Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Israel's Horses And Bayonets

Turkish Mounted Lancers, Battle of Beer Sheba 1917
(from Picture a day website)
It appears that the most memorable moment from last night’s presidential debate occurred when President Obama answered Mitt Romney’s complaint that the US Navy has fewer ships today than in 1916: “Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military has changed.”

Israel's history is certainly filled with Cavalry (horse) charges through its 4000 odd years of history. However, when was its final Cavalry charge? Interestingly Israel (then Palestine) appears to have been the last place where a British Cavalry charge occurred, though there are different opinions of which battle has that honor:

According to BattleField-Site.co.uk the last British Cavalry charge was:

The last British Army cavalry charge was at the Battle of El Mughar, near Jerusalem, on 13 November 1917. The Buckinghamshire Hussars, supported by the Dorset and Berkshire Yeomanry Regiments, overran a Turkish position, taking several hundred prisoners.
However, GlobalSecurity.org has a later date for a British Charge:

Australian light horsemen riding in north Jerusalem in this badly
damaged photo from the Library of Congress collection
(from A picture a day)
On 19 September 1918, British infantry, cavalry, and air forces under command of Gen Edmund H. H. "Bull" Allenby stormed through Turkish defenses at the battle of Megiddo. It was one of the greatest exhibitions of mobility and pursuit in the history of World War I. The British missed a rare opportunity to learn what Megiddo might hold for the future of warfare. They focused on the romanticism of the "last cavalry charge" instead of on the efficacy of combined arms operations.
I think that the expression "last cavalry charge" is probably a reference to military tactics and not a historical reference, however the date is later than the one on Battlefield-site.org. 

The terrific A Picture a day website (pictures of Israel from the Library of Congress) has some great pictures of World War I cavalries in Israel, including a detailed account of the Battle of Beer-Sheba

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