In the very early days of World War One, cavalry was a devastating weapon when used against infantry. A British cavalry charge at the Battle of Mons was enough to hold off the advancing Germans. However, with the coming of static trench warfare, the use of cavalry became rare. Barbed wire, mud and machine guns were a deadly combination for any cavalry soldier. Horses became beasts of burden as opposed to having any strategic impact on the Western Front in terms of their use in cavalry attacks.
One of the last cavalry charges of the war came at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The attack was on July 14th on High Wood – a German strongpoint that was holding up the British advance. Men from the 20th Deccan Horse, an Indian cavalry unit, attacked the German positions. Armed with lances and despite going uphill which slowed down the charging horses, some of the men reached the woods. Some Germans surrendered when confronted by cavalry in woodland – something they could not have expected. However, the attack, while brave, was very costly with 102 men killed along with 130 horses. Just two months later the tank was used in the battle effectively signalling the end of any chance of success that a cavalry attack might have.
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