2nd Indian Cavalry Division (later 5th Cavalry Division)

History

Ordered to move to France as part of Indian Expeditionary Force “A”.

Under command of Major-General H. D. Fanshawe

Most of the units and headquarters of the division assembled and embarked at Bombay on 18 November 1914. It sailed as a convoy next day, escorted by the French cruiser “Dupleix”. One ship, the “City of Lahore”, carrying half of the 2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse), had to return due to trouble with the crew. It rejoined the convoy just as it was entering the Suez Canal on 4 December. On reaching Aden on 26 November, “Dupleix” handed over escort duty to the RIMS ship “Northbrook”, but returned three days later. On exiting the Suez Canal on 7 December, the convoy came under escort of the French ship “Fondre”. From 12 December the convoy sailed without escort. The division landed at Marseilles on 15 December 1914 and proceeded by rail to Orléans.

Under command of Major-General G. A. Cookson

A further move was made and divisional headquarters finally opened at Mametz, four miles from Aire-sur-la-Lys (and not to be confused with the place of same name on the Somme), on 1 January 1915.

The assembly area of the 2nd Indian Cavary Division in late December 1914 / early January 1915. War diary divisional General Staff. National Archives WO95/1180. Crown Copyright.

In the evening of ten days later, 900 men of the Mhow Cavalry Brigade, now dismounted, took over a section of front line trenches from 1st Indian Cavalry Division between Festubert and Givenchy.

  • 11 March 1915: divisional HQ relocated to Lozinghem.
  • 14 March 1915: divisional HQ relocated to Norrent-Fontes.
  • 18 March 1915: divisional HQ relocated to the chateau at Roquetoire. Units engaged in digging a secondary defensive line near Robecq.
  • 24-25 April 1915: divisional HQ relocated to Wemaers-Capelle. Placed under orders to move at one hour’s notice (the German attack in the Second Battle of Ypres having begin on 22 April).
  • 28 April 1915: divisional HQ relocated to Houtkerque.
  • 2 May 1915: divisional HQ returned to Wemaers-Capelle. Next day it move to Noordpeene and then to the chateau at Bomy.
  • 17 May 1915: divisional HQ relocated to Lapugnoy. Two days later it returned to Bomy.
  • 1 August 1915: having been ordered to move south from Flanders to come into the area behind the Somme front, divisional HQ relocated to Royon (NW of Hesdin). Next day it moved to Gorenflos and on 3 August to the Chateau d’en Bas at Belloy-sur-Somme. Divisional units, having been orderedto proceed dismounted for trench-holding work, sustained small numbers of casualties for the first time in months. On 2 September 1915 an advanced HQ reprting centre was set up at Martinsart and units took over a section of the front line from 1st Indian Cavalry Division. On 13 September, having been relieved, HQ returned to Belloy-sur-Somme.
  • 22 September 1915: divisional HQ relocated to Ribeaucourt.
  • 13 October 1915: divisional HQ relocated to Frohlen-le-Grand.
  • 22-23 October 1915: divisional HQ relocated to Oisement. It remained there for several months.

In January 1916 each cavalry brigade formed a “dismounted regiment” of 300 men. They were eventually replaced by in November 1916 by “Indian cavalry pioneer battalions” which were not the same as those usually under command of a British division. These units were frequently detached: for example, the Ambala Brigade Pioneer Battalion first left on the day it was formed, for work unde XIV Corps.

Under command of Major-General H. J. M. Macandrew from 7 May 1916

  • 8 May 1916: divisional HQ relocated to the training area at Saint-Riquier. It returned to Oisement on 14 May.
  • 5 June 1916: divisional HQ relocated to Senarpont (on the River Somme, west of Amiens and not far from the coast). Brigades went to Saint-Riquier for training.
  • 22 June 1916: divisional HQ relocated to Pont-Remy ((on the River Somme, south of Abbeville).
  • 27 June 1916: divisional HQ relocated to Bussy-les-Daours, bringing into into the rear area behind the Somme front that was about to be attacked by British and French forces. On 5 July, detachments of men were sent to work at the Casualty Clearing Stations at Gézaincourt, Heilly, Puchevillers and Vecquemont.
  • 13 July 1916: with a report centre remaining at Bussy-les-Dapours, division moved to the area between Dernancourt where HQ was set up) and Méaulte (bringing it into position to support offensive operations east of Albert). The report centre relocated next day to Bray-sur-Somme.

The division participated in the following battles and engagements:

  • The Battles of the Somme 1916, in phases
    • The Battle of Bazentin (14-17 July) (on 23 July HQ relocated to Bussy-les-Daours; on 9 August 1916 a reprt centre opened at Rieux; on 7 September all returned to Bussy-les-Daours; on 15 Septeber 1916 HQ relocated to Fricourt)
    • The Battle of Flers-Courcelette (15-22 September) (on 17 September HQ returned to Bussy-les-Daours and by 28 September it was at Cavillon)
An oft-seen image. Imperial War Museum photograph Q824, captioned “The 20th Deccan Horse, part of the 2nd Indian Cavalry Division, in Carnoy Valley shortly before their unsuccessful attack at High Wood on the evening of 14 July. Together with the 7th Dragoon Guards, they suffered 102 casualties and lost 130 horses.”

In November 1916 the Indian personnel serving with the Brigade Machine Gun Squadrons were replaced by British personnel.

  • 1 November 1916: Divisional HQ relocated to Dargnies (in the Somme valley just inland of Le Tréport on the coast)

On 26 November 1916 the division was renamed as 5th Cavalry Division. The titles of units operating as Divisional Troops were also accordingly renamed: for example, the 2nd Indian Cavalry Sanitary Section became 5 (Cavalry) Sanitary Section. The titles of the cavalry brigades were not affected by this change.

  • 21 March 1917: Divisional HQ relocated to Pont de Metz on the western edge of Amiens; two days later it moved forward to newly captured Péronne; on 30 March it moved to the rear area at Villers-Bretonneux.
  • 15 April 1917 it moved to Guizancourt, well to the SW of Amiens near Poix-de-Picardie; on 15 May a report centre opened at Nobescourt Farm near Roisel, in the newly captured area. On 8-9 July, Canadian Cavalry Brigade carried out a successful trench raid in the vicnity of Ascension Wood.
  • 10 July 1917: Divisional HQ relocated to Bouvincourt, in the rear area. During its recent spell in the front line, division had lost 35 officers and men killed, 247 wounded and 1 missing.
  • 16 July 1917: relocated to St. Pol-sut-Ternoise, with a report centre set up at 14 rue de Procureurs.
  • 31 July 1917: Divisional HQ relocated to Heuchin.
  • 7 October 1917: the division had been ordered to move north to Flanders, coming into the rear behind the sector in which the Third Battle of Ypres was being fought. HQ arrived at Poperinge.
  • 14 October 1917: Divisional HQ relocated to Renescure.
  • 16 October 1917: Divisional HQ relocated to Fressin, east of Montreuil-sur-Mer and deep into the rear. On this date, the division formed a “Cavalry Pioneer Battalion” for work in Second Army’s area.
  • 1 November 1917: Divisional HQ relocated to Cavillon, west of Amiens. Units movedfor a period of training at Dargnies, where it had spent the winter of 1916-1917.
  • 10 November 1917: Divisional HQ opened an advanced report centre at Occoches.
  • 11 November 1917: Divisional HQ relocated to Querrieu. Next day it moved to Bouvincourt. On 15 November it received instructions regarding its role in forthcoming offensive operations. Four days later, headquarters and its units marched to its assembly area north east of Fins.
Disaster for historians! But wholly justified for battlefield security. National Archives, war diary 5th Cavalry Division General Staff, WO95/1162. Crown Copyright.
  • The Battle of Cambrai 1917 in phases
    • The tank attack (20-21 November) (by 22 November, Divisional HQ was at Equancourt. Nexy day it moved rearward to Suzanne. On 27 November it moved again, to Mochy-Lagache)
    • The German counter-attack (30 November – 3 December)
  • 31 January 1918: Divisional HQ relocated to Bouvincourt.
  • 17 February 1918: Divisional HQ relocated to Pont de Metz. This proved to be its final location in France.

The division was broken up in February and March 1918, with most of its headquarters, sub-formation headquarters and Indian units moving to Egypt. Headquarters and some of the units formed a new 5th (Indian) Cavalry Division that went on to play a key part in the final major battle in Syria (the Battle of Megiddo in September 1918),

Major-General Macandrew lost his life while still in command of the division in Syria on 16 July 1919, the tragic victim of being burned in an accidental death. Burial details

Order of Battle

Units and sub-formationsDates
Divisional Headquarters
5th (Mhow) Cavalry BrigadeFrom start. Left to join 1st Indian Cavalry Division in exchange for 3rd (Ambala) Cavalry Brigade on 15 September 1915
6th (Inniskilling) DragoonsThroughout
2nd Lancers (Gardner’s Horse)Throughout
38th (King George’s Own) Central India HorseThroughout
X Battery Royal Horse Artillery and Ammunition ColumnFrom start. On 2 March 1915 moved for temporary attachment to 8th Division. Rejoined brigade 1 April 1915. Left 13 August 1915 to join 2nd Indian Royal Horse Artillery Brigade.
Brigade Signal TroopThroughout
Brigade Mobile Veterinary SectionThroughout
A Battery Royal Horse Artillery and Ammunition ColumnJoined 13 October 1915. Attached to Fourth Army 19-22 October 1916. Left for III Corps 19 November 1916
Brigade Machine Gun SquadronFormed 31 January 1916
Brigade Dismounted RegimentFormed January 1916
Brigade Pioneer BattalionFormed 19 November 1916
7th (Meerut) Cavalry BrigadeOrdered to proceed to Mesopotamia, the brigade left the division and moved to Marseilles on 19-21 June 1916. Went via India, eventually landing at Basra and gong into camp at Makina 28 July 1916.
13th HussarsThroughout
3rd Skinner’s HorseThroughout
18th (King George’s Own) LancersFrom start. Transferred to 3rd (Ambala) Cavalry Brigade in exchange for 30th Lancers on 14 June 1916
V Battery Royal Horse Artillery and Ammunition ColumnFrom start. 18 February 1916 left for attachments to First Army and then Fourth Army Artillery School. Rejoined 16 June 1916
Brigade Signal TroopThroughout
Brigade Mobile Veterinary SectionThroughout
Brigade Machine Gun SquadronFormed 12 February 1916
C Squadron, Yorkshire HussarsAttached to brigade from 49th (West Riding) Division for a fortnight’s training from 28 March 1916
Service Sqn, 6th Inniskilling DragoonsAttached from 36th (Ulster) Division for a fortnight’s training from 13 March 1916
36th Divisional Cyclist CompanyAttached for a fortnight’s training from 13 March 1916
30th LancersJoined from 7th (Meerut) Cavalry Brigade on 14 June 1916 in exchange for 18th (King George’s Own) Lancers
9th (Secunderabad) Cavalry BrigadeJoined the division 1 January 1915, having initially been used as a mobile reserve to the Indian Corps. Broken up in March 1918
7th (Princess Royal’s) Dragoon Guards
20th Deccan Horse
34th (Prince Albert Victor’s Own) Poona Horse
N Battery Royal Horse Artillery and H Ammunition Column
1st Field Troop (King George’s Own) Sappers and Miners
Brigade Signal Troop
Brigade Mobile Veterinary Section
31st Mule CorpsWar diary mentions a section being attached in August 1914 but it is not clear whether it embarked with the rest of the brigade and sailed from Bombay on 20 September 1914
Brigade Squadron, Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry)Formed 8 February 1916. Renamed 13th Squadron on 8 February 1917
D Sqn, Lancashire HussarsAttached from 31st Division for a fortnight’s training from 28 March 1916
48th Divisional Cyclist CompanyAttached for a fortnight’s training from 13 March 1916
3rd (Ambala) Cavalry BrigadeJoined from 1st Indian Cavalry Division in exchange for 5th (Mhow) Cavalry Brigade on 15 September 1915
8th Hussars
9th Hodson’s Horse
30th LancersTransferred to 7th (Meerut) Cavalry Brigade in exchange for 18th (King George’s Own) Lancers on 14 June 1916
X Battery Royal Horse Artillery and Ammunition ColumnJoined from 2nd Indian Cavalry Brigade in late August or September 1915
Brigade Signal Troop
18th (King George’s Own) LancersJoined from 7th (Meerut) Cavalry Brigade on 14 June 1916 in exchange for 30th Lancers
Brigade Squadron, Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry)Renamed 14th Squadron on 8 February 1917
Brigade Mobile Veterinary Section
A Sqn, Northumberland HussarsAttached from 7th Division for a fortnight’s training from 28 March 1916
30th Divisional Cyclist CompanyAttached for a fortnight’s training from 13 March 1916
19th Motor Machine Gun SquadronAttached for a fortnight’s training from 13 March 1916
Brigade Pioneer BattalionFormed 21 November 1916
5th Canadian Cavalry BrigadeJoined division for administrative purposes 5 March 1916; left 9 April 1916; but in June 1916 replaced the 7th (Meerut) Cavalry Brigade. Left 18 February 1918 as independent brigade
Fort Garry Horse
Royal Canadian Dragoons
Lord Strathcona’s Horse
Royal Canadian Horse Artillery Brigade
Brigade Machine Gun Squadron
Brigade Mobile Veterinary Section
Brigade Signal Troop
Brigade Pioneer BattalionFormed November 1916
Divisional Troops
427th (Horse Transport) Company, Army Service CorpsSailed from Southampton 13 December 1914, arrived Rouen two days later. Moved to join division 30-31 December. Became Divisional Supply and Transport Column
9th Light Armoured Motor Battery, Motor Machine Gun CorpsWar diary exists covering battery’s attachment to division in second half of 1916. Joined 2nd Indian Royal Horse Artillery Brigade 20 November 1916
925th Divisional Employment Company, Labour Corps
Divisional Artillery
Askwith’s BrigadeComprised a headquarters, which was planned to command N and V Batteries of the Royal Horse Artillery and their Ammunition Columns. It departed India before the division and arrived at Marseilles on 7 November 1914. The batteries and columns remained in India at this point. On 14 December 1914, the headquarters became that of the Commander Royal Artillery of the 2nd Indian Cavalry Division and Askwith’s Brigade ceased to exist. The headquarters physically joined the rest of the division on 5 January 1915.
2nd Indian Royal Horse Artillery BrigadeComprised a headquarters unit, and the Batteries of the Royal Horse Artillery and their Ammunition Columns as shown above, but they were normally under tactical command of the brigades as shown above. 9th Light Armoured Motor Battery joined 20 November 1916. Renamed 17th Brigade RHA on 24 February 1917
Divisional Ammunition Column
Field Ambulance Repair WorkshopCeased to exist as a unit 1 April 1916. Personnel to Divisional Suppy Column
Royal Engineers
2nd Indian Field Squadron
Signal Squadron
Royal Army Medical Corps
104th (Mhow) Combined Cavalry Field Ambulance
119th (Meerut) Combined Cavalry Field Ambulance
141st (Secunderabad) Combined Cavalry Field AmbulanceJoined 3 January 1915
Divisional Sanitary Section
Divisional HospitalMentioned in war diaries
Canadian Cavalry Field AmbulanceJoined and left with Canadian Cavalry Brigade
Associated with the divisionThese types of uits were normaly under command of the Lines of Communication but it appears from war diaries that they came under divisional command.
Divisional Supply ColumnComprised 71 and 83 (Mechanical Transport) Companies, Army Service Corps. Up to 31 December 1914, 71 Company was Secunderabad Cavalry Brigade’s Supply Column but on that date became No. 1 Section of the merged Divisional Supply Column. It landed at Le Havre from England on 25 December 1914.
Divisional Ammunition Park72 (Mechanical Transport) Company, Army Service Corps. Landed at Le Havre 25 September 1914 as Secunderabad Cavalry Brigade’s Ammunition Park. Became Divisional Ammunition Park on 31 December 1914. Left in November 1917 to become No. 4 General Headquarters Reserve MT Company.

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Other Cavalry Divisions