Topic: The Field of Battle
A Cavalry Charge
Scarlet Fever; A Lifetime with Horses, John Cusack, MM, and Ivor Herbert, 1972
It was every cavalryman's ambition to get into a charge and use his sword. That was what I had been trained for, for nearly ten years, and here was a damned farrier getting into one instead of us. No wonder he felt so pleased with himself!
…I also found my old friend Farrier-Sergeant Bert Turp in a state of extreme happiness and excitement. He told us: 'I've just been in a cavalry charge!'
We all laughed at him, frankly disbelieving him, but it was perfectly true, and here, over fifty years later, is his own account of what happened:
…'Shortly before noon our patrols reported that German infantry were advancing from some woods about 500 or 600 yards away on our flank--a perfect cavalry situation, with infantry in the open.
'A major of the 10th Hussars gave us the order to draw swords and to hold them down along our horses' shoulders so that the enemy would not catch the glint of steel, and we were told to lean down over our horses' necks. A moment later, we wheeled into line, and then, with a loud yell, it was hell for leather for the enemy!
'We had of course been taught that a cavalry charge should be carried out in line, six inches from knee to knee, but it didn't work out like that in practice and we were soon a pretty ragged line of horsemen at full gallop. We took the Germans quite by surprise, and they faced us as best they could, for there can't be anything more frightening to an infantryman than the sight of a line of cavalry charging at full gallop with drawn swords. I cannot remember if I was scared, but I know that we were all of us really excited, and so were the horses. The Germans had taken up what positions they could in the open, and I remember seeing three or four machine guns, and each of them seemed to be pointing straight at me as they opened up!
'Men and horses started going down but we kept galloping and the next moment we were in amongst them. Oddly enough, at this moment of the real thing, I remembered my old training and the old sword exercise. As our line overrode the Germans I made a regulation point at a man on my offside and my sword went through his neck and out the other side. The pace of my horse carried my sword clear and I then took a German on my nearside, and I remember the jar as my point took him in the collarbone and knocked him over. As we galloped on, the enemy broke and ran and I gave a German a jab in the backside which couldn't have hurt him much but which sent him sprawling. We kept galloping and, circling the woods on the far side, we halted while some of the 3rd Dragoon Guards who had got round to the flank cleaned up what was left of the enemy.'
That was the closest I ever got to being in a cavalry charge myself and, frankly, I was jealous of Bert Turp. It was every cavalryman's ambition to get into a charge and use his sword. That was what I had been trained for, for nearly ten years, and here was a damned farrier getting into one instead of us. No wonder he felt so pleased with himself!