World War I cavalry charge re-enacted to mark 100th anniversary

  • Soldiers have recreated at cavalry charge in memory of the hundreds of men and horses who lost their lives during a World War I battle.

    On 30 March, a contingent of around 20 soldiers of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) re-enacted a charge that took place a century before at the Battle of Moreuil Wood.

    The soldiers wore cavalry uniforms and galloped with swords drawn alongside members of the Regimental Society of Moreuil, France.

    The battle took place on the banks of the Arve river in France and contributed to the halt of the German spring offensive of 1918.

    Credit: Images by Sgt Dwayne Janes, Image Tech, directorate of Army public affairs

    Broadcaster Brough Scott, grandson of Major General Jack Seely who commanded the Canadian cavalry, was among the many to attend the 100th anniversary memorial.

    “It was humbling the thought of what they all had to go through,” he told H&H.

    “Shifting around, day by day, knowing at some stage you are going to have to go into battle.”

    He added standing in the drizzle, hearing the Last Post, watching the charge and seeing the topography of the land was “sobering”.

    “There they were, well-fed soldiers and 30-odd horses, whereas you think back 100 years ago and it was the fifth year of the war and 10 days into what we now know as the big collapse,” he said.

    Brough has ridden the route members of the cavalry would have taken and his credits as an author include the biography of his grandfather Galloper Jack and the republishing of his grandfather’s book Warrior: The Amazing Story of a Real War Horse.

    He explained the Munning’s painting of Lieutent Gordon Flowerdew’s famous charge into German machine gun fire, for which he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, was just one part of the gruelling battle.

    The reality included brutal close-combat fighting, bombs being hand-dropped from planes, mass casualties and confusion.

    “It was very close to the end of the war, very close to it all collapsing — but remember they didn’t know who was going to win,” added Brough.

    The battle forced the withdrawal of the 23rd German division from Moreuil Wood, but it came at a price — 300 men and 500 horses were lost.

    During the 100th anniversary commemorations, mayor of Moreuil Pierre Boulanger granted Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) freedom of the city.

    “It is extremely important that we reflect on and commemorate this important milestone in the history of the Strathconas,” said Brigadier-General Trevor Cadieu, commander of the third Canadian division and senior serving Strathcona.

    Those young troopers summoned tremendous courage as metal clashed and they confronted their enemy in hand-to-hand combat.

    “Their valour continues to inspire us today as we enhance the resilience and warrior ethos of our soldiers, and as we prepare for operations in other theatres.”

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    A Canadian Army spokesman told H&H that the Canadian government is “dedicated to commemorating the sacrifices” of its brave soldiers who served in the war.

    “Their legacy is the freedom we continue to enjoy today and we are committed to preserving and communicating the contributions and achievements of these brave men and women to future generations,” he said.

    “As a result of our shared values and shared experiences, Canada and France formed deep ties during the First World War.

    “That relationship endures today as we continue to protect freedom and democracy on an international front. Canada’s history is best told through the stories of the men and women who lived it.

    “By recognising and honouring the extraordinary service and sacrifice witnessed a century ago, we will keep the memory of Canada’s First World War experience alive for generations to come.”

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