The Cavalry


Burrows has been criticised for ignoring his cavalry until it was in no condition to help him anymore. Perhaps because he was so badly outnumbered, he decided not to retain either cavalry regiment intact, using them piecemeal for such tasks as protecting guns, extending the fighting line, acting as flank guard and keeping enemy cavalry at bay. By so doing he squandered his ability to mount a strong counter-attack. In the event the cavalrymen and their horses remained in the open for more than three hours being gradually depleted by artillery fire, after which, as events proved, they were barely an effective force.

After the first charge had had "but little effect", Nuttall, the Cavalry Brigade commander complained bitterly of his failure "to induce the men to rally and face the enemy". He reported that they "seemed totally demoralised by the effects of the very heavy artillery fire, which had during the action killed and wounded 149 of the horses and about 14% of the men engaged in the front".

Under this bombardment Captain Mosley Mayne, 3rd Bombay Light Cavalry, lost a third of his Squadron‚s horses while standing passively behind E/B Battery‚s guns. He wrote that he "had been for hours expecting orders to move as I did not consider I was required as an escort after the infantry had moved up in line with the guns. I thought all the cavalry would be moved out of direct fire and that my regiment would be formed and echeloned on a flank, but no orders came".

Nuttall cannot be absolved from responsibility for what seems a serious lack of direction to his Cavalry and for the failure to react to this profligate wasting of men and horses until it was too late. He was also criticised for his action during the final charge in "swerving off to the right, claiming later that he intended to clear his Brigade's front. Understandably many of his troopers followed him while Mayne and others rode on to cut down those Afghans attacking the rear of the Grenadiers". It was this fiasco and the failure to persuade Nuttall's men to mount a second charge, following which they trotted off the field to Mundabad, that led to a misleading and troublesome report by "The Times" correspondent that "the cavalry had bolted!"


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by Stephen Luscombe