AUGUST 9, 378 A.D.
A SULTRY summer day on the plains of Adrianople; two armies engaged in desperate struggle — one the shield and symbol of Roman imperial power, the other the embodiment of the Barbarian challenge to Rome’s sovereignty.
The Emperor Valens — confident in the superiority of the Roman legion, through long centuries the ‘queen of battle’ and with all the traditions of a thousand victorious fields behind it — had marched out from the shelter of Adrianople’s walls that morning to attack the army of the Goths under their famous leader Fritigern. The moment was inopportune to the Goths, for the main body of their cavalry was away foraging at a distance. With a craft worthy of the Byzantine Emperors later, or of Kutusoff before Austerlitz, Fritigern employed an embassy to gain time for the recall of his cavalry. The parley proving fruitless, the Roman army developed a strong attack on the Goths’ position. The scales of victory hung in the balance, when suddenly a cloud of dust appeared in the distance, growing rapidly larger and nearer until it materialized as the mass of the Gothic cavalry. Riding straight to the battlefield, the flying squadrons of Alatheus and Safrax charged like a thunderbolt against the flank of the imperial army.
‘Two of Valens’ squadrons, which covered the flank of his array, threw themselves in the way of the oncoming mass, and were ridden down and trampled under foot. The Goths swept down on the infantry of the left wing, rolled it up, and drove it in upon the centre. So tremendous was the impact that the legions and cohorts were pushed together in helpless confusion ... in a press that grew closer every moment. The Roman cavalry saw that the day was lost and rode off without another effort; then the abandoned infantry realized the horror of their position; equally unable to deploy or to fly, they had to stand to be cut down. . . . Into this quivering mass the Goths rode, plying sword and lance against the helpless enemy. It was not till two thirds of the Roman army had fallen that the thinning of the ranks enabled a few thousand men to break out.’ When the sun went down that evening on the corpse-piled battlefield of Adrianople, it set also on the great Roman Empire, for, though the twilight was to be prolonged for several centuries, the spell that Rome had cast upon the Western world was shattered. The end was postponed by taking the Barbarians into partnership; henceforth the Emperor might be senior partner or sleeping partner in the firm, according to his ability and circumstances, but he was never again to exercise the sway of earlier days. As a military disaster to the Roman arms Adrianople finds its one counterpart in Cannæ,but its political significance is far greater.
It is, too, as great a landmark in military as in world history. For nearly six centuries, since Zama and Cynoscephalæ, the Roman infantry had been the dominant factor in warfare, its legions instrument and token of world power.
On the ninth of August, 378 A.D., the sun set on the supremacy of infantry, the glory of the legions was buried under the heaps of the slain, and the age of cavalry was ushered in. It was to last for nearly a thousand years — until the Swiss pikemen at Laupen and the English bowmen at Cressy reversed the balance.
AUGUST 8, 1918 A.D.
Another summer day, on the banks of the Somme in front of Amiens; again the fearful clash of two armies — one the weapon of Imperial Germany in her bid for world supremacy, the other the shield and symbol of outraged civilization in defense of her liberty. In her army Germany possesses a superbly trained instrument that reminds us of the Roman legions. For half a century her arms have been the menace of the modern world and, in tactical efficiency at least, have maintained the traditions of 1866 and 1870. During four years her machine-gunners, heirs of the Roman legionaries, have defied all the efforts of orthodox tactics to overthrow them, exacting as the price of any gain a cost in Allied lives out of all proportion to the barren results.
The foresight and insight of a small group of men, helped by the practical mechanical aptitude of a few more, had provided us with a new weapon — the tank, originally intended purely as an antidote to the German machine-guns and trenches. The obstacles and delays these pioneers met with are now part of history. Even when the tank emerged into being, for more than a year its advantages were lost, used in driblets or frittered away in the bogs of Flanders,—ground essentially unsuitable to its limitations, — until at Cambrai, in November 1917, its correct tactical employment was at last appreciated by authority, as distinct from its originators.
The story of 1918 is too recent history to need much repetition. The Allied armies, reeling under a series of onslaughts, were still ‘with their backs to the wall’ when the counterstroke of July 18 came to their relief. Even so, it seemed to an anxious waiting world that the scales still hung trembling in the balance. Hope was revived, but, even if the best befell, all felt that the path to victory must be long and arduous; none assuredly was vouchsafed a vision of what was to come about in three brief months.
The curtain fell and remained down for some weeks while the world waited expectant for the next act of the drama; only a privileged few were allowed behind the scenes. Then, in the early hours of August 8, the blow fell — the German machine-gunners were overrun and slaughtered by the charge of British tanks, almost as helplessly as their forerunners at Adrianople, exactly fifteen hundred and forty years before. Let the story be epitomized in the words of the enemy, of Ludendorff himself: ‘August 8 was the black day of the German Army in the history of the war. . . . The divisions in line allowed themselves to be completely overwhelmed. Divisional staffs were surprised in their headquarters by enemy tanks.’
The victorious method of August 8 was repeated and repeated, in essentials at least, during a brief and glorious ‘ hundred days,’ until the German power and will to resist was broken. On this last phase the verdict of Ludendorff is: ‘Mass attacks by tanks and artilicial fog remained hereafter our most dangerous enemies.’
In this historical parallel between the ninth of August, 378 A.D., and the eighth of August, 1918 A.D., lies, it is claimed, the clue to the stalemate of the Western Front in the Great War, to the four years’ stagnation of trenchwarfare which was both the outstanding feature and the dominating factor of the world conflict on land. The rival armies were as powerless to shake free from the toils of the trenches as were often the actual men from the clinging mud of those same trenches. During those four years, offensive after offensive was staged and launched on either side, desperate and costly assaults hurled against the trench-barriers — to gain a few square miles, or less, of desolated, useless ground at the price of scores of thousands of lives, the losses of the self-acclaimed victors far exceeding those of the side which yielded these barren acres.
A school of thought has arisen in Europe since the war, — Jean de Pierrefeu is the best-known example,— which draws from these futile assaults of 1914-1918 the lesson that ‘the offensive’ is inherently faulty as a form of action. The eagerness of many of them, especially in France, to find any stick with which to beat the pre-war dog — the rival school which formed the entourage of Joffre and dictated the extreme offensive strategy of 1914 — makes them overlook the reductio ad absurdum to which a general acceptance of the offensive-defensive doctrine leads us.
It was not the principle of the offensive which was at fault, but the methods by which the general staffs tried to carry it into effect. Worst of all was their failure to grasp that the development of modern weapons had made war lopsided, and that until this lopsidedness was remedied not only were all offensives doomed to sputter out in a welter of useless bloodshed, but no decision could be possible save by the slow and mutually suicidal method of attrition.
The Russo-Japanese War gave us a foretaste of the stagnation of 19141918, but the lesson was lost on the general staffs of the world, who continued to develop the effect and range of weapons without troubling about their mobility, lacking which the offensive power of weapons merely stultifies itself. Thus does the technical study of a profession tend to blind men to its broader aspects, losing sight of the wood for the trees. Yet to any intelligent man, soldier or civilian, with a bare knowledge of the history of warfare, the lopsided nature of twentiethcentury armies, its cause, and its inevitable consequence, should have been apparent.
The conduct of war, as distinct from its technical details, is a matter of pure common-sense, and throughout military history the hallmark of the great captains has been that they stripped the art of war of the entwining coils of professional custom and prejudice that habitually spring up in each era like ivy until they suffocate and drain the sap from the tree of common-sense action. All fighting, whether a street scrap betwen two corner boys or la grande guerre, is in essentials the same, and to clear our vision of the undergrowth of custom and technicality we do well at intervals to go back and study war in its simplest form. In a bout of fisticuffs, a man leads off with one fist, in order to fix his opponent’s attention and engage his resources, and then delivers the knock-out blow with his other fist.
The essence of these tactics is that the enemy is attacked from two directions practically at the same moment, so that in parrying the one he exposes himself to the other. Here in a nutshell is the ruling formula of all tactics, great or small — that of fixing combined with decisive manœuvre. That is, while one limb of the force fixes the enemy, pinning him to the ground and absorbing his attention and reserves, the other limb strikes at a vulnerable and exposed point — usually the flank or line of retreat and communications in war, just as it is the chin or solar plexus in boxing. Jf we read military history we find that this convergent attack from two directions simultaneously was the master key used by all the great artists of war, as distinguished from the mere artisan generals who relied on ‘push of pike’ and sheer weight of assault.
Right through the ages, however, so long as armies moved and fought as a whole, uniting before action and drawing up in a definite order of battle, this convergent attack was purely a battlefield manœuvre obtained by overlapping one or more of the enemy’s flanks, or occasionally by placing a fraction of the force in readiness just beyond the flank of the army. Save for exceptional instances, the product of circumstances rather than deliberate design, the strategic convergence was unknown before Napoleon, and is the latter’s supreme contribution to the art of war. The far-flung strategic movements of Jenghiz Khan and Sabutai in the thirteenth century were undiscovered by students of war until recent years, and so have no place in the evolution of warfare among the European nations. In the strategic convergence two or more forces, or fractions of the army, converge on the enemy from distant points—the movements perhaps beginning long before, when the location of the eventual battlefield is no more than a shadowy idea in the mind of the commander-inchief. In this connection the Battle of Adrianople has a special interest, for we may there see in embryo a limited strategic convergence. Though the division of the Gothic Army, and the fact that the cavalry of Alatheus and Safrax were at a distance, were due to the exigencies of forage and not to design, it is curious that the dramatic success of this convergence from outside the battlefield arena evoked no echo in the military thought of the time, or of subsequent centuries.
But the tactical use of the convergent attack may be traced in nearly every famous victory throughout history, and we find almost invariably that the infantry is the arm used for fixing the enemy and the cavalry for the decisive manœuvre — because of its natural suitability for rapid outflanking movements, the devastating momentum developed during its charge, and the demoralizing influence its furious onset inspires in exhausted or shaken troops.
To Alexander belongs the credit of developing this wise application of the law of economy of force, and from Alexander at Granicus to Hannibal at Cannæ and Scipio at Zama we see the employment of cavalry for the decisive blow. Then for some centuries came the reign of the legions, with cavalry filling a comparatively minor rôle. By the highly developed skill of the legions the flanking action of cavalry was frustrated, as may be observed in Cæsar’s tactics at Pharsalia. The reign of infantry continued, save for intermittent checks, until Adrianople, which, as we have noted, forced its abdication in favor of cavalry. Then for a thousand years cavalry was supreme and infantry became a mere accessory, to garrison towns or to operate in broken and hilly country. The decay of infantry was so marked that cavalry could ride it down by a direct charge and there was no need for tactical skill, nor in truth did it exist. This epoch was the Dark Ages of the art of war, as well as of European civilization.
With the growth of feudal chivalry, the mail-clad knight or man-at-arms was omnipotent against the raw, poorly armed levies, raised in emergency, who constituted the only infantry. Guarded by his armor, endowed with mobility through his horse, and producing tremendous hitting-power for shock action in his spear and sword, thus combining in himself all three elements, he was able to ride down the infantry levies with impunity. For the time he was indeed an ideal fighting instrument, lacking only tactical skill. It was this deficiency which brought about his downfall almost as much as any countermeasures. He had not the knowledge and insight to warn him against the increasing tendency to sacrifice mobility for protection, by a constant augmentation of his armor, nor to apprise himself of his own limitations and dissuade him from frontal attacks over unsuitable ground against strongly posted infantry.
The discovery of these limitations in the fourteenth century, against the Swiss pikemen and against the English archers at Cressy, came as such a shock that he swung to the opposite extreme and discarded the mobility which was his supreme asset. Thus was seen the absurdity of Poictiers, with its dismounted cavalry masses hardly able to advance because of the weight of their armor, a dense and immobile target for the English bowmen.
With the introduction of firearms came a still further negation of the true cavalry doctrine, the squadrons riding up to the enemy’s line, discharging their pistols, and then wheeling. The cavalry tactics of the sixteenth century were for the mounted arm to rely on its rudimentary firearms, as if in feeble imitation of the Mongol horse-archers of Sabutai, instead of on the shock of the charge.
To Gustavus Adolphus is due the credit of introducing into modern war the true tactics of cavalry and of combining the action of the two arms as had Alexander, Hannibal, and Scipio. Thus it is that we see, again, infantry fixing the enemy and cavalry for the decisive manœuvre, in such famous examples as Cromwell at Naseby, Condé at Rocroi, Frederick — or rather, perhaps, Seydlitz — at Zorndorf, Napoleon at Dresden, Wellington at Salamanca.
The renaissance of cavalry in modern history was a revival of the characteristics of the era of Alexander and Hannibal, rather than of the cycle opening with Adrianople, for infantry, being now equipped with firearms and supported by artillery, was able to hold its own. It was perhaps fortunate for it that while these new weapons were in their infancy cavalry tactics were lacking in vigor and speed, and the progressive revival of cavalry shockaction coincided with a steady improvement in firearms, so that infantry was generally able to resist the onslaught, except when shaken or caught in disorder.
Unhappily for cavalry, also, its possibilities of tactical progress were necessarily more limited than the mechanical possibilities of firearms, and in actual fact reached their zenith while the flintlock musket was still the staple infantry-weapon. Then in the middle of the last century came the invention and general adoption of the breech-loading rifle and the Minié elongated bullet, and the increased accuracy and deadliness of infantry weapons soon brought about the virtual extinction of the cavalry charge.
But a traditional reluctance to face new facts delayed the general recognition of this truth. In 1870 the success of the Uhlans as a protective screen and for reconnaissance obscured both the rarity of offensive cavalry-action and the disastrous results of the few charges that were made, such as at Worth and Vionville. Clear thinking would have distinguished between the separate rôles of guarding and hitting — the latter of which was no longer feasible.
Finally, with the twentieth century, came the machine-gun and the automatic rifle, and with them the definite and complete disappearance from the battlefield of the cavalry charge.
The action of cavalry was vital to the functioning of the body military, and, when it ceased to work, warfare became stagnant.
To grasp the reason of this we have but to dissect war in terms of its three basic elements— guarding, moving, and hitting. The keynote of cavalry and its essential value have always lain in its mobility. In the first place this mobility has made it the best instrument to reconnoitre and to gain information about the enemy and his movements, and to form a protective screen at a distance from the main forces. This form may be termed guarding-mobility. Modern invention has, however, given us in the aeroplane an instrument immensely faster, possessing a far greater range both of movement and of observation, and untrammeled by surface obstacles, because flying above them — but, by reason of this, unable to carry out such a thorough and detailed reconnaissance as can a cavalryman who moves along the ground.
By the universal consent of all general staffs, aircraft have replaced cavalry as the means of distant reconnaissance, leaving to cavalry the duty of close reconnaissance and acting as a protective screen within a short radius of the main forces, supplemented, however, by armored cars on the roads. It is possible that even this rôle may eventually be taken over by light tanks, cross-country cars carrying lightly equipped infantry, or scouts mounted on tractorized motor-cycles. But this time is not yet, and must depend on mechanical improvements, though it may be hastened by the rapid disappearance of the horse from civil transportation.
In the second place comes the mobility of cavalry for strategic movements, a means by which a commander could transfer part of his strength from one point to another to effect an unexpected concentration of force at some vital spot. Even in the past the value of cavalry was hardly distinguishable from that of mounted infantry in this respect, and now the development of railway and motor transport for troop movements has practically replaced them for this function, save in desert or undeveloped lands. Even in the latter the cross-country car threatens their position, if we may judge by the French exploits in Morocco and the Sahara.
Finally there is hitting-mobility, — that used for direct offensive action, — which lies in the impetus of attack and demoralizing effect given by speed of onslaught. This has been the rôle of heavy cavalry, as distinct from the early dragoons and their successors, mounted infantry. In the cavalry charge has rested the supreme value of this arm. From Adrianople to La Haye Sainte a thousand fields have borne witness to its sovereign efficacy.
But when modern fire made this impossible on the battlefield — though the farce was still played at the German manœuvres to please the showman’s eye of the Kaiser — the punch went out of warfare, defense triumphed over attack, and the conception of decisive military victory became a mirage in the desert of trench-warfare. Infantry aided by artillery could fix the enemy, disrupt and disorganize his screening forces, but there was no effective means of completing their efforts by a decisive blow such as cavalry had formerly delivered. Here lay the root cause of the stalemates of the Russo-Japanese War and the Great War, the reason why during the years 1914-1918 it proved so easy to break into the enemy’s trench positions, so difficult, nay impossible, to break through them in time to smash his resistance and prevent his preparing fresh positions a mile or two in rear.
It became one of the tragic jokes of those weary years to see the cavalry massed, in readiness for its longawaited rôle, behind the point where a grand attack was to be launched, raising hopes never to be fulfilled, for, if even isolated squadrons attempted to pass through, a few odd machineguns sufficed to bring to a halt their vain advance.
Can a more damning comment be made upon the leaders of the armies than they themselves afforded by their Micawber-like faith that ‘something would turn up’ to give cavalry its chance — presumably to enter a Promised Land where inconvenient machineguns did not exist — and by their utter lack of effort to provide a substitute for cavalry’s rôle suitable to modern conditions?
The deadlock was broken only by the coming of the tank, a new weapon thrust upon the military hierarchy in face of their distrust and opposition. Misused at first, whether from obtuseness or of intent, its value was disparaged by those who misapplied it, and its very continuance was in jeopardy, until the astounding surprise coup at Cambrai in November 1917.
The decisive part it played in the drama of 1918 was acknowledged, somewhat grudgingly, by the Allied commanders and, more emphatically, by the Germans who suffered from it. But with the coming of peace a characteristic reaction took place toward time-honored and traditional methods — typified by the Regular officer who at 11 A.M. on November 11, 1918, heaved a sigh of relief on hearing the Armistice signals, exclaiming, ‘Thank heavens! Now we shall be able to get back to real soldiering!’
It is an axiom that nations learn more readily from defeat than from victory, and though for the nonce Germany is prohibited from building tanks, her post-war military reviews and textbooks bear ample witness to the study that is being devoted to them and their tactics. Will she repeat both the recovery of the Eastern Roman Empire and the basic idea of its military reorganization? ‘Theodosius, on whom devolved the task of reorganizing the troops of the Empire, appears to have appreciated to its fullest extent the military meaning of the fight at Adrianople. Abandoning the old Roman theory of war, he decided that the cavalry must in future compose the most important part of the imperial army.’
Unable to provide this new arm in sufficient numbers or quality from home resources, he obtained it by enlisting wholesale the services of Teutonic allies. Here again we may ask ourselves whether Germany, temporarily debarred from producing her own tanks, though for different reasons, will use Russia as her tool in developing these new sources of military power.
Whether the former Allied Powers have imbibed the lessons of 1918, and adequately developed the means that brought them victory, is a moot point.
Financial stringency and war weariness played certainly as great a part as conservatism among military authorities in preventing far-reaching schemes of tank-expansion. There is justice in the claim that, as tank design is still in its infancy, such money as is available can be more wisely spent in experiments to develop more efficient and reliable types of tank than in equipping armies with a large number of tanks that may be obsolete in a few years.
Meanwhile, however, post-war reorganization and establishments have been crystallizing, and when once the proportionate strengths of the various arms are settled they have a tendency to become fixed. Save under the stress and shocks of war, large changes are difficult, if not impossible, to bring about. In peace-time, with estimates and expenditures rigidly limited, an increase in one arm implies the reduction of another, and, as is but natural, sentiment and interest combine to resist the change. Disbanded regiments mean not only marred careers but the severance of great traditions. To transplant individuals from one regiment or corps to another is too often productive of discord and discontent under the settled conditions of peace-time. Thus it is rarely feasible, save under the pressure of an imminent and vivid emergency such as will spur men to sacrifice their personal feelings and interests for the sake of the army and the nation. It is this fact that causes disquietude over the otherwise sound policy of experiment before production. Inevitably, military organization and thought are settling down into definite channels all the time the experiment is going on.
In the 1919 campaign 10,000 tanks and 7500 cross-country tractors were being built for the Allies. Now the British Army has only five tank battalions, possessing but a few-score tanks of up-to-date design. Like the American Army, it is experimenting — an official phrase that is often a pseudonym for inertia, or at best a limited safetyvalve for enthusiasts who might otherwise become troublesome.
The French Army has a far greater number of tanks, though its tanks are obsolete and its mechanical progress lags behind its ideas. But it at least works on the basis of a higher proportion of tanks to the other arms than do the other countries, where one tank battalion to a division is the most that is visualized.
To appreciate that this idea is retrogressive there is no need to project ourselves into the far future, with its visions of naval warfare on land waged by tank fleets, or to number ourselves with the hot-headed reformers who would wipe out the existing arms with a stroke of the pen. Plain common-sense and a knowledge of history will show us that, even if warfare moves in cycles, they are progressive cycles, and that each succeeding war in modern times between the Great Powers shows an advance mechanically on the last, and at least begins where the last left off.
What, then, is the cause of this step back in the proportion of tanks to the other arms?
There is no question that the general staffs of all nations regard the tank as a valuable adjunct to the arms already existing—infantry, cavalry, artillery.
Yet curiously, in this very recognition, as we have stated it, lies the explanation of the small proportion of tanks to the other arms in the armies of 1925. Similarly, with subordinate commanders, the value many of them now place on tanks is the cause of their misuse in post-war manœuvres.
Despite the high speed and relatively less obstacle-crossing power of the latest tanks, they are still regarded as an adjunct to the infantry, and a means of helping the latter as was the primary purpose of the tanks in the Great War.
The root of the difficulty lies in the fact that for centuries soldiers have been accustomed to think in terms of three main arms—infantry, cavalry, artillery. Then in the last war came the addition of tanks, and soldiers were in a quandary where to place them. The British treat them as an extra arm to the three originals; the French consider them as part of the infantry.
The right classification and right use of tanks are to be found by a study of history in the light of the unchanging and fundamental principles of war — with one eye on the past and the other on the future, for history has a strange way of repeating itself.
Herein lies both the explanation and the object of our opening comparison between the ninth of August, 378 A.D., and the eighth of August, 1918 A.D. The deduction is that tanks are not an extra arm, or a substitute for infantry, but the modernized form of heavy cavalry. Cavalry enthusiasts, reluctant to see their old love disappear, draw such grains of comfort as they can from its success in the limited spheres of close reconnaissance and for movement in uncivilized lands which happen to be flat and suitable for cavalry. In their anxiety to prepare a case for the defense they overstress this limited value. If, instead of thinking of cavalry as men on horseback, one thought of it as the mobile arm, the source of many misconceptions and prejudices would be removed. For in fulfilling its historical functions cavarry has assumed many different forms and comprised radically different types and patterns.
On the other hand, the modernist school that considers cavalry an anachronism concentrates its energies on destructive criticism. What neither side seems concerned with is to remedy the lopsidedness of modern warfare and to discover a substitute for the vitally important rôle of decisive manœuvre formerly fulfilled by cavalry — a rôle that was indeed the main purpose of the mobile arm.
It is not too much to say that the drying-up of cavalry action has caused the decay of generalship and that the art of war as understood by the great captains cannot revive until a substitute for cavalry’s former offensive rôle is recognized — for it has already been found, if the history of war be appraised logically. The Battle of Amiens needs to be studied in the light of the Battle of Adrianople.
The tank is at least as well protected against infantry weapons as was the mediæval cavalry, its range and speed of movement are greater, its hittingpower superior — making all allowance for the vastly improved weapons it has to face.
Like the cavalry of old, the tank has its limitations; there are certain types of ground on which it is handicapped and certain defenses against which it is helpless. These limitations must be appreciated, and its tactical employment based on them, as were those of cavalry by the great captains. Has the eighth of August, 1918, ushered in a tank age, as the ninth of August, 378, brought in a cavalry age? Only the future can tell. The status of infantry is now in the scales. Those who shared in the experience of 1918, and even more those who have watched the latest tanks sweeping over rough country at twenty miles per hour, swinging round in their own length and then off again, like prehistoric monsters of Conan Doyle’s Lost World, can have little doubt that, on ground suitable to tank action, infantry is helpless against them. But in most countries there is wooded, hilly, or swampy ground where tanks cannot operate. By taking advantage of such tankproof localities and areas, infantry may retain a useful rôle until a modern successor of the longbow of Cressy is invented to restore the balance.
Conversely, the full benefit of the tank substitute for cavalry depends on how far the commanders of to-day take to heart the lesson that mediœval chivalry failed to appreciate until taught by bitter experience, and then misinterpreted in such a way as to rob cavalry of its chief asset, mobility. So long as tanks are intermingled with infantry and frittered away in driblets on unsuitable ground, they will be no more effective than the fourteenthsixteenth century cavalry, before Gustavus Adolphus.
Once appreciate that they are not an extra arm or a mere aid to infantry, but are the modern form of heavy cavalry, and their correct tactical use is clear — to be concentrated and used in as large masses as possible for decisive manœuvre against the flanks and communications of the enemy, which have been fixed by the infantry and the artillery.
Then not only may we see the rescue of mobility from the toils of trenchwarfare, but with it the revival of generalship and of the art of war, in contrast to its mere mechanics. Instead of machines threatening to become the masters of man, as they actually did in 1914—1918, they will give man back opportunities for the use of his art. On the battlefields of the future may be repeated the triumphs of an Arbela, a Cannæ, a Zama, or an Austerlitz. It will then again be true to say with Napoleon: ‘Men do not matter; it is the man who counts.’ The realization that the proper rôle of the tank, at present a Cinderella, is the supremely vital act of decisive manœuvre will do more than anything else to sweep away the prejudice that always attaches to an innovation, and so pave the way for a readjustment of the proportions of the various arms.
Better still, the restoration of a mobile arm for offensive action will keep alight the cavalry spirit, the very soul of war. To-day the germs of trenchwarfare still linger in the military system, with all their deadening effects on mind and action, which can be counteracted only by inoculation with the serum of mobility. To save us from the indecisiveness of recent methods of warfare, which inflict permanent injury on the economic life of both sides, we stand in great need of the lightning grasp of a situation, the rapidity of action, and the energy in exploiting the fleeting opportunities of battle, which are the essence of the cavalry spirit.
The tank assault of to-morrow is but the long-awaited rebirth of the cavalry charge, with the merely material change that moving fire is added to shock and that the cavalry-tank replaces the cavalry-horse.
Thus, to paraphrase, ‘The cavalry is dead! Long live the cavalry!’