German Horse Cavalry and Transport
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But the need for constant resupply, movement of new heavy weaponry, and the transport of troops demanded horse power on a massive scale -- automobiles, tractors, and trucks were relatively new inventions and somewhat rare.
British and French forces imported horses from colonies and allies around the world, a near-constant flow of hundreds of thousands of animals across the oceans, headed for war. One estimate places the number of horses killed during the four years of warfare at nearly 8 million. Other animals proved their usefulness as well: Dogs became messengers, sentries, rescuers, and small beasts of burden.
Pigeons acted as messenger carriers, and even experimentally as aerial reconnaissance platforms.
Mules and camels were drafted into use in various war theatres, and many soldiers brought along mascots to help boost morale. Only a couple of decades later, at the onset of World War II, most military tasks assigned to animals were done by machines, and warfare would never again rely so heavily on animal power. I've gathered photographs of the Great War from dozens of collections, some digitized for the first time, to try to tell the story of the conflict, those caught up in it, and how much it affected the world.
This entry is part 4 of a part series on World War I. A single soldier on his horse, during a cavalry patrol in World War I. At the start of the war every major army had a substantial cavalry, and they performed well at first. However, the development of barbed wire, machine guns and trench warfare soon made attacks from horseback far more costly and ineffective on the Western Front.
Cavalry units did prove useful throughout the war in other theatres though, including the Eastern Front, and the Middle East. Gas attack on the West Front, near St. Quentin —a German messenger dog loosed by his handler. Dogs were used throughout the war as sentries, scouts, rescuers, messengers, and more.
German soldiers pose near a horse mounted with a purpose-built frame, used to accommodate a captured Russian Maxim M machine gun complete with its wheeled mount and ammunition box.
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Bandages retrieved from the kit of a British Dog, ca. A pigeon with a small camera attached. The trained birds were used experimentally by German citizen Julius Neubronner, before and during the war years, capturing aerial images when a timer mechanism clicked the shutter. Unloading a mule in Alexandria, Egypt, in The escalating warfare drove Britain and France to import horses and mules from overseas by the hundreds of thousands.
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Vulnerable transport ships were frequent targets of the German Navy, sending thousands of animals to the bottom of the sea. Sergeant Stubby was the most decorated war dog of World War I and the only dog to be promoted to sergeant through combat. The Boston Bull Terrier started out as the mascot of the nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division, and ended up becoming a full-fledged combat dog.
Brought up to the front lines, he was injured in a gas attack early on, which gave him a sensitivity to gas that later allowed him to warn his soldiers of incoming gas attacks by running and barking. He helped find wounded soldiers, even captured a German spy who was trying to map allied trenches. Stubby was the first dog ever given rank in the United States Armed Forces, and was highly decorated for his participation in seventeen engagements, and being wounded twice. Members of the Royal Scots Greys cavalry regiment rest their horses by the side of the road, in France.
At Kemmel, West Flanders, Belgium.
The effect of enemy artillery fire upon German ambulances, in May of Red Crescent Hospital at Hafir Aujah, Their crowning achievement came at the Olympics when the German team won six equestrian gold medals and one silver, dominating all three disciplines—dressage, jumping, and military—a feat never repeated. Prior to , thanks to a staggering 12 years of military service required for enlisted men and NCOs, a great amount of time, up to 3, hours, was spent on basic rider training in the German cavalry.
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This laid an excellent groundwork for the horse-mounted troops, although as Germany moved toward war the rider training was reduced to an average of one hour per day, with the riders now focusing on weapons and combat strategies. While much of their duties were aimed at reconnaissance and scouting, the horse troopers trained as much as the infantry. Training was rigorous, often days of miles in the saddle, each horse carrying upward of pounds of man and equipment. Many German soldiers were accustomed in civilian life to tilling the rich farmlands of Germany, in which animals, particularly horses, were an integral part of their lives.
They had a special bond with the animals, a bond of blood and soil. While the popular conception of the German military machine was just that, a massive array of tanks, armored vehicles, troop transports, and trucks, much of the heavy hauling was actually done by horses. In addition, thousands of troops went to war on horseback in the German cavalry. Their mounts were chosen by special committees that purchased horses at the age of three with training beginning at four and continuing for two more years in a program unsurpassed by any other nation.
Heavy draft-sized horses also entered service as the wagonloads grew heavier, while a number of Berber horses entered Wehrmacht service after the fall of France. Unloaded wagons themselves could weigh from to kilograms and could require four to six horses to pull them, especially across the difficult terrain and unimproved roads of the Eastern Front. Horsemanship was also taught at the SS academies, as it was considered part of the legacy of the Teutonic Knights to which the Nazis ascribed. Unlike American cowboy movies in which, miraculously, no horse is ever injured during blazing gun battles, horses littered the roads and fields of Europe, killed by machine guns, mortars, artillery fire, and air attack.
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During the killing Russian winters, pampered German farm and riding horses, lashed to heavy wagons, dropped in their tracks. Often they became food for the starving soldiers. The German cavalry corps, which in wartime consisted of horse, bicycle, and motorcycle troops, contained 18 horse regiments. Disbanded at the outbreak of the war in , they were reformed into divisional reconnaissance battalions, followed in by what is considered the rebirth of the German cavalry. Uploaded by [deleted account] on November 9, This banner text can have markup.
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