than usually obscure and confused in their
theories about "offensive" and "defensive" screens, and in their hazy
suggestions as to what troops are to perform the respective functions;
but he cannot or will not see the fundamental fallacy which, like Puck
in the play, is tricking and distracting the minds of those who framed
the Regulations, and so he himself makes confusion worse confounded.
The protective aspect of the screen is no sooner insisted on than it is
forgotten, and we have a disquisition on the offensive screen, which
appears to be only another name for the normal activities of the Army
Cavalry, behind the "veil" formed by whom a second screen is to be
established by the divisional Cavalry (p. 87).

This, however, is disconcerting, because in the previous chapter (p.
74) we have been told with emphasis that the Army Cavalry "in the most
usual case" will not be able to reconnoitre the whole Army front,
but will be "concentrated in a decisive direction," and that the
divisional Cavalry in such cases, in spite of their unfitness for the
task, will have to do the "distant reconnaissance" and "strategical
exploration" at all points not directly covered by the main Cavalry
mass. And, sure enough, the "veil" just alluded to now disappears
in its character as veil, and reappears as a "concentrated" mass.
"The principal task of the offensive screen is to defeat the hostile
Cavalry, and for this object all available force must be concentrated,
for one cannot be strong upon the field of battle" (p. 87). It is
amazing that serious exponents of any _métier_ should write in this
fashion. A concentrated screen is a contradiction in terms.

Once committed, however, the General persists. All cyclist detachments
and patrols are "to be brought up to the fight" from everywhere. Roads
are not to be blocked (in accordance with the screen idea) until the
supreme Cavalry struggle, with its conventional "complete overthrow" of
the hostile Cavalry, is over; and all this in flat contradiction of at
least two-thirds of the earlier chapter on the Army Cavalry, where it
was laid down that reconnoitring squadrons were from the first to be
pushed forward from the "various groups of Army Cavalry," and were to
be allotted reconnaissance zones; that a separation of Cavalry force
was far the most probable line of action; and that reconnaissance was
"an every-day task of the Cavalry," its "daily bread," a "duty which
should never cease to be performed" for a single moment.

And yet on page 89 we come to the staggering, if cryptic, conclusion
that "the Army Cavalry will only undertake an offensive screen when
the Army is advancing and where the country does not afford suitable
localities for the establishment of a defensive screen."

The writer then enlarges on the merits of the defensive screen, and,
now that his mind is occupied with the idea of defence, makes it
perfectly clear that the rifle is absolute master of the situation for
the patrols, troops, squadrons, or any other units of both belligerent
parties. Your defensive screen acts by fire, and obviously, therefore,
whoever tries to pierce your screen must act by fire. These pages
reduce to nullity all the romantic hints elsewhere about the charging
patrol or squadron, with its "rude force" and its "determined" and
"remorseless" attacks.

And what of illustrations and examples from modern war? Not
one. Nothing but "speculative and theoretical reflection." For
anyone who cares to study them, the facts are there--plain, hard,
incontrovertible, convincing facts. Sir John French knows all about
the South African facts. Screens, on a small or great scale, were
matters of daily experience. He himself, with a force of all arms,
sustained a screen for two months--primarily protective, but tactically
offensive, as all screens must be--in the Colesberg operations of
November-January, 1899-1900. He knows perfectly well that lances and
swords, for all the use made of them, might as well have been in store,
and that the Cavalry engaged acted on precisely the same principles as
the Colonial mounted riflemen engaged.

During most of the operations from Bloemfontein to Pretoria, and from
Pretoria to Komati Poort, our great force of all arms was pitted
against what (if we consider relative numbers) was little more than a
mounted screen, and every day's operations exemplified the fighting
principles involved. The rifle was the great ruling factor. If the
rifleman had a horse, so much the better--he was a more mobile
rifleman; but lances and swords were useless dead-weight. Precisely
the same phenomena reappear in Manchuria. On the Japanese side much
excellent screening work was done by Infantry, against whom the Cossack
scouts and reconnoitring squadrons, trained solely to shock, were
impotent. Infantry move slowly, but their rifle is a good rifle, and
it is not the horse which fires it, but the man. No infantry patrol
of any Army--certainly, at any rate, of our own Army--is afraid
of the lances or swords of a Cavalry patrol. It is only--strange
paradox!--Cavalry patrols who are taught to fear the lances and swords
of other Cavalry patrols.

I am reminded here of some remarks made in a letter to the _Times_ of
March 26, 1910, by the military correspondent of that journal, whom I
had respectfully reproached with having abandoned his old hostility to
shock. Cavalry patrols, unless they are to be "trussed chickens," must,
he now said, have lances and swords in order, _inter alia_, to be able,
when meeting other Cavalry patrols "in villages and lanes, or at the
corner of some wood," to "tear the eyes out of" them! These "OEdipean
evulsions" form a picturesque improvement even on von Bernhardi's "rude
force," and strike a decidedly happier note than the patrol "charging
after due reflection." But why, I asked, could not the act be performed
on even one single occasion in three years of war in South Africa? Why
not in one single recorded case in a year's war in Manchuria? Well, one
must admit that the "corner of the wood" was an ingenious touch. It
suggested a close, blind, wooded district of England, so prohibitive
of shock in large bodies and for that reason so unlike South Africa
and Manchuria. Yet there were many similar obstacles in both those
regions: there were hundreds of villages; there were hills, mountains,
ravines, dongas, sharp rocky ridges, river-beds, clumps of bush and
trees, farm buildings; there were the great tracts of bush-veldt in
the Transvaal, the tall millet of Northern Manchuria, and so on--quite
enough, certainly, to lead to the tearing out of the eyes of at least
one careless scout or patrol. Colonel Repington knows these facts as
well as I do, and once more, in view of his great--and deservedly
great--influence on contemporary thought, I beg him to return to his
earlier manner, and speak once more in his old slashing style about
the futility of "classic charges and prehistoric methods." After all,
this is the very language used by von Bernhardi, whom, in the letter I
have been alluding to, Colonel Repington described as a "very eminent

I have the letter before me, and it is with a somewhat grim
satisfaction that I observe the Nemesis which overtakes publicists who
are rash enough to recant opinions founded on national experience and
confirmed by the most recent facts of war. It was written just before
von Bernhardi's book was published, and a large part of it took the
form of an eulogy on the German Cavalry, whom he defended hotly from
my charge of "sentimental conservatism," whose new regulations about
fire-action he quoted with admiring approval, and whose revivification
he distinctly associated with the name of that "very eminent authority"
General von Bernhardi. The very eminent authority spoke a few weeks
later, and said that his "writings had fallen on barren soil." His
language about the sentimental conservatism of the present German
Cavalry beggared any I had used. He made his own Colonel Repington's
epithet "prehistoric"; his phrase "old-fashioned knightly combats"
is surely an adequate counterpart to "classic charges"; in many a
passage of biting invective he deplores as literal truth at the present
moment what Colonel Repington scouted as a libellous myth invented
by me--namely, that in peace manoeuvres "solid lines of steel-clad
Cavalry are led across open plains"; and, as I have shown, he regards
as utterly unprepared for war a Cavalry which Colonel Repington holds
up as an example to his British readers of "the best modern Cavalries,"
and which, if we do not imitate their methods, would, he thinks, in
the event of a war, tear the eyes out of ours. As to fire-action,
perhaps Colonel Repington had not studied the German Regulations with
a very critical eye before he praised them to the point of asking,
"Could Botha or Delarey or De Wet ask for more?" In the light of von
Bernhardi's strictures and of his still stranger alternatives, the
topic, I am sure, will need different handling if Colonel Repington
returns to it.

Finally, I repeat once more that, for Englishmen, one of the
best practical criteria of the steel theory, in regard both to
reconnaissance and battle functions, lies in the existence of our
Mounted Infantry force. Their revised Manual (1909), reticent and
incomplete as it is sometimes in the interests of the sacred shock
theory, is, in effect, a crushing indictment of that theory. They
are trained to do precisely the same work as the Cavalry. They are
not only to act as purely divisional mounted troops, but, like the
German divisional Cavalry, are intended to co-operate with and, in
circumstances which must constantly happen, act as substitutes for
the Independent Cavalry. This is criminal folly if, from the lack of
a sword or lance, they are "trussed chickens," whose morale, in the
words of Colonel Repington, will be "destroyed" by steel-armed Cavalry.
Thank Heaven, they listen with indifference to this language--language
which would indeed be calculated to destroy the morale of any force
with less self-respect and less splendid war traditions behind it. They
know in their hearts that their methods are in reality not despised but
feared by Continental Cavalry, for the reasons frankly and honestly set
forth by General von Bernhardi. Their leaders now are the sole official
repositories of what is really our great national tradition for mounted
troops in civilized war; for the steel tradition is a legend dating
from Balaclava, a battle which is scarcely more relevant to modern
needs than Crécy--and Crécy, by the way, was one of the greatest of all
the historic triumphs of missile weapons over shock. It was not the
lack of swords and lances, but the possession of swords and lances,
which tended to turn men into "trussed chickens" in South Africa and
Manchuria. It was the rifle in both cases which made Cavalry mobile
and formidable. It is melancholy to think that our true principles and
sound traditions of mounted warfare are embodied in so small a force,
organized on such an illogical system, provided with a training of
altogether inadequate length, and hampered by nominal subservience to
a steel-armed Cavalry whose theories of action have been proved in two
long and bloody wars to be obsolete.

It is perhaps even more melancholy to see so many Yeomanry officers
agitating for an opportunity to ape the worst features of the Cavalry,
while neglecting the best features of the very force whose exact
tactical counterpart they are; dreaming sentimental nonsense about
Bredow's charge at Vionville, while under their eyes lie the pitiless
records of idleness and failure on the part of those whose aim it was
to imitate Bredow, and the still sadder story of the penalties paid in
South Africa for inexperience in the rifle by the Yeomanry themselves.

I sometimes wonder if Houndsditch will open the eyes of the public to
the unrealities of Cavalry manoeuvre. How many Cavalry, _condemned to
remain in their saddles_, would it take to disable or capture a patrol
of determined men using automatic pistols (to say nothing of magazine
rifles) either in a "village or lane or at the corner of some wood," or
on the rolling downs of Salisbury or Lambourne?


[Footnote 5: See "Cavalry Training," p. 194. "It will thus gain freedom
to carry out its ultimate rôle of reconnaissance." See also p. 196,
where the principle is repeated with emphasis, an exception being made
in favour of the case where the enemy's Cavalry is outside the zone of

[Footnote 6: Yet on page 190 he contrasts action _en masse_ in the
battle of all Arms with previous action "in detail."]



("_Die Feuerwaffe beherrscht die Taktik_")


"THE rifle (or literally, the firearm) rules tactics." The phrase was
originally my own, but the General has done me the honour of adopting
and sanctioning it, and I may fitly bring this criticism of his
writings to a conclusion by briefly noting the occasion and origin of
this remarkable admission. My book, "War and the _Arme Blanche_," was
published in March, 1910, a month before the publication in England of
his own second work, "Cavalry in War and Peace," whose consideration we
have just concluded. In the course of the summer of 1910 the General
published a series of articles in the _Militär Wochenblatt_ criticizing
my book, and those articles were translated and printed in the _Cavalry
Journal_ of October, 1910.

The critic covers limited ground. He makes no rejoinder or allusion of
any sort to my own chapter of detailed criticism upon his own earlier
work, "Cavalry in Future Wars." He scarcely notices my discussion of
the Manchurian War. He confines himself almost wholly to the South
African War, and makes it plain (1) that his knowledge of that war
is exceedingly deficient; (2) that his principal explanation for the
comparative failure of our Regular Cavalry in that war was that they
were timidly led; (3) that he had misunderstood the nature of the case
which I had endeavoured to construct against the _arme blanche_, and
that, so far as he did understand it, he agreed with my conclusions.

1. Internal evidence shows--what one would naturally infer from the
extraordinary conceptions of the technique of fire-action for mounted
troops developed in his book--that the General[7] has never studied
closely the combats of our war, except, perhaps, in such publications
as the German Official History, which leaves off at March, 1900,
practically ignores the mounted question, regards the Boers throughout
as Infantry (presumably because, though mounted, they did not carry
lances and swords), and, as a result of this method of exposition,
is of no value towards the present controversy. Unfamiliar with the
phenomena of our war, the General nevertheless taunts me, who argued
solely from the facts of war and went not an inch beyond the facts,
with being a "speculative theorist"--a taunt which comes strangely
from an author who declares in his current volume (p. 7) that "the
groundwork of training" for modern Cavalry can only be created from
"speculative and theoretical reflection." He proceeds further to
obliterate my humble personality by remarking that I am "naturally
devoid of all war experience," and that he would never have taken the
trouble to discuss the subject at all if Lord Roberts had not declared
his agreement with what I had written. The personal point, of course,
is wholly immaterial, and I welcome his perfectly correct choice of
an opponent. But his spontaneous allusion to war experience raises a
somewhat important point. Until reading the words, I had never dreamed
that my own war experience was a serious factor in the discussion. I
have never alluded to it or argued from it; but since the point is
raised, let me say to General von Bernhardi that, in common with some
hundreds of thousands of my countrymen here or in the Colonies, I have
had, in a very humble capacity, a certain kind of war experience, of
which he, as a reflective theorist, stands in bitter need. We have
_seen_ the modern rifle at work in what he calls "real war." We have
_seen_ what he has only reflected about and imagined--the revolution
wrought by it on the battle-field since the days of 1870. He has not;
and if he had, he would have avoided many of the painful solecisms
and blunders which disfigure his work, enlightened as that work is by
comparison with the retrograde school he attacks.

2. TIMID LEADING.--The Boers, says the General, were a "peasant
militia," who were "tied to their ox-waggons," "incapable of assuming
the offensive on a large scale," in "disappearing smaller numbers
against greatly superior numbers," "not often strong enough either
to charge the English Cavalry or to attack the English Infantry,"
"directed by halting leadership," and so on--altogether, according to
the General's standards, a most contemptible foe, hardly worthy of the
steel of a respectable professional Cavalry, and certainly not the
kind of foe to force such a Cavalry to abandon its traditional form of
combat. But there was the rub. Our Cavalry, it seems, was even more
contemptible. They "made no relentless pursuits, despite the lack of
operative mobility in the enemy"; "they did not attack even when they
had the opportunity"; and "one could scarcely find a European Cavalry
which was tied down to such an extent during the big operations as the
Boers, or one which, against such little resistance, did not try to
overcome it as the English." He cites the action of Dronfield,[8] where
Sir John French was in command, as a specific instance, and in as plain
language as it is possible to use without penning the word "cowardice,"
accuses the Cavalry present of that unpardonable crime. "Mr. Childers,"
he remarks with perfect truth, "relates the story without any spite to
show the little value of English Cavalry equipment and training. _I
think it shows much beside._"[9] (The italics are mine.)

I do not know if this kind of thing will finally compel Sir John
French to examine more thoroughly the foundations of his own belief
in the lance and sword, and to apply more searching criticism to the
works of the "acknowledged authority" whom he lauds to the skies as a
model and Mentor for British Cavalrymen. I should hope that, on their
behalf, he now resents as hotly as I resent the contemptuous patronage
of an officer holding and expressing the view that "any European
Cavalry"--and he afterwards expressly names the German Cavalry--would
have shown more aggressive spirit in South Africa than our own--more
aggressive spirit, be it understood, _with the lance and sword_; for
if that be not the meaning, the General's lengthy appreciation of the
worth and exploits of the rival forces in South Africa is, in its
context, as part of a hostile criticism of my work, either destructive
of his own argument or meaningless. Sir John French refuses to read
through British eyes the plain moral of the war for Cavalry. This is
his reward, and it is of no use to pretend that he does not deserve it.
Anyone who throws the dearly-bought experience of his own countrymen
to the winds, and runs to foreigners who have no relevant experience
for corroboration of an outworn creed, gratuitously courts the same

Perhaps I make too much of a point of pride. Let Sir John French at
any rate see the amusing side of the situation. He has set forth[10]
his own four reasons for the failure of the lance and sword in South
Africa: (1) The lightning speed of the Boers in running away from
combat--a habit which left our Cavalry nothing even to reconnoitre; (2)
the fact that our military object was nothing less than the complete
conquest and annexation of the enemy's country; (3) that, owing to the
release of prisoners who fought again against us, we had to contend
with double the number of men nominally allowed for; (4) the condition
of the horses.

The last factor the German author does not pretend to take seriously
as an explanation of the failure of the Cavalry; and with regard to
the first three his view, as far as it receives clear expression, is
diametrically the reverse of that of Sir John French. So far from
alleging that the Boers "dispersed for hundreds of miles when pressed,"
he dwells repeatedly on the immobility imposed by their ox-waggons,
says that they were "tied down" to an unparalleled extent, and censures
the Cavalry for what he regards as their unparalleled slackness in
attack against such a vulnerable and unenterprising enemy. So far
from agreeing that there was "nothing to reconnoitre," he points
out that the Cavalry "did not understand reconnaissance by Cavalry
patrols," a statement true enough in itself, but valueless without the
reason--namely, the mistaken armament and training of the Cavalry--a
reason which would, of course, have applied with infinitely greater
force to "any other European Cavalry," because no Cavalry but our own
would have had the invaluable assistance of Colonial mounted riflemen,
armed and trained correctly. So far from finding an excuse for the
failure of the lance and sword in the fact that our aim was conquest
and annexation, he appears in the last page of his article to argue
that, had these weapons been used more "relentlessly," the British
nation would not now be in what he evidently regards as the degrading
situation of having Boers on a footing of political equality with
British citizens! Finally, so far from pleading the abnormal accretions
to the Boer Army through the release of captured prisoners, he makes
a particular point of our vast numerical superiority and of the
"disappearing smaller numbers" of the enemy.

But the climax comes when he coolly tells Sir John French that the
German Cavalry, whose backwardness and "indolence" he condemns in the
very book which Sir John French sponsors, whom he regards as absolutely
"unprepared for war," whose "prehistoric" tactics, "old-fashioned
knightly combats," "antiquated Regulations," and "tactical orgies," he
is at this moment satirizing, would, twelve years ago, with still more
antiquated Regulations, with still less education, and with a far worse
armament, have taught the Boer peasants lessons with the steel which
our faint-spirited Cavalry could not teach them! All patriotic feelings
apart, and merely as a military experiment, one would like to have seen
the German Uhlans of 1899, with their popgun carbine and Frederician
traditions, and without a vestige of aid, inspiration or example from
Colonial or Mounted Infantry sources, tackling the Boers at Talana or
Zand River, at Colenso, Diamond Hill, or Magersfontein, at Ladysmith or
Sannah's Post, at Roodewal or Bakenlaagte. At the last two episodes the
General is quite certain that they would have done far more marvellous
feats with the steel by means of an old-fashioned knightly combat than
the Boers did with the rifle.

Serious students of land-war, anxious only to elucidate the purely
technical question as to whether horsemen in modern days can fight
effectively on horseback with steel weapons, look on in amazed
bewilderment, while high authorities on the affirmative side conspire
to render themselves and one another ridiculous by dragging in
political, psychological, strategical, and even lyrical factors which
have nothing whatever to do with the simple issue of combat. There,
as I have often said, is the reader's clue through the labyrinth of
contradictions. Neither Sir John French nor General von Bernhardi ever
really discusses at all the real point at issue. That is why they
succeed in agreeing upon it, while differing radically in their logical
processes. As the reader probably realizes now, nearly everything the
latter General writes is either susceptible of two constructions or
is subject to subsequent qualification. This critical essay on the
opinions of Lord Roberts and on my book, "War and the _Arme Blanche_,"
is only another illustration of the same mental habit. Though he is
explicit enough on what he regards as the feeble initiative of the
British Army in general and the British Cavalry in particular, he never
attempts to trace any direct causal connection between this topic and
the topic of the lance or sword. He dare not. Remote insinuation is
his only weapon. Yet, for the purposes of his article, that specific
link is the only thing worth talking about. So far as he does touch
the question of physical combat--as, for example, where he says that
the Boers "fought entirely with the rifle, and this the mounted
troops of England had to learn," "that the Boers were far superior in
the fire-fight," that the absence of "Cavalry duels" in South Africa
was caused (mark this deliciously naïve admission) by the fact of the
armament and the numerical weakness of the Boers--he is on my side.
And I need scarcely add that the reader will find it easy to demolish
the General's whole dream of the lost opportunities of the lance and
sword in South Africa or Manchuria, or of its golden chances in any
future war, by passages from the General's own work, criticized in
this volume, as when he implores his own Cavalry to remember that they
may have to meet mounted riflemen, or even heterodox Cavalry, who,
using their horses only as a means of mobility in the Boer fashion,
will, in defiance of the German text-books, advance dismounted, and
force the German troopers to do the same; or when he lays down that
the attack or defence of any "locality," entrenched or unentrenched,
and by whomsoever defended or attacked, must be accomplished through
fire-action. It is true that the theoretical limitations he sets to
fire-action, from sheer ignorance of what fire-action by mounted troops
is, reduce that form of combat also to a nullity; but on that point
anyone can test his views by facts. Although it is quite possible to
prove from his premisses, if their truth be postulated, that the South
African War never took place at all, without going to the trouble of
proving that it was "abnormal" in the matter of the futility of the
lance and sword, we know that it did take place, why lances and swords
were futile, and why fire was supreme.

3. So in reality does General von Bernhardi himself, and in the
title of this chapter is crystallized his explicit statement of the
truth. Faithful to his habitual system of alternate adhesion to two
incompatible theories, the General, after clearly enough condemning the
British Cavalry for their timidity with the steel, makes the following
remarkable _volte face_:

 "In one particular, however, I will own he [_i.e._, Mr. Childers] is
 correct: the firearm rules tactics. That is indisputable. Nobody can
 with the _arme blanche_ compel an opponent on his side tactically
 to use the _arme blanche_." (This last is a very dark saying, for
 the Boers had no _arme blanche_; but it does not affect the general
 sense.) "To the laws of the fire-fight everything must be subordinated
 in war."

Well, that is precisely what Lord Roberts, the greatest soldier living,
and many humbler persons, including myself, have contended for. _Cadit
quæstio._ Why not have begun "Cavalry in War and Peace" with these
illuminating axioms? Why not have them placed in the forefront of our
own Cavalry Manual, in the approaching revision of that important work?
Why give the dominating operative weapon only 10 or 15 per cent. of
the time of the Cavalry soldier, and make it officially subordinate to
steel weapons which can only be used by its indulgence? But I am going
a little too fast. The General, as usual, has a qualification. What is
it? "But as a necessary corollary from this, to say that there can be
no fight with the _arme blanche_ is a mischievous sophism." Again we
agree--in the sense, that is, in which the author now elects to use the
phrase "_arme blanche_." For he means the bayonet. "Every Infantryman
carries a bayonet, because he requires it for the assault. Even Lord
Roberts will not take this away," etc. No; and no one in the world, so
far as I know, wants to take away the bayonet from the Infantryman.
But, as I asked at page 121, what has the bayonet got to do with the
lance and sword? The bayonet is fixed to the rifle, and used on foot
as an element in fire-tactics. The lance and sword are used from
horseback in tactics which are diametrically opposite to and absolutely
incompatible with fire-tactics, and every word Lord Roberts or I have
written has been directly aimed against this antiquated system of
fighting on horseback with the lance and sword. If the Cavalryman,
because, by universal consent, he has constantly to do work similar to
that of Infantry, requires a bayonet, by all means give it to him. I
discussed the question in my previous book, and ventured to regard it
as an open one, for reasons which I need not repeat now. But I over and
over again took pains to point out the fundamental distinction between
the bayonet and the lance and sword.

On another point the General misrepresents me. Because I showed
by illustration from war the marked physical and moral effects of
rifle-fire from the saddle, he treats me as advancing the specific
plan of substituting rifle-fire on horseback for the use of the lance
and sword on horseback in what his translator calls the "collision of
the mounted fight" (Handgemenge zu Pferde). This is a perversion of my
meaning. The collisions he is thinking of are obsolete. Though I think
that for all conceivable purposes a pistol would be better than a lance
or sword, I adhered to the facts, and pointed out that saddle-fire in
South Africa was used _before_ contact, and that in order to consummate
their destructive rifle-charges, the Boers dismounted, either at close
quarters or within point-blank range.

II.--_Views of the General Staff._

I wish to lay special stress on these two misrepresentations, because
both have been also made by our own General Staff. In a review of my
previous book, whose general fairness and courtesy I gladly recognize,
the _Monthly Notes_ of July, 1910, took exactly the same erroneous
points, and, for the rest, adopted the strange course of ruling out all
the remarkable South African charges with the rifle by quietly assuming
that they would have been done better with the sword or lance.

He takes as an example the action of Bakenlaagte, and convinces himself
that Cavalry "as ably led" would, by sticking persistently to their
saddles, have done better with the steel than the Boers who inflicted
such terrible punishment with their rifles upon Benson's brave and
seasoned troops. This is an unintentional slur not only upon Benson's
men but upon our Cavalry, who, on the reviewer's assumption, ought
certainly to have inflicted similar punishment upon the Boers on
scores of occasions where the tactical conditions were approximately
the same as those at Bakenlaagte. The reviewer arbitrarily begins his
imaginary parallel at the moment at which Botha's final charge started,
and pictures the steel-trained troops already in full career like the
fire-trained troops who actually made the charge. War is not so easy
as all that. He ignores the characteristically clever fire-tactics
which for hours before had been leading up to the requisite situation,
and forgets that steel-trained troops would never have had the skill
or insight to produce and utilize that situation. Moreover, their
training Manual not only does not contemplate, but renders prohibitive
any such instantaneous transition from fire to shock as would have been
required. But the reviewer surpasses himself when, having triumphantly
brought his steel-trained troops through the preparatory phase and
the charging phase (with the incidental riding down and capture of
several detached bodies of men), he pictures them confronted with
the objective ultimately charged--namely, Benson's rearguard of guns
and riflemen on Gun Hill. These men had had just time to rally, and
were lined out on a long ridge in open order and in splendid fighting
fettle. Their fire hitherto had been masked by the rearmost sections
of their own men, who were galloping in with the Boers at their heels.
What the Boers now did was to fling themselves from their ponies, by
instinct, in the dead ground below the ridge, and to charge up it on
foot, where after a brief and desperate encounter they exterminated
Benson's heroic rearguard and captured the guns. This action the
reviewer regards as clumsy and dilatory. His Lancers, disdaining to
dismount, would have ridden up the hill--painfully vulnerable targets
for the rifles on the ridge--and, arrived on the top, would either have
gone riding about among the scattered defenders trying to impale with
lances or reach with swords riflemen who would have laughed in their
faces at this ineffectual method of fighting, or (and the reviewer
favours this alternative) would have been content to impale a chance
few _en passant_, and, without drawing rein, would have galloped on
towards the main body and convoy, leaving "supporting squadrons," whom
he coolly invents for the occasion (for the Boers had none), to "deal
with" the rearguard in the knightly fashion aforesaid. Sweeping on,
and again disdaining to dismount on reaching the next objective, our
Lancers would have "spread havoc and consternation" among the convoy.
Would they? You cannot stampede or disable inspanned oxen and mules or
their drivers by brandishing swords and lances. And surely one does
not "charge" ox-waggons with those weapons. What you want for these
occasions is the bullet, whether for beasts, drivers, or escort. By
bitter experience of our own on only too many occasions we know all
about the right way of spreading havoc and consternation among convoys.
Lances and swords never produced these effects in a single case in
three years. And the escort and main body? Why, a few dozen steady men
with rifles would turn the tables on, and, in their turn, spread havoc
among a whole brigade of Lancers who insisted on remaining in their

One falls, I must frankly admit, into profound discouragement when one
meets arguments of this sort coming from a quarter where arguments
lead to rules and regulations. It is quite true that this important
review, in its moderate tone and in its tacit avowal that there was
need of some reform in the present regulations, bore no resemblance to
the criticisms which proceeded from some individual Cavalry officers.
There were indications--reliable, I hope--that the old knee-to-knee
knightly shock-charge, now regarded officially as the "climax of
Cavalry training," was doomed, and that the open-order charge with
the steel, presumed to be analogous to the open-order charge with the
rifle, was the utmost now contemplated. But in truth, as I pointed out
in Chapters IV. and VI., there exists no such analogy, or the war would
have demonstrated it. If such steel-charges were possible, our Cavalry
had innumerable chances of carrying them out under far more favourable
conditions, owing to our permanent numerical superiority, than the
Boers ever obtained for their attacks, by the charge or otherwise.

The steel-charge, close or open, was the traditional function of our
Cavalry; it was the only form of combat that they really understood
when they landed in South Africa, and they were supremely efficient
in it. The point is that in practice they _could_ not charge with the
steel, except in the rare and well-nigh negligible cases which are on
record. They ceased altogether to try so to charge, because to fight
with the steel on horseback was physically impossible. Their steel
weapons were eventually returned to store on that account. And they
profited by the resulting change of spirit, and by the acquisition,
late as it came, of a respectable firearm. To say that the fire-charge
invented and practised by the Boers as early as March, 1900, when
lances and swords were still in the field, and imitated to some extent
by our own Colonials and Mounted Infantry, could, after all, have
been done as well and better with the lance and sword, is conjecture
run mad. Sir John French has never used the argument. He could not,
with any shadow of plausibility, combine it with his complaint about
the lightning flights of the Boers and the absence of anything to
reconnoitre. It is, I grant, the most impressive official testimonial
ever given to the _arme blanche_, but it is not business. One might
as well argue that the work done by Togo's torpedo-boats would have
been done better by the beaks of triremes. We _know and have seen_
what actually happened. We had nearly three years in which to arrive
by experiment at tactical truths. In the name of common sense let
us accept the results, especially when they are corroborated by the
results of the other great modern war, that in Manchuria.


Directly or indirectly, I think that in the course of this volume I
have replied to most of the criticisms which my previous book, "War
and the _Arme Blanche_," drew forth. But I should like to make a brief
reference to an interesting discussion of the subject conducted mainly
by Cavalry officers on October 19, 1910, at the Royal United Service
Institution. A reader of the report in the _Journal_ of November, 1910,
must feel that the proceedings would have gained in clarity and harmony
had von Bernhardi's belated maxim that the "firearm rules tactics" been
made the basis of the debate. Strange things were said on the side of
the _arme blanche_. One officer urged that Cavalry should not have a
rifle--that arbiter of tactics--at all, should use shock alone, and
should not be "frittered away as scouts." Another complained that, in
arguing mainly from the South African and Manchurian Wars, I "could
not have selected two worse examples." I am not to blame. It is not a
case of selection. These are the _only_ great civilized wars since the
"revolution" (to use von Bernhardi's phrase) wrought by modern firearms.

The close-order shock-charge has never even been tried or contemplated
in civilized war since 1870, and even then it was moribund. Yet the
lecturer argued from Waterloo, and, unconscious of the slight upon his
Arm, was at great pains to claim that even now Cavalry kept in reserve
for the occasion could attack two-year conscripts who had already been
reduced to "pulp" by several days of fire and fatigue. "_If_," he
said, "they could stick their lances into quite a large proportion,"
the rest "would have the most marked reluctance to remain upon the
ground." Perhaps. Von Bernhardi also claims that Infantry, who under
stress of fire have reached the point of throwing away their arms, may
be attacked successfully with the steel. Let us allow the claim, only
remarking that experience shows a rifle to be a far more destructive
weapon for such circumstances than a lance or sword. But, instead of
idly awaiting these not very glorious opportunities for the steel,
would it not be better for the Cavalry to be mobile and busy from the
first in using the same formidable weapon which originally reduced the
Infantry to pulp, using it in that limitless sphere of envelopment,
interception, and surprise to which the possession of horses gives them

Another extraordinary feature of the discussion was the dissociation
of moral effect from killing effect by some of the Cavalry officers
present, who really seemed to think that riflemen in war are afraid
of horses, irrespective of weapons, whereas in fact they welcome so
substantial a target for their rifles, and fear only the rider's weapon
_in direct proportion to its deadliness_. These officers were convinced
that their Arm, trained to charge as it now is, exercises great moral
effect, yet they agreed that the importance of killing the enemy with
the steel is at present neglected, and that the art of so killing is
not even taught. The lecturer argued that our Cavalry would be a "more
terrifying weapon than it is at present" if every trooper could be
brought to "understand that he has to stick his sword or lance into the
body of his opponent." Another officer urged that "each horseman in a
charge should be taught that he must kill at least one adversary"; and
the Chairman strongly emphasized "the necessity of training the men to
kill." "The reason," he said, "that a man had a sword or spear was to
kill." The truth is that some arts perish from disuse. This art cannot
be exercised in war, so wars come and go, and the very tradition of its
exercise disappears, and in peace is replaced, as the Chairman said, by
"piercing yells" and the "waving of swords."

A Horse Artillery officer threw a bombshell into the debate by
complaining that his Arm was often forbidden at manoeuvres to open fire
on the hostile Cavalry masses (_vide supra_, pp. 127 and 131), in order
to allow the collision to take place on "favourable ground," and asked
for guidance. The Chairman replied that the Artillery could be trusted
to be "loyal." But can they, in this particular matter? Let us hope not.

A small minority ably upheld the case against the _arme blanche_, and
the discussion, as a whole, was of considerable value. General Sir R.S.
Baden-Powell went to the root of the matter when he confessed that a
"policy had never properly been laid down" for the Cavalry, and that
they "wanted a policy to begin with before they commenced training."
That is the literal truth, and I hope to have proved that no rational,
clear, consistent policy ever will be laid down until the rifle is
made in peace-theory what it already is in war-practice--the dominant,
all-important weapon of Cavalry--and until the axiom that the rifle
rules tactics is accepted and systematically acted upon. I claim that
von Bernhardi's writings, and the manner of their acceptance in this
country, prove conclusively that that is the condition precedent to a
sound policy. He has no policy; we have no policy. We have not even a
terminology suitable to modern conditions.

I believe it correct also to say that the principal cause of the
persistence of the _arme blanche_ theory in this country is its
retention by foreign Cavalries who are without war experience, and who,
on account of its retention, are backward in every department of their

In Sir John French's words, we try to assimilate the best foreign
customs, and we choose for assimilation the very customs which we
ourselves have proved in war to be not only valueless, but vicious.

I have not thought it worth while to deal with other Continental
Cavalries. In the matter of the lance and sword, the Austrian and
French Cavalries may be regarded as more backward than the German. Both
would regard von Bernhardi as a fanatical heretic. Count Wrangel, for
the Austrians, states that it is impossible to train Cavalry to the
use of two weapons so different as the sword and the rifle, and, in
deciding for the former, frankly admits that, after the experience of
Manchuria, Cavalry have no business within the zone of fire. The views
and practice of the French Cavalry may be learnt from the scathing
exposure to which they have been submitted by General de Négrier. Our
Cavalry, excessive as its reliance on the steel is, stands, of course,
in the matter of fire-action, ahead of all Continental rivals.

Relying too much on foreign practice in peace, we also exaggerate
foreign exploits in bygone wars where conditions were radically
different. I scarcely think it too much to say, after a close study of
the criticisms of my book, that, if one could only succeed in proving
to present-day Cavalrymen that von Bredow's charge at Vionville was
not a valid precedent for modern war, more than half the battle for
rational armament and tactics would be won. Quite half my critics threw
that famous charge in my teeth, and some accused me of not even knowing
about it, since I had not mentioned it. Why should I have mentioned it?
I was not aware at the time I wrote that it was seriously accepted as
relevant to present conditions. Von Bernhardi, whom I was taking as a
representative of the most enlightened Cavalry views on the subject of
the steel-charge, does not mention it in either of his works, and in
his first work went to some trouble to show how the German and French
Cavalry at Mars-la-Tour frittered away time and opportunity by hanging
about in masses which "mutually paralyzed" one another, instead of
using golden chances for fire-action. He expressly says that the war of
1870 "presents a total absence of analogy," and, as I showed above (p.
140), his own limitations for the steel-charge in modern war absolutely
preclude the possibility of any such charge being repeated. Those
limitations have for long been accepted by Cavalry in this country
also--in theory. But the immortal fascination of that charge! Next
door to von Bernhardi's article on my book in the _Cavalry Journal_
of October, 1910, is an interesting descriptive account of it, with
maps. And the author ends thus: "The days of Cavalry are not over. For
they 'can ride rapidly into the danger that Infantry can only walk
into.'" These two little sentences typify perfectly, I believe, the
state of mind of those who cling to the _arme blanche_ out of sentiment
and without scientific justification. Nobody supposes that the days
of Cavalry are over. Far from being weakened, Cavalry, if properly
equipped and trained, have potentialities immensely greater than
the Cavalry of 1870, because they now possess--in our country at any
rate--the weapon which, united with the horse, qualifies them to tackle
any other Arm on their own terms. And as the writer of this article
truly says, they can ride into the danger that Infantry can only walk
into. South Africa proves that, to a certain point. But, alas! that is
not the moral that the writer means to draw. He forgets that the rifle
of 1870 is, as I remarked before, a museum curiosity, and that, feeble
as it was, it nearly cut to pieces Bredow's regiments on their return
from the charge. He draws the wrong moral--that Cavalry can still make
charges by remaining indefinitely in their saddles and wielding steel
weapons from their saddles. In that sense the days of Cavalry are
indeed over. Nobody should regret it. What is there to regret?

But let me repeat one last caution. It is a harmful result of this
otherwise healthy controversy that we tend to argue too much in terms
of the "charge," meaning the mounted charge, culminating in a fight at
close quarters, or even in a mêlée. For all we know, future science,
by making it a sheer impossibility to get so large an object as a
horse through a fire-zone, may eventually render such an attack by
horsemen, in whatever formation and with whatever weapon, altogether
impracticable. What will there be to regret in that? Sailors do not
mourn over the decay of the cutlass and the ram. _So long as we win_,
it does not matter whether or not we charge on horseback, or how near
we can ride to the objective before we begin the fire-fight. And, come
what will, the horse, by the correct use of ground and surprise, will
always be a priceless engine of strategical and tactical mobility.


[Footnote 7: Note, for example, his reiteration of the phrase, whose
falsity anyone can demonstrate, that the Boers showed "no offensive
power," with the implied inference, never explicitly worked out, but
left in the realm of vague insinuation, that this failure was in some
way connected with their lack of lances and swords, weapons which they
would not have taken at a gift, and could not have used if they had had

[Footnote 8: See "War and the _Arme Blanche_," pp. 113-115.]

[Footnote 9: Conscious, apparently, of the gross personal discourtesy
to Sir John French, he adds that "since General French was there, lack
of energy cannot be imputed to the attack." This not only stultifies
what precedes, but is untrue. The attack was painfully unenergetic;
nobody has denied it. The point is that the lack of energy was due
to the fact that the Cavalry were not armed and trained for such
an occasion. Of their three weapons, two, the lance and the sword,
were useless, and the third was a trumpery little carbine, which in
peace theory had been regarded as an almost negligible part of their
equipment. What they needed was the fire-spirit, a serious firearm, and
training in mobile fire-tactics.]

[Footnote 10: See _supra_, pp. 17-27.]



THE moral is simple and inspiring--self-reliance, trust in our own
experience, as confirmed by the subsequent experience of others. By all
means let us borrow what is good from foreigners, and I should be the
last to deny that, on topics unconnected with combat and weapons, there
are many valuable hints to be obtained from General von Bernhardi's
writings, and those of other foreign Cavalrymen. But let us not borrow
what is bad, nor lose ourselves in the fog which smothers his Cavalry
principles, when our own road to reform is plain.

Some measure of reform, if report is true, is to take shape in the next
revision of the Cavalry Manual. I end, as I began, with expressing the
hope that reform may be drastic. But reform cannot end with the Cavalry
Manual. It is absolutely necessary to introduce clearness, consistency
and harmony into the four Manuals: "Cavalry Training" (with its absurd
postscript for Yeomanry), "Mounted Infantry Training," "Infantry
Training," and "Combined Training." At present the contradictions
between these official Manuals is a public scandal. But I suggest that
the task of reconstruction is absolutely impossible unless the basis
taken be that fire, by whomsoever employed, is absolute arbiter of
tactics, and that the Cavalryman is for practical purposes a compound
of three factors--man, horse, and rifle.

The lance should go altogether. Whether the sword is retained, as the
American Cavalry retain it, rather as a symbol than as a factor in
tactics, or is dispensed with altogether, as our divisional mounted
troops and our Colonial mounted riflemen dispense with it, is a
matter of very small moment, provided that the correct principle be
established and worked out in practice. It was because I doubted the
possibility of establishing the correct principle in this country
without abolition that in my previous book I advocated abolition, on
the precedent of the South African War. The adoption of a bayonet or
a sword-bayonet is, in my own humble opinion, an interesting open





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 THE COTTAGE HOMES OF ENGLAND. Charmingly Illustrated in Colour by Mrs.
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 "Billy, in one of his nice new sashes,
 Fell in the fire and got burnt to ashes;
 Now, although the room is growing chilly,
 I haven't the heart to poke poor Billy."


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