This section of the Long, Long Trail will be helpful for anyone wishing to find out about the history of the regiments of the British cavalry.
Known affectionately to the other branches of the army as the Donkey wallopers, the cavalry is the subject of one of the Great War myths – that they were the first love of High Command who were all cavalrymen but were an expensive waste that did nothing to help the poor footsloggers. The reality is that on the Western Front they rarely had a chance to act as a mounted mobile force but often fought dismounted as infantry. On the few occasions when they were sent into action on horseback, they often suffered appalling losses. Without them, the crucial First Battle of Ypres – and arguably the war – would probably have been lost. In Egypt and Palestine, the cavalry was the mainstay and battle-winner. You can trace the history and affiliations of every British cavalry unit on the Long, Long Trail.
The basis of the detail shown in the pages linked below is the excellent work in Brigadier E. A. James “British regiments 1914-1918” (Samson Books, 1978) with corrections and additions by Chris Baker. These are mainly derived from regimental war diaries and published regimental histories.
The Household Cavalry
These were elite regular army regiments that had a traditional role of being the mounted guards of the Monarch.
The Household Cavalry also formed other units during the war:
- Household Battalion
- It also formed 520 (Siege) Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery, which served in France in 1918, and also provided a Squadron for the Guards Division. This was formed in July 1915 from the 1st Life Guards Reserve Regiment and landed in France in August 1915, joining Guards Division. It was broken up at Rouen on 19 June 1916.
The Line Cavalry Regiments
The backbone of the cavalry of the regular army.
The Special Reserve Regiments
These regiments were of the Special Reserve: part time units before the war, they were immediately mobilised for war service.
The Cavalry Reserve Regiments
Seventeen reserve regiments were created on mobilisation in August 1914, responsible for the basic training of new recruits and provision of drafts to the regiments.
The cavalry regiments usually came under orders of mounted formations (Brigades and Divisions) that also contained units of the Royal Horse Artillery, Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry) and other miscellaneous horsed units. Information about these will be found in the relevant sections of the Long, Long Trail. The composition of the mounted formations can be found in the Order of Battle of Divisions.