Cavalry Units

Cavalry (from the French word cavalerie, itself derived from “cheval” meaning “horse”) are soldiers who fight mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the most mobile of the combat arms, operating as light cavalry in the roles of reconnaissance, screening and harassing in many armies, or as heavy cavalry for decisive shock attacks in other armies. An individual soldier in the cavalry is known by a number of designations depending on era and tactics, such as cavalryman, horseman, trooper, cataphract, hussar, lancer or dragoon. The designation of cavalry was not usually given to any military forces that used other animals for mounts, such as camels or elephants. Infantry who moved on horseback, but dismounted to fight on foot, were known in the 17th and early 18th centuries as dragoons, a class of mounted infantry which in most armies later evolved into standard cavalry while retaining their historic designation.

 

In the period between the World Wars, many cavalry units were converted into motorised infantry and mechanised infantry units, or reformed as tank troops. However, some cavalry still served during World War II, notably in the Red Army, the Mongolian People’s Army, the Royal Italian Army, the Romanian Army, the Polish Land Forces, and light reconnaissance units within the Waffen SS.Most cavalry units that are horse-mounted in modern armies serve in purely ceremonial roles, or as mounted infantry in difficult terrain such as mountains or heavily forested areas. Modern usage of the term generally refers to units performing the role of reconnaissance.

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