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Monday, 27 July 2015

Horses in warfare

A Semitic people who conquered the Mesopotamian region in about 2300 BC were thought to be the first to fight mounted on horses. Seeing a person riding a horse must have struck terror into the hearts of people unaccustomed to such a sight. The myth of the centaur, half horse and half man, probably had its origin in just such an experience.

War horses and chariots were used by the Mitanni in Syria and the Hittites in Anatolia by about 1550 BC.

Alfred the Great was the first English king to provide horses for his troops. He commemorated his victory at the Battle of Edington with a chalk white horse on the downs near Westbury, which still can be seen today.

Trench warfare rendered cavalry charges useless during World War 1, so horses were mainly used for reconnaissance and for carrying messengers, as well as to pull artillery, ambulances, and supply wagons. The presence of horses often increased morale among the soldiers at the front, but contributed to disease and poor sanitation in camps. The value of horses was such that by 1917 it was made known to some troops that the loss of a horse was of greater tactical concern than the loss of a human soldier.

The War Horse Memorial at Ascot, England, honors the almost one million (often forgotten) Allied horses who died during the First World War. Of one million drafted horses only 62,000 returned 1918.

Sergeant Reckless, a War Horse who served during the Korean War, was responsible for resupplying multiple frontline units 51 times in a single day in 1953.

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