Relembrando a última carga de cavalaria importante da história

Relembrando a última carga de cavalaria importante da história

Com sabres em punho, cerca de 600 cavaleiros italianos gritaram seu tradicional grito de guerra de "Savoia!" e galopou de cabeça para baixo em direção a 2.000 soldados soviéticos armados com metralhadoras e morteiros. Em 23 de agosto de 1942 (algumas fontes dizem 24 de agosto), os cavaleiros - parte da invasão do Eixo à União Soviética durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial - estavam tentando fechar uma lacuna que se abriu entre os exércitos italiano e alemão ao longo do rio Don . Seria o fim de uma era. Embora os especialistas acreditem que cargas de cavalaria menores e menos bem documentadas provavelmente ocorreram mais tarde na Segunda Guerra Mundial e possivelmente até a década de 1970 na Rodésia (hoje Zimbábue), eles geralmente descrevem isso como a última grande carga da história.

Em uma formação compacta, os cavaleiros italianos se lançaram no flanco esquerdo e na retaguarda da linha soviética, lançando granadas de mão e cortando com seus sabres. Apesar das pesadas perdas, eles passaram pela linha na direção oposta e ajudaram a desalojar os soviéticos de sua posição. Outras cargas de cavalaria da Segunda Guerra Mundial não tiveram tanta sorte. No início do conflito, lanceiros poloneses supostamente atacaram um batalhão de infantaria alemão (mas não tanques, como a propaganda nazista nos faz acreditar) e sofreram resultados previsivelmente desastrosos. O ataque final dos EUA ocorreu nas Filipinas em janeiro de 1942, quando os cavaleiros armados do 26º Regimento de Cavalaria dispersaram temporariamente os japoneses. Logo depois, no entanto, os famintos soldados americanos e filipinos foram forçados a comer seus próprios cavalos. Dois meses depois, as tropas japonesas na Birmânia quase exterminaram completamente um regimento indiano sob comando britânico.

Na verdade, as armas de fogo rápido haviam essencialmente tornado as cargas de cavalaria obsoletas mais de um século antes. Mas as velhas tradições são difíceis de morrer. Por milhares de anos, líderes militares famosos como Alexandre, o Grande, Aníbal, Genghis Khan e Frederico, o Grande, usaram guerreiros montados com grande eficácia. Alex Bielakowski, professor associado do Colégio de Comando e Estado-Maior do Exército dos EUA, coloca desta forma: “Se você vir todos esses caras atacando você, o instinto humano para o número esmagador de pessoas é correr como o inferno. Então é fácil porque, uma vez que eles estão fugindo, você pode pegá-los. ”

Napoleão Bonaparte, que construiu uma potente força de cavalaria própria, normalmente enfraquecia as linhas inimigas com fogo de artilharia e depois enviava seus couraceiros para o golpe decisivo. “A cavalaria francesa comandada por Napoleão era conhecida por ser a melhor do mundo”, particularmente na maneira como lidavam com grandes formações, disse Jeffrey T. Fowler, professor associado da Universidade Militar Americana. “Eles foram muito bem treinados até o ponto em que podiam parar, eram manobráveis, podiam mudar de direção, podiam fazer todas essas coisas”. No entanto, mesmo eles sofreram uma derrota desastrosa em Waterloo em 1815.

Ao longo do resto do século 19 e início do século 20, a cavalaria apareceu como um componente principal das operações de guerrilha e antiguerrilha. Mas nunca mais brilhariam em batalhas campais. Na Guerra da Criméia, a artilharia russa cortou a cavalaria britânica em pedaços durante a infame carga da Brigada Ligeira. Logo depois, os comandantes da União e dos Confederados durante a Guerra Civil Americana aprenderam que era suicídio enviar seus cavaleiros em terreno aberto contra mosquetes armados. Como resultado, eles começaram a salvar sua cavalaria para fins de reconhecimento e ataques de longa distância atrás das linhas inimigas. Mais massacres em massa ocorreram durante a Guerra Franco-Prussiana, incluindo um em que multidões de cavaleiros e cavalos franceses mortos impediram uma tentativa posterior de marchar pela área. Posteriormente, o Corpo Médico Alemão determinou que apenas seis soldados morreram de ferimentos de sabre em todas as batalhas da guerra combinadas.

No entanto, muito poucas dessas lições foram aprendidas antes da Primeira Guerra Mundial, na qual exércitos de ambos os lados apareceram com lanceiros e espadachins a cavalo. “Você está indo contra metralhadoras com uma vara longa”, disse Bielakowski. “Este é um daqueles exemplos de relutância em desistir de algo só porque sempre fizemos assim.” Durante a primeira parte da guerra, a cavalaria desempenhou algum papel como olhos e ouvidos do exército. Mas, pelo menos na frente ocidental, eles eram ceifados em massa toda vez que atacavam posições fortificadas com arame farpado, trincheiras, armas automáticas e tanques.

Talvez porque algumas cargas de cavalaria realmente surgiram na frente oriental menos avançada tecnologicamente, os exércitos permaneceram relutantes em desistir de seus cavalos. A cavalaria teve até seus proponentes nos Estados Unidos, um dos primeiros países a se mecanizar totalmente. “O cavalo e a mula não são peças de museu”, escreveu o coronel John F. Wall em um relatório de 1951, agora guardado nos arquivos da Associação de Cavalaria dos EUA. “Se inteiramente descartados agora, nos dias que virão, eles reaparecerão. É realmente uma vergonha que este dia possa estar tão distante que não haja ninguém disponível para embalar uma sela ou lançar um Engate de Diamante. ”

Nos tempos modernos, a cavalaria foi substituída por tanques para ataques de choque, por veículos blindados e helicópteros para transporte e por aeronaves de reconhecimento. Mas mesmo com esse tipo de armamento moderno disponível, um cavalo ainda é útil de vez em quando. Em 2001, por exemplo, as forças dos EUA no Afeganistão foram fotografadas cavalgando corcéis em terreno acidentado ao lado de seus aliados da Aliança do Norte.


A história da última carga de cavalaria britânica na história

Em agosto de 1898, o general britânico H.H. Kitchener alcançou Omdurman. O cenário estava armado para o último ataque de cavalaria da história militar britânica.

A primeira fase sangrenta

A cerca de 50 metros da zareba, duas bombas explodiram, as explosões abrindo buracos no cascalho e na areia vermelha. Os projéteis eram da artilharia Mahdist, mas os canhões eram tão mal servidos que ficaram aquém. A artilharia anglo-egípcia respondeu, mas com uma precisão muito mais mortal. À direita, Ibrahim al-Khalil e seus homens avançaram, derramando-se sobre o cume que marcava a fronteira leste de Jebel Sergham. Os canhões da 32ª Bateria de Campo dispararam a 2.800 metros, uma chuva de granadas que produziu uma carnificina terrível. Até 20 projéteis atingiram a massa negra que avançava no primeiro minuto, lançando flores sujas de chamas e poeira vermelha a cada detonação.

Homens foram decapitados, eviscerados e rasgados membro por membro, mas outros avançaram com incrível coragem e resolução. Al-Khalil foi arremessado da sela, caindo no chão quando a cabeça de seu cavalo quase foi cortada por um fragmento de bala. Montando em um cavalo novo, ele conduziu seus homens para frente - mas a essa altura eles estavam ao alcance das metralhadoras Maxim e dos rifles Lee-Medford. As metralhadoras abriram, tagarelando uma constante saraivada de morte, e os Guardas Granadeiros se levantaram e lançaram fogo constante nas fileiras fragmentadas do inimigo. Ibrahim al-Khalil foi baleado na cabeça e no peito, e os sobreviventes ensanguentados recuaram com relutância.

O ataque do xeque Osman al-Din no centro foi igualmente desastroso. Os projéteis britânicos abriram brechas sangrentas nas fileiras e lançaram os homens como bonecos de pano para o alto, mas os dervixes se recusaram a desistir da luta. Um tapete de cartuchos usados ​​se juntou ao redor de cada soldado britânico, e os rifles esquentaram tanto que tiveram de ser substituídos por armas da reserva.

Os dervixes não se saíram melhor na esquerda. Os regimentos sudaneses tinham pouco amor por seus compatriotas mahdistas, e alguns provavelmente queriam vingança pelas depredações do khalifa. Os sudaneses dispararam a 800 metros, grandes jorros de fumaça, chamas e chumbo jorrando de seus Martini-Henrys. Os líderes dervixes avançaram, mas a carne e o sangue humanos não resistiram a esse furacão de chumbo e metal.

A última carga de cavalaria formal da história britânica

A primeira fase da Batalha de Omdurman acabou. A planície entre as colinas Keriri e Jebel Surgham era atapetada com milhares de corpos mahdistas. Os feridos rastejaram entre os mortos, muitos deles deixando um rastro sangrento de braços, pernas ou pés perdidos. "Cessar fogo!" Kitchener gritou, então ordenou que o exército virasse para o sul e seguisse direto para Omdurman. O general temia que o khalifa pudesse resistir na cidade, e a ideia de uma luta casa a casa era assustadora.

Como um primeiro passo, Kitchener ordenou que o Coronel Rowland Martin e seus 21º Lanceiros fizessem um reconhecimento da cidade e impedissem a retirada de todos os Dervixes em fuga. Martin ficou feliz em obedecer, pois o regimento estava ansioso para entrar em ação. Os lanceiros avançaram a passos largos, então avistaram uma linha de dervixes a cerca de oitocentos metros de distância. Os dervixes - apenas cerca de 100 escaramuçadores - começaram a atirar nos cavaleiros britânicos. Martin ordenou uma “roda direita alinhada”, que um corneteiro cuspiu em notas musicais. Os 320 soldados deram meia-volta com inteligência, preparando-se para o primeiro ataque completo do regimento e o último ataque de cavalaria formal da história britânica.

Os lanceiros atacaram com estilo refinado, lanças apontadas e espadas em punho. Mas, quando alcançaram seu objetivo, ficaram chocados ao descobrir que o solo descia um metro e meio para expor um khor - um curso de água seco - cheio de 3.000 guerreiros com 10 a 12 fileiras de profundidade. O dia 21 estava comprometido - não havia mais nada a fazer a não ser aumentar o ritmo e esperar o melhor. O impacto subsequente foi terrível, pois os cavalos mergulharam de cabeça na massa inimiga. Cerca de 30 soldados foram desmontados ao colidir com as fileiras lotadas, e talvez até 200 dervixes foram derrubados, pisoteados e atordoados. Mas os mahdistas se recuperaram rapidamente - esse era o tipo de guerra que eles entendiam.

Cada lanceiro se viu envolvido em um mar de inimigos que empurravam lanças e golpeavam espadas com selvagem abandono. Soldados foram puxados de suas montarias, cercados e despedaçados. Freios foram cortados, estribo de couro cortado e cavalos foram amarrados na tentativa de derrubá-los. Churchill foi um dos sortudos, em parte porque estava na extrema direita, onde a massa de dervixes era mais rala, e também porque empunhava uma pistola. Mesmo assim, ele quase não escapou com vida. Vendo-se cercado por várias dúzias de dervixes, Churchill esvaziou seu Mauser enquanto eles se aproximavam para acabar com ele. Um agressor, brandindo uma espada curva, chegou tão perto da pistola que esbarrou nela. Churchill se afastou no último momento e galopou para um lugar seguro.

Os lanceiros sobreviventes conseguiram sair do khor e pararam para se recompor. A confusão durou apenas dois minutos, mas nesse curto espaço de tempo 22 homens foram mortos e outros 50 feridos. Cerca de 119 cavalos foram abatidos. Os 21º lanceiros se cobriram de glória, mas a um alto preço em sangue. Depois de se recuperar da euforia da batalha, Churchill notou "cavalos jorrando sangue, homens sangrando de feridas terríveis, lanças de anzol cravadas neles, homens ofegando, chorando, morrendo". Um tenente próximo foi ferido no ombro e na perna, sua mão quase cortada por um golpe de espada, e o rosto de um sargento "foi cortado em pedaços ... todo o nariz, bochechas e lábios estavam com bolhas vermelhas".

Gordon Avenged

A batalha ainda não havia acabado. Kitchener erroneamente acreditava que o exército Mahdist estava quebrado. Os dervixes sofreram gravemente, mas a maior parte da divisão da bandeira negra do Khalifa e o corpo de Ali Wad Helu ainda estavam intactos. A 1ª Brigada Egípcia do coronel Hector MacDonald, uma retaguarda composta por sudaneses e egípcios, foi perigosamente exposta. Se o khalifa pudesse atacar MacDonald, ele poderia aniquilar o escocês antes que outras unidades pudessem ajudá-lo. Todo o exército de Kitchener poderia ser capturado no flanco e na retaguarda enquanto ainda estava em marcha e enrolado.

Sem saber do perigo, Kitchener ficou irritado. "Ele não pode ver que estamos marchando sobre Omdurman?" o general reclamou. "Diga a ele para seguir em frente." Obedecendo, o General Hunter transmitiu uma mensagem a MacDonald para se retirar. Mas bem na hora em que recebeu a mensagem, MacDonald percebeu o perigo. "Não vou fazer isso", disse ele com firmeza em seu sotaque escocês. Se ele se retirasse, seus homens seriam massacrados. Quando a divisão da bandeira negra do khalifa avançou na corrida, eles foram recebidos por voleios disciplinados das tropas britânicas. Como antes, o poder de fogo moderno superou a coragem medieval, e o ataque vacilou e se interrompeu.

Só então, os guerreiros de Ali Wad Helu avançaram do norte, ameaçando atingir as tropas de MacDonald no flanco. O escocês avaliou friamente a situação e convocou o 11º Batalhão Sudanês para enfrentar a nova ameaça. A brigada de MacDonald estava agora em forma de L, atirando tão rapidamente que muitos homens nem mesmo miraram. A horda de dervixes, murchando sob fogo pesado, começou a contornar o flanco do 11º, buscando explorar um espaço que viram entre o 11º e o 9º Batalhões. O 2º Batalhão Egípcio preencheu a lacuna durante a corrida, atirando em seus oponentes à queima-roupa. O ataque falhou. Assistindo na retaguarda, o khalifa aceitou a derrota e fugiu para o distante Cordofão, deixando para trás a sua grande bandeira negra como troféu para os vencedores.

A habilidade e bravura das tropas sudanesas e egípcias salvaram Kitchener do desastre. Elogios bem merecidos também foram dados aos homens de MacDonald. O próprio MacDonald ganhou o apelido carinhoso de "Fighting Mac". Winston Churchill acrescentou outro entalhe à sua lenda nascente.

Raramente uma grande vitória foi conquistada com um custo tão pequeno. As baixas do exército anglo-egípcio foram 47 mortos e 340 feridos. Em contraste, o exército Mahdist perdeu quase 10.000 mortos, 13.000 feridos e 5.000 capturados. O khalifa foi finalmente localizado um ano depois e morto em batalha. Mesmo que indiretamente, Gordon foi vingado.


Conteúdo

Cargas antigas Editar

Pode-se presumir que a acusação foi praticada na guerra pré-histórica, mas evidências claras só vêm com sociedades letradas posteriores. As táticas da falange grega clássica incluíam uma marcha de aproximação ordenada, com uma carga final de contato. [1]

Edição de carga das Terras Altas

Em resposta à introdução das armas de fogo, as tropas irlandesas e escocesas no final do século 16 desenvolveram uma tática que combinava uma salva de mosquetes com uma transição para um combate corpo a corpo rápido usando armas brancas. Inicialmente bem-sucedido, foi combatido por uma disciplina eficaz e pelo desenvolvimento de táticas defensivas de baioneta. [2]

Carga de baioneta Editar

O desenvolvimento da baioneta no final do século 17 fez com que o ataque de baioneta se tornasse a principal tática de ataque de infantaria ao longo dos séculos 18 e 19 e até o século 20. Já no século 19, os estudiosos táticos já notavam que a maioria das cargas de baioneta não resultava em combate corpo a corpo. Em vez disso, um lado geralmente fugia antes que acontecesse uma verdadeira batalha de baioneta. O ato de consertar baionetas tem sido considerado principalmente relacionado ao moral, a emissão de um sinal claro para amigos e inimigos de uma vontade de matar de perto. [3]

Edição de cobrança de Banzai

Um termo usado pelas forças aliadas para se referir a ataques humanos japoneses com ondas e enxames encenados por unidades de infantaria. Este termo veio do grito de guerra japonês "Tennōheika Banzai" (天皇 陛下 万 歳, "Viva Sua Majestade o Imperador"), abreviado para banzai, referindo-se especificamente a uma tática usada pelo Exército Imperial Japonês durante a Guerra do Pacífico.

O valor do choque de um ataque de carga foi especialmente explorado em táticas de cavalaria, tanto de cavaleiros com armadura quanto de tropas montadas mais leves de épocas anteriores e posteriores. Historiadores como John Keegan mostraram que, quando corretamente preparados contra (por exemplo, improvisando fortificações) e, especialmente, permanecendo firmes em face do ataque, as cargas de cavalaria muitas vezes falharam contra a infantaria, com cavalos se recusando a galopar na massa densa de inimigos , [4] ou a própria unidade de carregamento quebrando. No entanto, quando as cargas de cavalaria eram bem-sucedidas, geralmente era devido à formação de defesa se separando (geralmente com medo) e se espalhando, para ser caçada pelo inimigo. [5] Embora não fosse recomendado que uma carga de cavalaria continuasse contra a infantaria ininterrupta, as cargas ainda eram um perigo viável para a infantaria pesada. Observou-se que os lanceiros partas exigiam formações significativamente densas de legionários romanos para parar, e os cavaleiros francos eram ainda mais difíceis de parar, a se acreditar na escrita de Anna Komnene. No entanto, apenas cavalos altamente treinados carregariam voluntariamente formações inimigas densas e ininterruptas diretamente, e para serem eficazes, uma formação forte teria que ser mantida - tais formações fortes sendo o resultado de um treinamento eficiente. Cavalaria pesada carecendo mesmo de uma única parte desta combinação - composta de alto moral, excelente treinamento, equipamento de qualidade, destreza individual e disciplina coletiva de ambos os guerreiros e a montaria - sofreria em uma carga contra a infantaria pesada ininterrupta, e apenas os melhores cavaleiros pesados ​​(por exemplo, cavaleiros e catafratos) ao longo da história os possuiriam em relação à sua época e terreno.

Idade Média Europeia Editar

O ataque de cavalaria foi uma tática significativa na Idade Média. Embora a cavalaria já tivesse atacado antes, uma combinação da adoção de uma sela fixada no lugar por uma faixa peitoral, estribos e a técnica de apoiar a lança sob o braço proporcionou uma capacidade até então inatingível de utilizar o impulso do cavalo e do cavaleiro. Esses desenvolvimentos começaram no século 7, mas não foram combinados para efeito total até o século 11. [6] A Batalha de Dirráquio (1081) foi um dos primeiros exemplos da conhecida carga de cavalaria medieval registrada como tendo um efeito devastador tanto por cronistas normandos quanto bizantinos. Na época da Primeira Cruzada na década de 1090, a carga de cavalaria estava sendo amplamente empregada pelos exércitos europeus. [7]

No entanto, desde o início da Guerra dos Cem Anos em diante, o uso de piqueiros e arqueiros profissionais com moral elevada e táticas funcionais significava que um cavaleiro teria que ser cauteloso em um ataque de cavalaria. Homens empunhando lanças ou alabardas em formação, com alto moral, podiam afastar tudo, exceto as melhores cargas de cavalaria, enquanto os arqueiros ingleses com o arco longo podiam desencadear uma torrente de flechas capazes de causar estragos, embora não necessariamente um massacre, sobre as cabeças de infantaria pesada e cavalaria em terreno impróprio. Tornou-se cada vez mais comum para os cavaleiros desmontar e lutar como infantaria pesada de elite, embora alguns continuassem a permanecer montados durante o combate. O uso da cavalaria para manobras de flanco tornou-se mais útil, embora algumas interpretações do ideal cavalheiresco freqüentemente levassem a ataques imprudentes e indisciplinados.

A cavalaria ainda poderia atacar densas formações de infantaria pesada de frente se os cavaleiros tivessem uma combinação de certas características. Eles tinham uma grande chance de sucesso se estivessem em uma formação, coletivamente disciplinados, altamente qualificados e equipados com as melhores armas e armaduras, bem como montados em cavalos treinados para suportar o estresse físico e mental de tais cargas. No entanto, a maioria do pessoal da cavalaria carecia de pelo menos uma dessas características, particularmente disciplina, formações e cavalos treinados para ataques frontais. Assim, o uso da carga de cavalaria frontal diminuiu, embora hussardos poloneses, cuirassiers franceses e conquistadores espanhóis e portugueses ainda fossem capazes de ter sucesso em tais cargas, muitas vezes devido à sua posse da combinação mencionada anteriormente das características necessárias para o sucesso. em tais esforços.

Edição do século vinte

No século XX, a carga de cavalaria raramente era usada, embora tivesse sucesso esporádico e ocasional.

No que foi chamado de "última carga de cavalaria verdadeira", elementos do 7º Regimento de Cavalaria dos Estados Unidos atacaram as forças de Villista na Batalha de Guerrero em 29 de março de 1916. A batalha foi uma vitória dos americanos, ocorrendo em terreno desértico, na cidade mexicana de Vicente Guerrero, Chihuahua. [ 8] [9] [10] [11]

Uma das cargas de cavalaria ofensiva mais bem-sucedidas do século 20 não foi conduzida por cavalaria, mas sim por infantaria montada, quando em 31 de outubro de 1917, a 4ª Brigada de Cavalos Ligeiros australiana avançou por duas milhas de terreno aberto em face do Otomano artilharia e metralhadora para capturar com sucesso Beersheba no que viria a ser conhecido como a Batalha de Beersheba.

Em 23 de setembro de 1918, os Lanceiros de Jodhpur e Lanceiros de Mysore da 15ª Brigada de Cavalaria (Serviço Imperial) atacaram posições turcas a cavalo em Haifa. Juntos, os dois regimentos capturaram 1.350 prisioneiros alemães e otomanos, incluindo dois oficiais alemães, 35 oficiais otomanos, 17 canhões de artilharia incluindo quatro canhões 4.2, oito canhões 77 mm e quatro canhões de camelo, bem como um canhão naval de 6 polegadas e 11 metralhadoras. Suas próprias baixas totalizaram oito mortos e 34 feridos. 60 cavalos foram mortos e outros 83 feridos.

Em 16 de maio de 1919, durante a Terceira Guerra Anglo-Afegã, o 1st King's Dragoon Guards fez a última carga registrada por um regimento de cavalaria britânica [12] em Dakka, uma vila em território afegão, a noroeste de Khyber Pass. [13]

Durante a Guerra Civil Espanhola, houve um ataque maciço de cavalaria da divisão fascista durante a Batalha de Alfambra em 5 de fevereiro de 1938, o último grande ataque montado na Europa Ocidental. [14]

Várias tentativas de acusação foram feitas na Segunda Guerra Mundial. A cavalaria polonesa, apesar de ser treinada principalmente para operar como infantaria rápida e estar melhor armada do que a infantaria polonesa regular (mais armas antitanque e veículos blindados per capita) executou até 15 cargas de cavalaria durante a Invasão da Polônia. A maioria das acusações foi bem-sucedida e nenhuma foi considerada como uma acusação contra veículos blindados. Algumas das cargas eram cargas mútuas da cavalaria polonesa e alemã, como a Batalha de Krasnobród (1939) e uma vez, os batedores de cavalaria alemães da 4ª Divisão Ligeira (Alemanha) atacaram a infantaria polonesa da 10ª Brigada de Cavalaria Motorizada (Polônia). por tankettes poloneses movendo-se de posições ocultas em Zakliczyn. Em 17 de novembro de 1941, durante a Batalha de Moscou, a 44ª Divisão de Cavalaria soviética atacou as linhas alemãs perto de Musino, a oeste da capital. Os soviéticos montados foram devastados pela artilharia alemã e depois por metralhadoras. A carga falhou, e os alemães disseram que mataram 2.000 cavaleiros sem uma única perda para eles. [15] Em 24 de agosto de 1942, a carga defensiva da Savoia Cavalleria em Izbushensky contra as linhas russas perto do rio Don foi bem-sucedida. As unidades de cavalaria britânicas e americanas também fizeram cargas de cavalaria semelhantes durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial. (Veja 26º Regimento de Cavalaria). O último ataque de cavalaria bem-sucedido, durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial, foi executado durante a Batalha de Schoenfeld em 1º de março de 1945. A cavalaria polonesa, lutando no lado soviético, dominou a posição de artilharia alemã e permitiu que a infantaria e os tanques entrassem na cidade . A cavalaria sofreu apenas 7 mortos, enquanto 26 tankmen poloneses e 124 soldados de infantaria, bem como cerca de 500 soldados alemães acabaram morrendo. [16] [17] [18])

Após a Segunda Guerra Mundial, a carga de cavalaria estava claramente desatualizada e não era mais empregada [ citação necessária ] isso, no entanto, não impediu que as tropas modernas utilizassem cavalos para transporte e, em países com polícia montada, técnicas semelhantes (embora desarmadas) à carga de cavalaria são às vezes empregadas para afastar manifestantes e grandes multidões.

Na era das armas de fogo, os parâmetros básicos são a velocidade de avanço contra a taxa (ou eficácia) do fogo. Se os atacantes avançam a uma taxa mais rápida do que os defensores podem matá-los ou incapacitá-los, os atacantes alcançarão os defensores (embora não necessariamente sem serem muito enfraquecidos em número). Existem muitos modificadores para esta comparação simples - tempo, cobertura de fogo, organização, formação e terreno, entre outros. Uma falha na carga pode deixar os possíveis invasores vulneráveis ​​a uma contra-carga.

Tem havido um aumento constante na taxa de fogo de um exército nos últimos 700 anos ou mais, mas embora cargas em massa tenham sido quebradas com sucesso, eles também foram vitoriosos. Somente a partir de meados do século 19 é que as cargas diretas se tornaram menos bem-sucedidas, especialmente desde a introdução dos rifles de repetição, metralhadoras e artilharia de carregamento por culatra. Eles geralmente ainda são úteis em uma escala muito menor em áreas confinadas onde o poder de fogo do inimigo não pode ser usado. Cargas de baioneta ainda são vistas no início do século 20, mas são frequentemente limitadas ao uso contra adversários com poder de fogo inferior, quando o suprimento de munição é escasso, ou simplesmente como uma forma de ataque suicida para infligir medo ao inimigo.

Nos tempos modernos, ataques corpo a corpo estão praticamente extintos fora do controle de distúrbios e combates de rua, com algumas exceções, como o ataque de baioneta na Batalha de Danny Boy, mas as táticas de ataque militar ocorrem principalmente com veículos de combate blindados, como tanques, combate de infantaria veículos e carros blindados. Esses veículos de combate terrestre podem avançar diretamente com fogo em marcha ou transportar os atacantes de infantaria rapidamente para a proximidade da posição do alvo, a fim de atacá-lo e capturá-lo. Os ataques aéreos também são uma tática freqüentemente usada para inserir ataques de operações especiais contra alvos de alto valor.


Relembrando a última carga de cavalaria importante da história

SGT (Cadastre-se para ver)

Em 23 de agosto de 1942, durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial, o último ataque de cavalaria da história ocorre em Isbushenskij, na Rússia. O italiano Savoia Cavalleria carrega a infantaria soviética. Do artigo:

& quotCom sabres desembainhados, cerca de 600 cavaleiros italianos gritaram seu tradicional grito de batalha de "Savoia!" e galopou de cabeça para baixo em direção a 2.000 soldados soviéticos armados com metralhadoras e morteiros. Em 23 de agosto de 1942 (algumas fontes dizem 24 de agosto), os cavaleiros - parte da invasão do Eixo à União Soviética durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial - estavam tentando fechar uma lacuna que se abriu entre os exércitos italiano e alemão ao longo do rio Don . Seria o fim de uma era. Embora os especialistas acreditem que cargas de cavalaria menores e menos bem documentadas provavelmente ocorreram mais tarde na Segunda Guerra Mundial e possivelmente até a década de 1970 na Rodésia (hoje Zimbábue), eles geralmente descrevem isso como a última grande carga da história.


4 respostas 4

Mesmo em cavalos de combate modernos ainda são usados. Houve um livro escrito sobre os soldados das Forças Especiais dos EUA no Afeganistão que dependiam muito dos cavalos em combate. O livro é chamado Horse Soldiers.

Houve uma série de pequenos incidentes de luta, envolvendo unidades de cavalaria durante a 2ª Guerra Mundial, veja aqui ou aqui. No entanto, a cavalaria era usada como meio de transporte ou como infantaria montada.

A última batalha significativa em que a cavalaria foi usada como uma arma de combate separada parece ter sido a batalha de Komarow em agosto de 1920, durante a guerra polonesa-soviética.

Uma das últimas cargas de cavalaria significativas foi a Carga da Savoia Cavalleria em Izbushensky em 24 de agosto de 1942, quando o Reggimento italiano & quotSavoia Cavalleria & quot (3 °) realizou uma carga contra o 812º Regimento de Rifles soviético perto de Избушенский (Izbushensky).

No início da manhã, batedores italianos descobriram as tropas soviéticas preparando um ataque surpresa. Com a surpresa estragada, os soviéticos atacaram os italianos acampados. O coronel Alessandro, comandando o regimento, ordenou um ataque de cavalaria com sabre e granada como último recurso. O 2º esquadrão (100 cavaleiros) usou um desfiladeiro para flanquear os soviéticos e começou a atacar ao longo da linha de infantaria entrincheirada.

O 2º esquadrão sofreu pesadas baixas. Em vez de quebrar, os soviéticos se abrigariam em seus buracos até que a cavalaria passasse, então se levantariam para atirar em suas costas. Alessandro ordenou que o 4o esquadrão desmontasse e lançasse um ataque frontal enquanto o 2o esquadrão se reagrupou atrás dos soviéticos para outra carga. O 3º esquadrão então avançou abertamente, causando terríveis baixas.

O regimento perdeu mais de 100 cavalos, mas a carga aliviou a pressão e atrasou os soviéticos em 24 horas.

Isso foi apontado por The Armchair Historian em seu vídeo Times que a Itália foi eficaz na segunda guerra mundial, embora eu ache que sua declaração de 1.050 baixas soviéticas é exagerada.


Relembrando a última carga de cavalaria importante da história

SGT (Cadastre-se para ver)

Em 23 de agosto de 1942, durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial, o último grande ataque de cavalaria da história ocorreu em Isbushenskij, Rússia. O italiano Savoia Cavalleria atacou a infantaria soviética. Do artigo:

& quotRemembering History’s Last Major Cavalry Charge
Em 1942, o que muitos consideram o último grande ataque de cavalaria ocorreu na União Soviética.
Com sabres em punho, cerca de 600 cavaleiros italianos gritaram seu tradicional grito de guerra de "Savoia!" e galopou de cabeça para baixo em direção a 2.000 soldados soviéticos armados com metralhadoras e morteiros. Em 23 de agosto de 1942 (algumas fontes dizem 24 de agosto), os cavaleiros - parte da invasão do Eixo à União Soviética durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial - estavam tentando fechar uma lacuna que se abriu entre os exércitos italiano e alemão ao longo do rio Don . Seria o fim de uma era. Embora os especialistas acreditem que cargas de cavalaria menores e menos bem documentadas provavelmente ocorreram mais tarde na Segunda Guerra Mundial e possivelmente até a década de 1970 na Rodésia (hoje Zimbábue), eles geralmente descrevem isso como a última grande carga da história.

Em uma formação compacta, os cavaleiros italianos se lançaram no flanco esquerdo e na retaguarda da linha soviética, lançando granadas de mão e cortando com seus sabres. Apesar das pesadas perdas, eles passaram pela linha na direção oposta e ajudaram a desalojar os soviéticos de sua posição. Outras cargas de cavalaria da Segunda Guerra Mundial não tiveram tanta sorte. No início do conflito, lanceiros poloneses supostamente atacaram um batalhão de infantaria alemão (mas não tanques, como a propaganda nazista nos faz acreditar) e sofreram resultados previsivelmente desastrosos. O ataque final dos EUA ocorreu nas Filipinas em janeiro de 1942, quando os cavaleiros armados do 26º Regimento de Cavalaria dispersaram temporariamente os japoneses. Logo depois, no entanto, os famintos soldados americanos e filipinos foram forçados a comer seus próprios cavalos. Dois meses depois, as tropas japonesas na Birmânia quase exterminaram completamente um regimento indiano sob comando britânico.

Na verdade, as armas de fogo rápido haviam essencialmente tornado as cargas de cavalaria obsoletas mais de um século antes. Mas as velhas tradições são difíceis de morrer. Por milhares de anos, líderes militares famosos como Alexandre, o Grande, Aníbal, Genghis Khan e Frederico, o Grande, usaram guerreiros montados com grande eficácia. Alex Bielakowski, professor associado do Colégio de Comando e Estado-Maior do Exército dos EUA, coloca desta forma: “Se você vir todos esses caras atacando você, o instinto humano para o número esmagador de pessoas é correr como o inferno. Então é fácil porque, uma vez que eles estão fugindo, você pode pegá-los. ”

Napoleon Bonaparte, who built up a potent cavalry force of his own, typically weakened the enemy lines with artillery fire and then sent in his cuirassiers for the decisive blow. “The French cavalry under Napoleon were known to be the finest in the world,” particularly in the way they handled large formations, said Jeffrey T. Fowler, an associate professor at the American Military University. “They were very well trained to the point where they could stop, they were maneuverable, they could change direction, they could do all of these things.” Nonetheless, even they suffered a disastrous defeat at Waterloo in 1815.

Throughout the rest of the 19th and early 20th centuries, cavalry popped up as a major component of both guerilla and anti-guerilla operations. But never again would they shine in pitched battles. In the Crimean War, Russian artillery cut the British cavalry to pieces during the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade. Soon after, Union and Confederate commanders during the American Civil War learned it was suicidal to send their horsemen over open terrain against rifled muskets. As a result, they began saving their cavalry for reconnaissance purposes and long-distance raids behind enemy lines. More mass slaughters occurred during the Franco-Prussian War, including one in which throngs of dead French horsemen and horses thwarted a later attempt to march through the area. Afterward, the German Medical Corps determined that only six soldiers had died of saber wounds in all of the war’s battles combined.

Yet very few of these lessons sank in prior to World War I, in which armies on both sides showed up with lancers and swordsmen on horseback. “You’re going against machine guns with a long stick,” Bielakowski said. “This is one of those examples of unwillingness to give something up just because we’ve always done it that way.” During the first part of the war, cavalry played some role as the eyes and ears of the army. But at least on the Western front, they were mowed down in droves every time they charged against positions fortified with barbed wire, trenches, automatic weapons and tanks.


The Last Great Cavalry Charge of WW1: The Jodhpur Lancers

During the First World War cavalry became largely irrelevant in warfare. Machine guns, repeating rifles, and the advent of trench warfare made the battlefield almost impossible for mounted attacks. But, in September 1918 the Jodhpur Lancers, one of India’s elite cavalry regiments, attacked German and Turkish defenses in the Mediterranean town of Haifa in what has been described as the last great cavalry charge in history.

Pratap Singh was born in October 1845, the third son of Maharaja Takhat Singh, the ruler of the Princely State of Jodhpur in northwestern India. Pratap Singh learned to ride and shoot when he was a young boy and served in the British Army during the Second Afghan War in the late 1870s.

Singh’s experiences led him to become interested in the notion of forming an army for the State of Jodhpur. Although the state did have what passed for an armed force, it was ill-disciplined and almost completely without training. Singh decided to form his own regiment of lancers.

Sir Pratap Singh of Idar

With his father’s agreement, he provided horses, weapons, and uniforms for sixty of his followers, while Singh was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel of Cavalry. In 1889, the colonial Indian government requested that each Princely State should raise military units to serve with the Imperial forces.

Singh’s small force rapidly expanded into a regiment of three hundred mounted men, named the Sardar Rissala (Jodhpur Lancers).

During the late 1800s, the Jodhpur Lancers became one of the best-known and most glamorous regiments in India. They adopted the motto Jo Hokum (I obey) and the wealth of the Maharaja ensured that the unit was always superbly equipped and mounted.

Imperial Service Troops circa 1908

Meanwhile, the regiment’s polo team became very successful and traveled as far as the United Kingdom to participate in competitions. Additionally, Pratap Singh mingled with some of the most senior officers in the British Army and with members of the British Royal Family who often visited Jodhpur.

Although the Lancers were involved in occasional actions against rebellious tribes, what Singh wanted more than anything was to lead his men into action on behalf of the British Empire. In 1900 he got his chance–the Jodhpur Lancers were ordered to China as part of a multi-national force of British, Russian, Japanese, German, and American troops formed to fight the Boxer Rebellion.

NSW Naval Contingent & 12 pdr 8 cwt gun Boxer Rebellion

Pratap Singh was leading when the Lancers finally encountered the enemy. However, until he personally killed an enemy soldier, his troops only used the blunt end of their lances since it was important for the honor of the regiment that the commanding officer drew first blood.

This he did, and although the Lancers saw relatively little combat, they performed well. Singh was later promoted to the rank of Major-General and appointed Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB).

When the First World War began in 1914, Sir Pratap Singh immediately offered to lead the Jodhpur Lancers to France where he hoped to be allowed to fight the Germans. When he was informed that there was very little chance of any cavalry unit being involved in a charge in the war he replied, “I will make an opportunity!”

Pratap Singh in 1914

The Jodhpur Lancers arrived in Flanders in October 1914 and remained on the Western Front for over three years. There they participated in several unsuccessful attempts to break through German lines, including at the Battle of Cambrai where they followed British tanks into action.

In early 1918 the regiment was posted to the 15 th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade. With the brigade they were sent as part of an Expeditionary Force first to Egypt and then to the British Mandate of Palestine (present day Israel) where British forces were fighting Turkish and German troops.

A Mark IV (Male) tank of ‘H’ Battalion, ‘Hyacinth’, ditched in a German trench while supporting 1st Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment near Ribecourt during the Battle of Cambrai, 20 November 1917.

By this time, Sir Pratap Singh was seventy-three years old and many of his subordinates urged him to take a less active role in leading the regiment. Nonetheless, he refused and often spent whole days in the saddle and nights camped in the desert with his men.

During the British advance in September 1918, the Jodhpur Lancers were continuously in action. At one point, Pratap Singh spent over thirty hours in the saddle and the regiment covered more than five-hundred miles in thirty days.

On September 23, 1918, the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade was ordered to take the strategically important and heavily defended port city of Haifa. Turkish troops had taken up positions in front of the town and were supported by German and Austro-Hungarian artillery on the hills above.

Indian Jodhpur lancers marching through Haifa after it was captured

By this time Pratap Singh was ill with a fever exacerbated by exhaustion. In his absence, the Lancers were led by Major Dalpat Singh.

A unit of the Mysore Lancers was sent to attack German and Austro-Hungarian gun positions while the Jodhpur Lancers were ordered to attack the city itself. The four hundred Jodhpur Lancers drew themselves up in a battle formation to the east of the city, 4,000 yards from the enemy. They faced almost one-thousand entrenched Turkish troops protected by barbed wire and covered by at least four machine guns.

Mysore Lancer sowar and horse

Led by Major Dalpat Singh, the regiment began to trot towards the Turkish lines. Ignoring constant enemy fire, they accelerated to a canter until, as they passed through a narrow gorge close to the entrenchments, they reached the ‘break-in point and accelerated into the final gallop. Almost at once Major Singh fell, mortally wounded by a Turkish bullet.

Maddened with rage at the loss of their commander, the remaining Jodhpur Lancers hurled themselves at the Turkish positions. Many men and horses were brought down by the hail of rifle and machine gun fire, but as they smashed into the trench line the survivors wrought terrible carnage with lance and saber.

Firing line of a troop of Jodhpur Lancers

Stunned by the ferocity of the attack, the Turkish troops fled towards the town square with the Lancers in pursuit. A short time later, the defenders of Haifa surrendered en-masse.

After more than four hundred years of Turkish occupation, Haifa was finally in British hands. Seven-hundred Turkish troops were captured along with sixteen artillery pieces and ten machine guns. In the official history of the British campaign in Palestine that was published in 1919, it was said of the charge of the Jodhpur Lancers that “No more remarkable cavalry action of its scale was fought in the whole course of the campaign.”

Troop of Jodhpur Lancers coming into action dismounted

The charge was the last large-scale cavalry action made by the British Army in wartime. The Jodhpur Lancers fought again for the British in the Second World War, but by then they had swapped their horses for armored vehicles. The unit was later absorbed into the Indian Army following independence in 1947.

After the First World War, Sir Pratap Singh returned to Jodhpur where he died in 1922 at the age of seventy-seven. At the time of his death, his full and rather intimidating title was Lieutenant-General His Highness Maharajadhiraja Maharaja Shri Sir Pratap Singh Sahib Bahadur, GCB, GCSI, GCVO.

Officers of the Jodhpur Lancers

However, perhaps his memory is best served by a description of Sir Pratap Singh provided by General Harbord, a friend and the Commander of the Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade:

“I have always looked upon him as the finest Indian I have ever had the honor to know–loyal to the core, a sportsman to his finger-tips, a gallant soldier and a real gentleman.”


The Battle of Beersheba 'Last Successful Cavalry Charge in History'

Thousands of Aussies attended a ceremony to mark the 100 th anniversary of the last successful great Calvary charge in history in southern Israel.

o Battle of Beersheeba involved the legendary mounted charge of the 4 th Light Horse Brigade in October 1917. The 800 young men of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) were remembered for their bravery that changed the course of the First World War.

Starting at first light, thousands of Australians and New Zealanders gathered to commemorate the turning point in the Palestine campaign of the war, Australia’s ABC reports.

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The country’s minister of veterans affairs, Dan Tehan, spoke of the Sinai Peninsula campaign as having taken place in a “land they had only heard of in scripture.”

“Here at Beersheba, 100 years ago, Australians and New Zealanders fought to end a war that had begun for them at Anzac Cove,” he said.

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“For the people of Australia and New Zealand, the war here in the Middle East added an important and enduring chapter to the Anzac story.

“In a land that many had only heard of in scripture, The Light Horsemen, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles and the Cameliers fought through the Holy Land for our values and for our freedom. This was not an easy campaign.

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“Throughout this campaign, long hours in the saddle, the scarcity of water, the lack of fresh fodder for horses in the desert, the dust and heat of the Middle Eastern summer, the hazards of battle and the absence of comforts behind the lines tested the Anzacs, sometimes to the limit of their endurance.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that the “mad Australians” helped set the stage for the creation of the State of Israel.

“There were more men on horses in this charge than there were in the Charge of the Light Brigade. It was a bigger charge and it was successful,” Mr Turnbull said.

“Had the Ottoman rule in Palestine and Syria not been overthrown, the declaration would have been empty words. But this was a step for the creation of Israel.

“While those young men may not have foreseen — no doubt did not foresee — the extraordinary success of the state of Israel, its foundations, its resilience, its determination, their spirit was the same.

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“And, like the state of Israel has done ever since, they defied history, they made history, and with their courage they fulfilled history. Lest we forget.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, was also in attendance and thanked the ANZAC soldiers for their bravery. He said the liberation of Beersheeba “allowed the Jewish people to re-enter the stage of history.”

He paralleled the ceremony for the even to current attacks against Israel, warning that “we must attack those who seek to attack us.”

The Battle of Beersheba was against the Ottoman and German empires. When the dust cleared in the battle, there were 171 allied soldiers killed and more than 1,000 enemy soldiers killed or wounded with close to 2,000 taken prisoner. The commanders of the ANZAC forces were Field Marshal Viscount Allenby and Lt. Gen. Sir Henry George Chauvel.


The Battle of Killa Kazi

11 December 1879

Following the deaths of the British resident and his guard at Kabul in September 1879, the 9th (Queen’s Royal) Lancers joined Major-General Sir Frederick Roberts on the march to the Afghan capital. On 11 December, a squadron of the regiment encountered a huge Afghan force near Killa Kazi.

Roberts wanted to delay the enemy’s advance on Kabul, so gave the order for 170 men to charge around 10,000 Afghans. Losses were heavy. The 9th Lancers suffered 18 officers and men killed, and 10 more wounded. 46 horses died.

Despite their severe mauling, the 9th Lancers remained in Kabul until August 1880, when it joined Roberts's epic 300-mile (480km) relief march to Kandahar.

The 'Moonlight Charge' of the Household Cavalry at Kassassin, 1882

The 'Moonlight Charge' of the Household Cavalry at Kassassin, 1882


Remembering History’s Last Major Cavalry Charge - HISTORY

By Eric Niderost

It was the morning of September 1, 1898, the day before the Battle of Omdurman. Lieutenant Winston Churchill of the Queen’s 4th Hussars rode out with four squadrons of the 21st Lancers to scout the approaches to Omdurman, a Sudanese village on the west bank of the Nile opposite Khartoum, epicenter of a revolt that had rocked the very foundations of the British Empire. An Anglo-Egyptian army under Maj. Gen. Sir Herbert Kitchener was a few miles behind the cavalry screen. Kitchener’s object was to reconquer the Sudan, restore order, and forestall any encroachments from opportunistic European rivals.

The British horsemen cautiously advanced over the sun-baked plain, the eye-numbing sandy desolation relieved by a few thorn bushes, scrub, and patches of grass. Churchill and the lancers ascended a low ridge to scan the horizon. Officers raised their field glasses and were rewarded with a sweeping panorama. Omdurman itself was in sight, and Churchill recalled later that “to the left the river, steel gray in the morning light, forked into two channels, and on a tongue of land between them the gleam of a white building showed among the trees.”

The white building was part of Khartoum, capital of the Sudan, where the Blue Nile and White Nile converge to form Africa’s greatest river. Nearby, there seemed to be a long, dark smear that the British assumed was a zareba, a thorn bush barrier that commonly served as a prickly fortification in the treeless land. Some of the enemy, whom the British called Dervishes, could be seen lurking behind the barrier, confirming the officers’ first assumption.

The lancers advanced, supported by Egyptian cavalry, the Camel Corps, and some horse artillery. Dervish horsemen came forward to meet them but were sent packing by dismounted troopers firing Lee-Medford carbines at 800 yards. The lancers halted and waited for the enemy to make the next move.

About 11 am, the distant zareba suddenly sprang into malevolent life. It was made of men, not thorns—thousands of them, so thick that they made an undulating black wave. Churchill was awed by the sight. The roiling mass, he said, was “four miles from end to end and, as it seemed, in five great divisions, this mighty army advanced swiftly. Above them waved hundreds of banners, and the sun, glinting on many thousands of hostile spear points, spread a sparkling cloud.”

The young lieutenant rushed back to alert Kitchener to the enemy’s latest moves. Filled with a growing sense of urgency, Churchill galloped up the hillside to get his bearings. Once on the crest he could plainly see the Dervish army’s dark masses in stark relief against the brown, sandy plain. Turning around, he could also view the Anglo-Egyptian army, some 24,000 men, drawn up with their backs to the Nile. The two armies, separated by the hill’s looming slopes, could not yet see each other, but an enormous clash seemed inevitable. Churchill drank in the mesmerizing spectacle—an irresistible wall of Dervishes about to collide with an immovable force of British and Egyptian soldiers.

His sense of duty breaking the spell, Churchill pulled the reins of his horse and galloped down the hill in search of Kitchener. He briefly dismounted, in part to collect his thoughts and calm his rising excitement. The lieutenant had seen action before, in India, but this was going to be a major battle, and his pulse quickened at the idea. The action shaping up at Omdurman might well decide the fate of a continent and the destiny of a people.

The Mahdist War

In the late 19th century, Egypt was a nominal province of the decaying Turkish Ottoman Empire. Because of Egypt’s growing debts, the ruling Khedive Ismail was forced to sell his shares of the Suez Canal to Great Britain in 1876. The Suez was Britain’s lifeline to India and its empire in the Far East. Once Great Britain had a foothold on the Nile, it became unavoidably involved in the Sudan.

Egyptian rule in the Sudan was characterized by brutality and corruption. Taxes were so high that parents were regularly forced to sell their children into slavery, and government officials ruled by the whip. The Sudan was ripe for revolt. All it needed was a charismatic leader to galvanize the people and channel their hatred and resentment into political action.

In late June 1881, such a leader arose when a mystic named Muhammad Ahmad announced that he was the Mahdi, or the “Expected One,” a kind of Islamic messiah. The Egyptians were more than just oppressors, he said they were also heretics whose railroads, telegraphs, and other modern inventions were leading Muslims away from the true path. The Mahdi’s vision was a medieval one in which the Turks, Egyptians, and infidel Europeans would all be irresistibly swept away, enabling the Sudan to return to its former glories.

Thousands of disaffected Sudanese flocked to the Mahdi’s banner, and soon the Sudan was in full revolt. The Mahdists managed to defeat several Egyptian forces that were sent against them. A 7,000-man Egyptian army under a British Army colonel named William Hicks was massacred almost to the last man in late 1883. With each defeat, the Mahdi gained prestige, followers, and modern captured rifles.

The British Withdrawal From Sudan

The Mahdi threatened Egypt itself, but British Prime Minister William Gladstone refused to be drawn into the spreading conflict. Instead, Khartoum and the remaining Egyptian garrisons were to be evacuated, abandoning all of the Sudan to the Mahdist rebels. General Charles George Gordon, an Army engineer, was sent to the Sudan to supervise the evacuation. In retrospect, Gordon was a poor choice for such a delicate mission. Eccentric and charismatic, he was a devout Christian who felt that he was an instrument of God. Once in Khartoum, he decided to disobey orders and stay in the Sudan. He hoped by doing so to pressure the British government to send more troops, but Gladstone refused to play into the general’s hands. In April 1884, Gordon and his remaining forces were besieged inside Khartoum. The siege dragged on for nine months.

After a public outcry, Gladstone relented. But when the advance party of a British relief expedition finally reached Khartoum in January 1885, they found that the city had fallen two days earlier. The city had been sacked, its men ruthlessly butchered, the women raped and sold into slavery. Gordon had been fatally speared and his severed head presented to the Mahdi as a trophy.

Gordon’s death produced a predictable uproar in Great Britain. Overnight, the eccentric engineer became a national martyr, seemingly sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. Queen Victoria herself was appalled, noting firmly in her diary that “the government alone is to blame.” Unshaken by the torrent of public protest, Gladstone withdrew all British troops from the Sudan.

Men of the 12th Sudanese battalion awaiting the Dervish attack at the Battle of Omdurman, 1898. Photograph by Major H M Dunn, Royal Army Medical Corps, Sudan, 1898

“Cape to Cairo”

The Mahdi did not live long to celebrate his triumph, dying of typhus three months after taking Khartoum. Just before he died, the Mahdi chose Abdullah al-Taaishi, a member of the warrior Baggara tribe, as his hand-picked successor. Abdullah was now the khalifa, or deputy of Allah. The khalifa continued the Mahdi’s hard-fisted religious totalitarianism. The few tribes that resisted were ruthlessly exterminated. Villages were depopulated and famine stalked the land. Many Sudanese believed that they had exchanged Egyptian tyranny for another kind of oppression, one even more ruthless because it was clothed in the sanctity of religion.

In the meantime, Egypt became a British colony in all but name. Sir Evelyn Baring was appointed the khedive’s chief adviser on economic, military, and political affairs. The Egyptian Army was re-formed and trained under the supervision of British officers. The memory of Gordon’s demise remained fresh in the minds of the British public. In 1896, the new prime minister, the Marquess of Salisbury, decided that the time was ripe to return to the Sudan. In this, he was motivated more by international politics and imperialism than by any thoughts of personal revenge.

The French were in equatorial Africa, pushing east. If the British dreamed of a “Cape to Cairo” domain that stretched the length of the continent from north to south, the French envisioned a similar west-to-east “Atlantic to Red Sea” empire. Success of the French vision would mean control of the sources of the Nile—and whoever controlled the Nile controlled Egypt. The Sudan had to be reconquered to forestall Gallic territorial ambitions.

Kitchener’s Sudan Military Railway

General Herbert Horatio Kitchener was appointed sirdar, or commander, of the joint Anglo-Egyptian forces. Standing over six feet tall, with a bristling handlebar mustache, Kitchener seemed the very embodiment of John Bull. He was cold, methodical, and seemingly emotionless, a man who used the army as an instrument of his will. As a soldier, he was far from brilliant, but he excelled in logistical planning—always a must in Africa‘s inhospitable countryside.

As Kitchener pored over his maps, a plan began to form in his mind. The Nile was his lifeline, yet shipping supplies upriver was a laborious, time-consuming process. The river was punctuated by six cataracts, stretches of rocky rapids that were difficult to cross. The Nile also added mileage as it curved west, its meandering ribbon of water impossible to fortify at all twists and turns.

Kitchener decided to build a railway straight across the arid Nubian Desert, a shortcut that would eliminate 900 miles of the river’s curve between Wadi Halfa and Abu Hamad, north of Berber. The railroad would be 400 miles in length, including a stretch of pre-existing line that hugged the Nile. The real challenge would be the 230-mile shortcut through the desert, a desiccated region infamous for not having water of any kind.

Most experts considered the desert portion of the railway impossible to build. But Royal Engineer Edouard Girouard, an experienced Canadian railway builder, was more than willing to try. It was a gargantuan task, made worse by a harsh climate and lazy, incompetent, and dishonest subordinates. Despite an outbreak of cholera and a bad case of sunstroke suffered by Girouard himself, work continued throughout the summer, with temperatures reaching 116 degrees in the shade. When a massive rainstorm washed away 12 miles of track, 5,000 men worked day and night for a week to repair the break.

The British 1st Egyptian Brigade advances toward Omdurman from Abu Hamad. The British laid down railroad tracks across the Nubian Desert as they went to transport supplies.

By the time Abu Hamad had been captured on August 7, 1897, the Sudan Military Railway was roughly halfway though the Nubian Desert. The ever-impatient Kitchener wanted the remaining 120 miles to Abu Hamad completed quickly, and Girouard pressed on. Up to three miles of track was laid each day. While the railroad was being built, Kitchener marched south by stages. There were several small-scale battles with the Mahdists, all resulting in defeat for the khalifa’s forces. The months dragged on, but slowly the Anglo-Egyptian army closed in on Khartoum. The railway shortcut was finally completed when it reached Atbara on July 3, 1898. Girouard had achieved the impossible. By August 31, Kitchener was only 18 miles from Khartoum.

Making a Stand at Omdurman

The general had little time to savor his progress—the khalifa still had to be defeated. It was feared that the khalifa would retreat into the desert vastness, away from the railroad and the vital Nile supply line. On reflection, however, Kitchener was sure that the Mahdists would make a stand at Omdurman. To Europeans, Omdurman was a primitive collection of shoddy mud huts clinging to the western banks of the Nile, but to the Dervishes it was almost a second Mecca. Omdurman was the khalifa’s capital and the site of the Mahdi’s elaborate tomb. If the khalifa gave it up without a fight, he would lose face, and his position as God’s chosen deputy would be severely compromised.

Now, as Churchill galloped up to his commander in chief, the stage was set for a final reckoning at Omdurman. Saluting, Churchill announced that he was a messenger from the 21st Lancers. He reported that the Dervish forces were on the move, marching rapidly in Kitchener’s direction. “How long do you think I have?” Kitchener asked. “You have got at least an hour,” Churchill replied, “probably an hour and a half, sir, even if they come at their present rate.”

Kitchener’s gunboats were drawing closer to Omdurman, pushing their way past the khalifa’s riverside forts. Once past the forts, the gunboats opened fire with their 40-pounder cannons. They were accompanied by British howitzers that had been placed on the eastern bank. The shells rained down on Omdurman, each explosion marked by gouts of flame that rose through great clouds of dust and flying fragments of stone. The Mahdi’s tomb was hit several times, leaving great gaping holes in the white dome. Inexplicably, the khalifa halted his forces for the night.

Deciding When to Attack

As the sun sank beneath the horizon, the Anglo-Egyptian army retired to its camp along the Nile. Sudanese scouts were sent out to give early warning of a night attack. That evening, the khalifa presided over an acrimonious council of war. His son Osman Sheikh al-Din wanted to attack at daybreak, immediately after morning prayers. He counseled, “Let us not be like mice or foxes sneaking into our holes by day and peeping out at night.” Ibrahim al-Khalil favored a stealthy night assault—the very thing Kitchener feared the most. If the zareba was breached at night, rifles and artillery would be useless in the pitch-black darkness. Perhaps British discipline would still triumph, but Kitchener’s army was sure to suffer heavy casualties in the confused and bloody melee.

The khalifa decided to attack in broad daylight. From the Sudanese point of view, it was a decision of almost criminal stupidity. Kitchener’s fortified camp was well positioned to meet a Dervish attack. It was semicircular in shape, about 1,200 yards wide at its widest point. The south end of the perimeter was protected by a line of mimosa thorn bushes, and the northern end featured a double line of trenches.

Major General William Gatacre’s British division occupied the zareba portion of the defenses, comprising such famed regiments as the Grenadier Guards, the Rifles, Lincolns, Warwicks, and Cameron Highlanders. Gatacre was known as a hard-driving general whose men had nicknamed him “Back-Acher.” The Egyptian troops under Maj. Gen. Sir Archibald Hunter occupied the trenches facing west and north. Hunter was a veteran of the failed Gordon relief expedition and knew his Egyptian and Sudanese soldiers well. Colonel Hector MacDonald, one of Hunter’s subordinates, had come up from the ranks and personally trained his brigade to a peak of efficiency.

Kitchener’s army had 46 artillery pieces and a battery of Maxim machine guns. The disciplined fire of British troops was almost as good as an artillery barrage. Each British Tommy was armed with an eight-shot Lee-Medford rifle and 100 rounds of hollow-point “dum-dum” ammunition, bullets that caused massive internal injuries wherever they struck.

The Battle of Omdurman Begins

Buglers sounded reveille at 3:40 am on September 2. British troops gathered behind the zareba and were told to lie down until the battle started. Friendly Sudanese and Egyptian troops swarmed into the trenches, making sure their single-shot Martini-Henry rifles were in working order. A few native huts in the rear served as protection for the sick and wounded, and the army’s menagerie of camels, horses, mules, and donkeys were picketed close by.

The 21st Lancers, on point, moved out of the zareba at about 5 am and headed toward the looming mass of the mountain, Jebel Surgham. Churchill accompanied them, mounted on a sturdy gray pony. He had a bad shoulder, so he decided that wielding a saber was out of the question. Instead, he would rely on a Mauser pistol he had purchased in London. The young officer loved the 10-shot weapon, which he called a “ripper.”

Perched on the slopes of Jebel Surgham, Churchill and the lancers had a ringside seat to the Battle of Omdurman’s opening moves. The Dervish army began to slowly climb the slopes, their advance described by one embedded reporter as “a moving, undulating plain of men.” The khalifa’s 52,000-man army stretched for some five miles, a frightening yet mesmerizing pageant of motion, color, and sound. Most followers of the khalifa wore the rough jibba, a woolen tunic that sported black patches as signs of humility before Allah. Human nature being what it is, many Dervishes had gotten their wives to sew on additional swatches of yellow, blue, and red.

There were several major divisions within the Mahdist army. Osman Azrak and Osman Sheikh al-Din would lead the attack under the latter’s dark-green battle flag. Sheikh al-Din, the khalifa’s son, had the most riflemen in his division, warriors using captured Remington and Martini-Henry rifles. Sheikh al-Din would be supported on the right by Ibrahim Al-Khalil’s elite troops under a white banner covered with quotes from the Koran. Under a red flag, Khalifa Sherif—not to be confused with the Mahdist leader—and his 2,000 Danagla tribesmen were positioned on the right.

The khalifa himself stayed in the rear with a large reserve of around 20,000 men, sheltering behind Jebel Surgham’s rocky mass. Surrounded by a bodyguard, the Dervish leader had a great black flag carried before him. The sable banner was huge, about two yards square, and covered with texts from the Koran and the Mahdi’s sayings. It was attached to a large bamboo pole about 20 feet long, and wherever it went it was acclaimed as a talisman of victory.

Commanding General H.H. Kitchener, center right, discusses the Battle of Omdurman with Maj. Gen. Sir William Gatacre, in charge of the British Brigade on the Nile.

The Dervish plan was simple: The first waves would crash against the infidels’ zareba. The khalifa’s black flag division would be held in reserve, together with Ali Wad Helu’s 5,000 Degheim and Kenana tribesmen. If the first waves were successful, the reserves would come forward to complete the victory. If not, the khalifa would have enough intact forces to attempt a second round of attacks.

Thousands of spear points twinkled and gleamed in the sun, swords were brandished with fervor, and war drums beat a throbbing tattoo. Mounted warriors sported helmets and chain-mail armor that seemed a throwback to medieval times. Shouts in Arabic of “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his Messenger!” and “Mahdi!” sounded from thousands of throats, a swelling chorus that seemed to cause the very earth to tremble. The shouts grew louder when the tribesmen saw the infidels’ zareba in the distance. The Dervishes started forward at the run, banners flying, while emirs on horseback urged them on.

The Bloody First Phase

About 50 yards from the zareba, two shells exploded, the bursts gouging holes in the gravel and red sand. The shells were from Mahdist artillery, but the guns were so poorly served that they fell short. The Anglo-Egyptian artillery replied, but with a far more deadly accuracy. On the right, Ibrahim al-Khalil and his men pressed forward, spilling over the ridge that marked Jebel Sergham’s eastern boundary. Guns from the 32nd Field Battery opened up at 2,800 yards, a rain of shells that produced terrible carnage. As many as 20 shells hit the advancing black mass in the first minute, throwing up dirty blossoms of flame and red dust with each detonation.

Men were decapitated, eviscerated, torn limb from limb yet others came forward with incredible courage and resolution. Al-Khalil was blown from the saddle, tumbling in the dirt when his horse’s head was nearly severed by a shell fragment. Mounting a fresh horse, he led his men forward—but by this time they were within range of the Maxim machine guns and the Lee-Medford rifles. The machine guns opened up, chattering a steady hail of death, and the Grenadier Guards stood up and poured a steady fire on the enemy’s shredded ranks. Ibrahim al-Khalil was shot in the head and chest, and the bloodied survivors reluctantly fell back.

Sheikh Osman al-Din’s attack in the center was equally disastrous. British shells tore bloody gaps in the ranks and tossed men like rag dolls into the air, yet the Dervishes refused to give up the fight. A carpet of spent cartridge shells gathered around each British soldier, and rifles grew so hot that they had to be replaced by weapons from the reserve.

The Dervishes fared no better on the left. The Sudanese regiments had little love for their Mahdist countrymen, and some probably wanted revenge for the khalifa’s depredations. The Sudanese opened up at 800 yards, great gouts of smoke, flame, and lead spouting from their Martini-Henrys. Dervish leaders pressed forward, but human flesh and blood could not stand against this hurricane of lead and metal.

The Last Formal Cavalry Charge in British History

The first phase of the Battle of Omdurman was over. The plain between the Keriri Hills and Jebel Surgham was carpeted with thousands of Mahdist bodies. The wounded crawled among the dead, many of them leaving a bloody trail of missing arms, legs, or feet. “Cease fire!” Kitchener shouted, then ordered the army to turn south and head straight for Omdurman. The general was afraid the khalifa might make a stand in the city, and the thought of house-to-house fighting was daunting.

As a first step, Kitchener ordered Colonel Rowland Martin and his 21st Lancers to reconnoiter the city and cut off the retreat of any fleeing Dervishes. Martin was happy to comply the regiment was itching for action. The lancers advanced at a walk, then spied a line of Dervishes about a half mile away. The Dervishes—only about a 100 or so skirmishers—started to fire on the British horsemen. Martin ordered a “right wheel into line,” which a bugler spat out in musical notes. The 320 troopers turned about smartly, readying themselves for the regiment’s first full-blown charge and the last formal cavalry charge in British history.

The lancers charged with fine style, lances leveled and swords drawn. But when they reached their objective they were shocked to find that the ground fell away five feet to expose a khor—a dry watercourse—filled with 3,000 warriors 10 to 12 ranks deep. The 21st was committed—there was nothing left to do but increase the pace and hope for the best. The subsequent impact was terrible, as horses plunged headlong into the enemy mass. Around 30 troopers were unhorsed as they crashed into the packed ranks, and perhaps as many as 200 Dervishes were laid low, trampled and stunned. But the Mahdists recovered quickly—this was the kind of warfare they understood.

BATTLE OF OMDURMAN, 1898. The first charge of Sudanese dervishes against the British at the Battle of Omdurman, 2 September 1898: illustration, c1900.

Each lancer found himself engulfed in a sea of enemies who thrust spears and slashed swords with wild abandon. Troopers were pulled from their mounts, surrounded and hacked to pieces. Bridles were cut, stirrup leather slashed, and horses were hamstrung in an attempt to bring them down. Churchill was one of the lucky ones, partly because he was on the far right, where the mass of Dervishes was thinner, and also because he was wielding a pistol. Even so, he barely escaped with his life. Finding himself closely surrounded by several dozen Dervishes, Churchill emptied his Mauser as they pressed closer to finish him. One assailant, swinging a curved sword, got so near the pistol he bumped into it. Churchill wheeled away at the last moment and galloped to safety.

The surviving lancers managed to get out of the khor and paused to re-form. The melee had lasted only two minutes, but in that short span of time 22 men had been killed and another 50 wounded. Some 119 horses had been slaughtered. The 21st Lancers had covered themselves in glory, but at a high price in blood. Once he recovered from the euphoria of battle, Churchill noted “horses spouting blood, men bleeding from terrible wounds, fish-hook spears stuck right through them, men gasping, crying, expiring.” One nearby lieutenant had been wounded in the shoulder and leg, his hand almost severed by a sword strike, and a sergeant’s face “was cut to pieces … the whole of his nose, cheeks and lips flapped red bubbles.”

Gordon Avenged

The battle was not yet over. Kitchener mistakenly believed the Mahdist army was broken. The Dervishes had suffered grievously, but most of the Khalifa’s black flag division and Ali Wad Helu’s corps were still intact. Colonel Hector MacDonald’s 1st Egyptian Brigade, a rear guard composed of Sudanese and Egyptians, was dangerously exposed. If the khalifa could pounce on MacDonald, he might annihilate the Scotsman before other units could come to his aid. Kitchener’s whole army could be taken in flank and rear while still on the march and rolled up.

Unaware of the danger, Kitchener was irritated. “Can’t he see we’re marching on Omdurman?” the general complained. “Tell him to follow on.” Obeying, General Hunter relayed a message to MacDonald to withdraw. But just about the time he received the message, MacDonald became aware of the danger. “I’ll nae do it,” he said firmly in his Scots brogue. If he withdrew, his men would be slaughtered. When the khalifa’s black flag division came forward at the run, they were met by disciplined volleys from the British troops. As before, modern firepower trumped medieval courage, and the attack faltered and broke off.

Just then, Ali Wad Helu’s warriors swept in from the north, threatening to hit MacDonald’s troops in flank. The Scotsman coolly appraised the situation and swung the 11th Sudanese Battalion to meet the new threat. MacDonald’s brigade was now in an L shape, firing so rapidly that many men didn’t even aim. The Dervish horde, wilting under heavy fire, started to lap around the 11th’s flank, seeking to exploit a space they saw between the 11th and 9th Battalions. The 2nd Egyptian Battalion plugged the gap on the run, firing into their opponents at point-blank range. O ataque falhou. Watching in the rear, the khalifa accepted defeat and fled to distant Kordofan, leaving behind his great black flag as a trophy for the victors.

The skill and bravery of the Sudanese and Egyptian troops had saved Kitchener from disaster. Well-deserved praise was also lavished on MacDonald’s men. MacDonald himself gained the affectionate sobriquet, “Fighting Mac.” Winston Churchill added another notch to his budding legend.

Rarely had a major victory been won at such a small cost. The Anglo-Egyptian army’s casualties were 47 dead and 340 wounded. By contrast, the Mahdist army lost almost 10,000 killed, 13,000 wounded, and 5,000 captured. The khalifa was eventually tracked down a year later and killed in battle. However indirectly, Gordon had been avenged.


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