Friday, 3 January 2014

Cavalry on Campaigin

If the life of a Cavalry Trooper in barracks was "Terrible hard", then life on campaign was all that - and more. Not only were the usual duties of tending and feeding the horses strictly adhered to, but pickets and videttes had to be provided, cook houses built, latrines dug and tents looked after.

The 1831 Cavalry Regulations and the Standing Orders of the Scots Greys state that on campaign pickets (in-lying and out-lying) were to be posted one hour before daybreak. An outlying picket, or vidette, consisted of half-a-dozen mounted troopers under the command of an NCO to observe the movement of the enemy and also mask their own unit. The in-lying picket was larger, commanded by an officer, and as the name suggests, placed closer to the camp. Captain William Douglas (10th Hussars) wrote that ‘An Outlying Picket ought to be concealed entirely from observation, either by natural or artificial obstacles.’ Whilst an Inlying Picket ought to be within sight of the camp.

Rudyard Kippling famously quipped " A Soldier's life is terrible hard" - especially so for a Cavalry Trooper. Not only had to look after himself and his own equipment, but his horse and horse tack were his number one priority: only after his loyal mount had been fed, watered and cared for could he attend to his own feeding and watering. Presented here is the daily routine for the Royal North British Dragoons, c.1830 (which probably changed very little from the Napoleonic Wars.


"At a quarter to five or six o'clock in the morning, according to season of the year, the Warning Trumpet sounds. All soldiers must get out of bed then... They must dress, roll their bedding on their iron bedstead, fold the blanket, the two sheets, and the rug, so as the colours of the rug shall appear throughout the sheets and blankets like marble. They  must take the point of a knife, and lay the edges of the folds straight until they look artistical to the eye. This must be finished by the time the "Warning" is over, which is an qurater of an hour.