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But let us look at the case of our cavalry at home previous to October 1899. It might then roughly be divided into the regiments which were nominally fit for service and those which were not. In theory a certain number of corps were at a full-service strength both in men and horses, and were supposed to be able at once to take the field. But in practice these corps were very far from being in the condition which for them was officially assumed. They included in their nominal strength many recruits who were under twenty, too immature to be taken on active service in a tropical country. This, however, was no great matter, for our soldiers must be caught young, and the fault of youth is one that in the nature of things passes quickly away. For European war a great many of these men under twenty would probably have been perfectly efficient, and if the regiments had suffered from no other drawbacks, their personnel would have been physically fairly satisfactory. Other drawbacks there were, however, and the most serious was that these regiments, supposed to be in the highest state of preparedness and belonging to the very first line of the country's military forces, were frequently were frequently called upon to furnish strong drafts to the Indian army, drafts which took the pick of the rank and file, men who had been carefully trained and who were the backbone of each corps' organisation. And in reference to this depletion it may be as well here to note
what was the reason for such a measure being taken. For many years a cavalry depot had been maintained at Canterbury for the purpose of supplying regiments serving in India with recruits. This establishment had always done its work fairly well (that it had not done it very well was because from motives of economy it had been starved in staff, horses, and general equipment), but some little time ago it had been abolished, and its duties of supplying India had been thrown upon the regiments on home service. This was a juggling with materials. The cavalry at home home was made to appear stronger in men and horses, inasmuch as it now included the strength of the old Canterbury depot, but it yearly lost a large proportion of the men whom it had trained, and by so much became inefficient. seemed a small matter to organisers in Pall Mall that men should be taken from a regiment in England and sent to one in India. According to their estimate a man was a man whether he was a recruit or a trained soldier, and they could not, or would not, understand that the removal of, say, a hundred men who knew and could do their work not only so far weakened the corps from which they were drafted, but also made it extremely difficult, in some cases absolutely impossible, to carry out systematically the instruction of those who were left. To return to the cavalry regiments which were supposed to be fit for service. It had not been originally in
tended that they should furnish annual drafts for India, but, as has been said, they did have to furnish such drafts, and in consequence were never really in a condition to go on service. When they were suddenly called upon to embark, they were by force of circumstances so badly off for men that they were necessarily flooded with reservists in order to bring them up to a war strength, the condition in which officially they were always supposed to have been.
So much for the men in our regiments of the first line. Pass we to the horses on which they were mounted, and what we wish to say applies to all the mounted services in our army. as a nation, in the habit of thinking that nothing can surpass the quality of our military animals. Well, it is much to be feared that we are not altogether justified in our assumption. Our artillery and cavalry are well, but not very well, mounted, and indeed it is by no means certain that, in many important particulars, the warhorses of some foreign nations are not better than our own. It is tolerably well known that, in South Africa at any rate, our English troop-horses have altogether collapsed. They have no doubt been very severely tried, and very probably have not had what one may consider even fair usage; but when every excuse has been made for them, they have exhibited a lack of stamina as certain as it is deplorable. Very few of the fine-looking animals that embarked in England survived
four or five months of campaigning, and the demand for remounts has been excessive. The fact is that our horses are much too coarsely bred, and the majority of them are more or less flat-catchers. They did their work very fairly when they were comfortably lodged and regularly fed at Aldershot, and they even got through without breaking down a summer month's campaigning in Wiltshire, where, at any rate, they had their accustomed rations and were reasonably well supplied with water; but when they were called upon for prolonged effort under the uncertain conditions of real war, they had no reserve of constitutional endurance and vigour on which they could fall back. Then their manner of life in the service at home has never been such as to develop hardihood of constitution, and indeed has seemed to many people only too well calculated to make them soft and unsound. This part of the subject cannot now be entered upon; but 'Maga's views on our cavalry stabling and stable management were pretty fully given and attracted considerable attention in October 1896.
The horses that have been bought by the Remount Department are undoubtedly the best that could be found, and very fairly represent the results of average horse-breeding in our country. A reasonable price has been given, and for it we should be able to compete with the demands of horse-flesh for business purposes. It would obviously be impossible to com
pete with the demands of luxury and pleasure. But the average horse to be found in our islands is not nearly as well bred as it should be. Horse breeding has been entirely left to private enterprise, and there is no restriction upon the sires that are available for the small breeders. Government has done little or nothing to secure that our equine race shall not have its blood contaminated by strains that perpetuate various forms of unsoundness and constitutional defects. In France, Germany, Austria, and, it is believed, in Russia, the greatest pains have been taken that there shall be no animals born which are not entitled by descent to health, strength, and soundness. In each of these countries there are thousands of the very best stallions maintained by Government for the advantage of the people, and, besides them, there are many more in private hands which have received a Government certificate that they have no congenital defects. The consequence is that the general standard of quality in in the horses of Continental nations is steadily improving; and in the great Continental armies, therefore, there is no difficulty in procuring a supply of animals admirably suited for war purposes. Many people think -and apparently with much that in our country the standard is steadily depreciating, and that before long we may find ourselves taking a second place as a horsebreeding nation-if indeed we have not done so already.
With the advent of railways, bicycles, and now automobiles of various descriptions, the demand for sound hardy horses for use under saddle and in harness has greatly decreased in the recent past, and may decrease still more in the immediate future; and if Government does not bestir itself in the matter, we may find that there are not only fewer horses bred in the country, but that breeders will cease to aim at any high standard of quality in their stock.
But if we have well-founded doubts as to the quality of the horses that are bought as troopers, we can have no doubts as to the manner in which they are passed into the ranks. As no breeder can afford to keep a young horse, which is to be sold for £40, doing nothing till it is five years old, the Remount Department is obliged to buy animals at three and a half or four years old. If there were transition depots, to which the animals could be then sent, and where they would lead an easy life for a year or two, all would be well; but the poor brutes are at once packed off to regiments and batteries, and are considered to be on the efficient strength of the army. The deepest interest is taken in them by the officers of corps, and they are spared as much as possible; but inevitably they have to do a great deal of work when they are still immature, and the consequence is that many break down altogether, and many more contract weaknesses which sap their powers for the rest of their lives.
A word must be said as to the regimental formation of our cavalry corps. Each consists of three service squadrons and a reserve squadron-that is to say, it takes the field formed in three squadrons, while the reserve squadron remains behind, made up of young soldiers, young horses, invalids, and regimental odds and ends. Well, nothing can be said against the principle of having a reserve or depot squadron, into which all men and horses not immediately fit for service can be placed, and which is charged with the duty of drilling recruits and breaking remounts. But that a regiment in the field should only consist of three squadrons is a most awkward and anomalous arrangement.
have imitated many things in be able to point to an increased foreign military administration, efficiency. but somehow we always seem to overlook the very items which might well be taken as examples of common-sense arrangement. In Continental armies the remounts are, as in our own, bought very young; but they are never reckoned on the effective strength of a corps until they are six years old. It is very rightly considered that young and immature animals are unfit to be placed in military training, and far less that they should be called upon to take part in either regimental or brigade drills. They are, therefore, kept in depots, carefully handled and exercised, and well fed, until they are six years old, when their constitutions are confirmed, and they have left the illnesses of youth long behind them. The advisability of some proceeding of the same sort has been suggested over and over again to the authorities who sway the destinies of the British army, but all in vain. It was very evident that not only would the actual warlike efficiency of the horses be increased, but also that there would probably be a real saving in expense, as many horses that now break down prematurely would remain effective for many years. But in order to establish transition depots an immediate outlay would be incurred, while the saving would not be evident for some years; and it was too much to expect that any Minister of War would add to his estimates in order that his successor might show a saving, or
For all purposes
of administration, a formation in four squadrons is infinitely preferable, for it can easily be divided and subdivided without any loss in regularity of organisation; and, when manouvring in front of an enemy, a unit formed in four squadrons can do many things which would create a certain amount of confusion in one formed in three squadrons. This is not a treatise on cavalry drill, so it is impossible to enlarge upon, or even thoroughly explain, the matter in question; but it may be sufficient to say that the English cavalry are the only mounted troops in Europe whose regiments are formed for battle in three squadrons. It is only within the last three or four years that our regiments
have been formed on the present system, presumably from motives of economy. In this detail as in others England would not face the expense of the extra officers, men, and horses necessary to make her regiments really efficient for war, and she has lately reaped the harvest of her parsimony. We have been considering the regiments of our cavalry which were nominally fit for immediate service, and some few of the drawbacks from which they suffered have been pointed out. The regiments that were in the second line shared equally in these drawbacks, but, besides them, they had burdens to carry and obstacles to encounter which reduced them to the last stage of feebleness and decrepitude, making of each a mere nominis umbra, a cadre that occupied a column in the army list, possessing few or none of the attributes which we are accustomed to associate with an organised body of mounted soldiers.
The role that was marked out for these regiments in the second line was, as regards men, that of feeders to the corps serving abroad, and, as regards horses, to perform the same function for the corps in the first line at home. Their nominal strength was low (ie., it was much below that of regiments nominally fit for service), and out of that small strength they had to transfer every year all their best men to meet the demands of India. Practically the whole year was occupied in the preliminary
training of recruits, and there was never at any time present with a corps a sufficient number of men who could sit fairly on a horse and carry sword or lance, and practise the most ordinary evolutions of a regiment; and certainly all the duties demanding special intelligence, such as scouting, patrolling, &c., were entirely put to one side. A child must learn to walk before it can run, and it was necessary that the young soldiers should be able to manoeuvre in squadrons and troops before they could try their hands at detached duties. The officers and non-commissioned officers, therefore, found all their energies taken up with the most elementary work; nothing like a regiment was ever seen on parade; and the complete instruction of all ranks fell into abeyance. As an instance of the condition into which these regiments fell, it may be told that on a recent occasion, when the Commander-in-Chief in Ireland (it was in Ireland that the regiments in the second line were generally quartered) announced his intention to look at one of them, he appeared followed by a large and brilliant staff, and found that after every available man had been collected, only one weak squadron could be brought on parade for his inspection.
If any one had said last June that the summer of 1900 would see eighteen regiments of English cavalry actually engaged in the field 6000 miles from England, he would have been considered a most imaginative person; but corps after corps has been mo