The Last Major Cavalry Charge

Grace Higgins | August 6th, 2019

Over 600 Italian cavalrymen cried their traditional battle cry of “Savoia!” as they galloped information against over 2000 Soviet foot soldiers. This is what historians usually date as the last major cavalry charge, which happened on August 23, 1942. The cavalrymen were part of the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II.

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And you definitely may be forgiven for thinking that the last cavalry charge should have happened years before that date, especially when you think these Italians cavalrymen were charging headlong into machine guns and mortars. Some experts even believe some smaller cavalry charges happened after this date, even possibly as late as the 1970s in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

The Soviet line was retreating, so the Italians charged their flank while tossing hand grenades and slashing with their sabers. And despite heavy losses, they did cause the Soviets to break position. Other cavalry charges during World War II did not yield any positive results, Polish lancers had been slaughtered by a German infantry battalion. U.S cavalry regiments had been gunned down in the Philippines and Indian regiments under British command all faced similar results.

It may seem logical now that these cavalry charges should never have happened and that horse regiments should have stopped when the automatic rifle made them obsolete nearly a century before. But the die-hard generals and commanders that controlled the military just could not let the horses go, most likely still living in the teachings of famed military leaders. Indeed, Alexander the Great, Hannibal, and Genghis Khan and Frederick the Great all used their mounted horsemen to immense effectiveness.

Napoleon Bonaparte built up such a potent and fearless cavalry force that they were known to be the finest in the world, though he would always weaken up the enemy lines with artillery fire before signaling for a charge. Even with all his tactics, he could not stop the disastrous defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Even when cavalry regiments were deprecated from most militaries, commanders did lament the loss of the skill of riding a horse into warfare and feared a time when they would be needed again but nobody would be there to get into the saddle.

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