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MOUNTED INFANTRY

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V18, Page 940 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MOUNTED INFANTRY, infantry soldiers who ride instead of marching on foot from one place to another. As combatants they are infantry pure and simple, being neither armed nor trained to fight on horseback, and their special characteristic is the power to move from one point to another with great rapidity. They are therefore useful (a) in wars, such as colonial wars, in which cavalry proper finds no scope for its activity, and (b) in performing duties for which mounted troops, but not necessarily troops that can fight mounted, are required. In these two roles mounted infantry is obviously a substitute for cavalry. As cavalry is both a most expensive arm and one which cannot be improvised, there is an ever-recurring tendency in all armies to consider it as being more ornamental than useful, and in con-sequence to substitute mounted infantry under one name or another (the original dragoons for example were mounted infantry) for " shock action " cavalry. In recent times, owing to the development of the long-ranging magazine rifle, this tendency has been intensified to such a degree that Russia, for example, converted the whole of her cavalry into dragoons—the term being used in its old sense—and trained it to act dismounted in large bodies. It is however significant of the failure of this wholesale conversion that after the Russo-Japanese War the regiments that were formerly hussars and lancers were reorganized as such and ceased to be styled and trained as dragoons. It is difficult, but at the same time important, to differentiate between dragoons or " mounted rifles," as they are often called to-day, and mounted infantry in a narrower sense of the word. Mounted rifles are half cavalry, mounted infantry merely specially mobile infantry. The American cavalry in the Civil War, the Boers in the South African War, the Russians in the Manchurian campaign,. were mounted rifles, and the question of their advantages and disadvantages, as compared with what is generally called "regular" cavalry, is purely a cavalry one. The main question as regards mounted infantry is whether its existence as a special arm is justified by the kind and degree of assistance which it is peculiarly qualified to give to the other arms in war. If this be answered in the affirmative for a particular army, then that army, having raised mounted infantry, may require of it such additional services as it would be more or less uneconomical to assign to regular cavalry. Mounted infantry in this case may and in fact does assume the role of mounted rifles; for example, in the British regular army the duties of divisional mounted troops are performed by mounted infantry, while in the territorial army the same duties are performed by yeomanry mounted rifles. In the British mounted infantry, which is the only force in any army specially trained as such,l the course of instruction lasts four months and is based on the assumption that officers and men under instruction are already fully trained as infantry (M.I. Training, 1909). All words of command, bugle sounds, formations, &c., are similar to those used in the infantry, and as a rule spurs are forbidden. The mounted infantry horse is a handy cob (14.2 to 15). The organization adopted is by battalions and companies, each company having 6 officers and 1 53 men, and the battalion consisting of three such companies and a machine-gun section. Mounted infantry battalions and companies do not exist in peace, but are formed on mobilization from the qualified men available who can be spared from the infantry. Since many more men are trained than would be required for the 24 or 26 companies forming part of the expeditionary force, the arm is capable of considerable expansion, while the men first selected for the service are in every way picked men. As already mentioned its duties are (a) with respect to the cavalry, first to assist and secondly to supplement or replace it—by the judicious use of the rifle, and (b) with respect to the infantry to relieve the unmounted man as far as possible of reconnoitring and orderly duties, and above all of the necessity of hurried and exhausting movements to seize points of support. Cyclists.—The application of the bicycle to military purposes was first suggested in Great Britain, and military cycling became the special and almost exclusive property of the volunteer force, in which, when cycling became universally popular and the machines cheap, practically all battalions had sections and most of them companies of cyclists. In those days, however, the want of a common organization separated the yeomanry from the volunteers, and the latter, possessing no mounted troops of its own, employed its numerous cyclists in reconnoitring, protective and orderly work indifferently. Pro-visional battalions were frequently formed, and in spite of their heterogeneous composition and inadequate staff they proved capable of manoeuvring as units. Movements in brigade were practised at Aldershot in 19or, the brigade composed of 3 battalions of about 65o rifles each, drawn from some forty volunteer infantry units under training at the time, being trained in combined movements by parallel roads and night marching, as well as in field operations. When the fusion of the yeomanry and volunteers in the territorial force (1907—1908) released cyclists from the duties of mounted troops which had hitherto been imposed on them, the cyclist companies in the infantry battalions were disbanded, and their place taken by ro cyclist battalions specially trained for protective work in large tactical bodies. The regular army, which is generally employed in almost roadless countries, only maintains a few cyclists for orderly work. Amongst the regular armies that of France was certainly ' The infantry " mounted scouts " of the Russian and French armies are simply auxiliaries and have no existence apart from their regiments.the pioneer in the matter of cycling. Infantry support for cavalry is a fundamental principle of the French doctrine of tactics, and this infantry support in so well-roaded a country as France naturally takes the form of strong cyclist groups. The French military cyclists are equipped with a folding bicycle, which allows of cross-country movement being undertaken without leaving the bicycles unguarded. In Germany very few military cyclists are maintained—one small section in each infantry or cavalry regiment. The field service regulations permit the grouping of these sections for united action as a company, but only under special circumstances. In Italy, however, whole battalions of the fast-moving light troops, Bersaglieri, have been within recent years provided with the cycle. Cyclists are mounted infantry in the strictest possible sense of the phrase. They possess over all horsemen the incalculable advantages of being able to make longer marches; for they can cover 8o or 90 M. a day for several days; 2 of exemption from forage anxieties; of freedom from the necessity in action of leaving one-third or one-quarter of the men to hold the horses; and of actual speed, an ordinary cyclist being able to move faster along a good road than a staff officer mounted on a thoroughbred. On the other hand cyclist troops can never be as free to move across country as horsemen; a cyclist column, owing to its speed and great length in proportion to its numbers, is peculiarly liable to surprise; and the condition of the roads or a strong head wind materially reduces its rate of marching.
End of Article: MOUNTED INFANTRY
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