By Philip Watson
Crest Publications, Kettering, 2016, £12.99, 136pp, many ills, index
Book review by Bob Wyatt
The 12th Lancers (now part of The Royal Lancers), still celebrate annually Moy Day on the 28th August when, in 1914, during the retreat from Mons.
In reading regimental histories, and viewing contemporary oil paintings by Caton Woodville and George Wright, the author began to question the validity of the accounts and pictures of the events with which he had grown up.
Major Philip Watson, Regimental Secretary of The Royal Lancers at Grantham, is well placed to write this history. Its title celebrates the centenary of the cavalry charges of the 9th and 12th Lancers in August and September 1914, oddly not the last charges by men on horseback with steel-pointed ‘sticks’ on entrenched enemy positions, machine guns and field artillery. He devotes a chapter to a study of the paintings in detail, pointing out their inaccuracies. Using unit histories, war diaries, memoirs, unused German accounts and the application of modern techniques - including archaeology and forensics the author has succeeded in getting closer to the truth than ever before in a way that makes the 'best fit' by a the skill of a careful historian.
The 9th Lancers had already charged at Elouges, where the Brigade commander decided to charge the guns through barbed wire and Grenfell won the first gazetted VC of the war and was severely wounded. He was one of 80 casualties in the regiment (depicted in the oil painting by J Halford Ross in my collection). The 9th, already depleted, charged again and took the village of Le Monteel. The 12th Lancers gave a demonstration of 'how it was to be done – and how to get it right first time' by building on the experience of the Boer War, the combined use of dismounted men and artillery with a mounted attack. The enemy was not so skilful. Both charges inflicted more damage to the enemy, with superior numbers, than in the British cavalry and boosted morale after so many days of retreat.
Centenary of the Last Charges of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers (Prince of Wales’s) offers an important new record of the work of brave men which and marks their both their success and glory.
Copies are obtainable from Royal Lancers, HHQ, Leicester Office, Army Reserve Centre, Wigston, Leicester LE18 4UX at £12.99 plus £2 p&p (cheques to The Royal Lancers).
IMAGE: (No Book Cover available at the time of posting). Lancers in full dress as part of a ceremony marking the centenary of the British army's last cavalry charge, by the 9th Queen's Royal Lancers in World War I: 7th September 2014. (C) British Embassy