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Damian O'Connor


Joined: 16 Apr 2006
Posts: 76
Location: Essex, UK
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Dear John,
Thanks for the picture. Chelmsford was not impressed with the mounted infantry - he called them "a very indifferent cavalry". Wolseley was apt to call them "infantry provided with a rapid means of locomotion."
Damian
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diagralex


Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 208
Location: Broomfield, Essex
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The role of mounted infantryman must have been one of the least rewarding during the whole campaign. If the senior command was not impressed by them, the troops themselves must have been equally underwhelmed.
A few men were chosen from virtually every regiment serving in South Africa at the time, and were formed together into squadrons. The squadrons were further sub divided into troops. They served under unfamiliar officers and with the vast majority of their comrades also unknown to them. Horse riding skills were gained in the field without specialized training
The mounted infantry lacked the glamour which regular cavalry regiments always generated. Their lot was a tedious round of patrolling, escort duties and protection of the columns. Lacking regular cavalry at the start of the campaign, Lord Chelmsford had no option but to use these men in this manner.
The troops of horsemen lacked the numbers to serve in a cavalry role, and throughout the war performed a vital but unrewarding task.
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Damian O'Connor


Joined: 16 Apr 2006
Posts: 76
Location: Essex, UK
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But oddly enough, they generated an incredible amount of debate on whether they were or were not the future of the cavalry. Wolseley had observed the cavalry of the ACW and concluded that they were all mounted infantry. The effect of smokeless powder, breech loading weapons and gatling guns all called into question whether cavalry had a role beyond that provided by MI. The cavalry of course argued that a full bloodied charge at a wavering enemy still differentiated them from MI and thus justified their existence but even then one can detect a certain amount of wavering in their own ranks on this issue. When the Bechuanaland Field Force went up to kick Kruger out in 1886 they took three regiments of MI and only one of regular cavalry. After the 2nd Anglo-Boer War and the reports coming back from the Russo-Japanese war the arguments in favour of MI were beginning to look unassailable - so much so that the Cavalry Journal was published first in 1906 to try to counter these arguments. The basic problem for the cavalry that thoroughbred charges and hunters cost a lot more to buy and maintain than the basic ponies, cobs, nags, mules and even camels that the MI were expected to ride. John Young's picture from the graphic is very interesting because this kind of charge was precisely the thing that they were not expected to do. Fascinating stuff though.
Damian
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John Young


Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 957
Location: Lower Sheering, Essex
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Damian,

This from The Illustrated London News:
'...Led by Captain Barrow's horsemen, the pursuit was carried on several miles. This officer reports the sabres of the Mounted Infantry to have proved of the greatest service, some fity or sixty men having been sabred. ...'



John Y.
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Damian O'Connor


Joined: 16 Apr 2006
Posts: 76
Location: Essex, UK
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Dear John,
Just loking back over my notes on Mounted Infantry, I found that it was actually Buller who called MI "infantry provided with a rapid means of locomotion" and he was firmly of the opinion that MI could not replace cavalry however useful they were for picket and recce duties. He found that stable management was a major problem as infantry soldiers were not really used to looking after horses. Cost was also a factor; during the Suakin campaign 400 regular cavalry cost 28,000 while the same number of MI cost only 12,000.
Damian
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Sword Variations Issued to Infantry Officers, Lancers, etc
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