Sandeman’s Last Charge – Horse vs Tanks addenum

Hello everyone,

just a quick addition to the Horses vs Tanks article. There have been some mocking comments (as usual) about the Polish using horses in warfare in 1939. When someone says “World War Two”, everyone immediately imagines German Panzers rolling, with armored infantry following them in their halftracks – or scores of Soviet T-34 tanks advancing. Few people imagine horses, but the harsh reality was that all the Axis countries (but Soviets and Japanese too) were heavily relying on horses for logistics – in fact, Romania and Hungary logistic forces were nearly 100 percent hippomobile.

Either way, pretty much all the nations were using the horses not only for logistics, but occasionally for combat too.

Allegedly the last British cavalry charge in history took place in March 18 (other sources state March 24), 1942 in Burma. A force of roughly 100 cavalrymen, consisting of Burmese conscripts, led by Indian Sikh officers and commanded by captain Arthur Guy Sandeman, was performing the reconnaissance of the area near Toungoo, roughly 250km northwest of Rangoon. Captain Sandeman spotted some Asian soldiers on a hill nearby, building some sort of fortification – he knew a Chinese auxillia was in the area, so he paid them no heed. Little did he know he just ran into Japanese vanguard units. He found out the hard way only after two Japanese machineguns started firing, killing many of the men in the open.
Sandeman did not panic – in fact, he ordered the bugler to signal the “charge!” order, drew his cavalry sabre and charged the Japanese position along with the rest of his troops, screaming their Burmese battlecries. They never made it to the Japanese lines, in the open and without cover, they had no chance whatsoever – captain Sandeman died that day with a sword in his hand.

The American last charge actually happened only months earlier on Philippines. On 16th of January 1942, the situation was looking bleak for the American and native Phillipino troops, as the Japanese were attacking the islands in force. On that day, US 26th Cavalry unit moved towards a town of Moron, when they ran into advancing units of Japanese 122nd Infantry. The US commander, Lt. Edwin Ramsey didn’t wait for anything and ordered his cavalrymen to charge. With guns blazing, the cavalry smashed into the Japanese infantry on the main town street, routing them in the process. After breaking thru the Japanese line, they turned around and scattered, picking off the Japanese survivors of the charge one by one. By the end of the day, the town was cleared of Japanese forces and the cavalry occupied it, only to be called back during the general retreat a day later.

In the end, even such acts of heroism were but fading lights in the long night, that was to engulf the Pacific, but I think they really shouldn’t be forgotten.

43 thoughts on “Sandeman’s Last Charge – Horse vs Tanks addenum

  1. Probably last charges of cavalry during WWII were made by Polish troops in early 1945. On 1st March 1945 during Battle of Schönfeld soldiers from 1st “Warsaw” Independent Cavalry Brigade overran the German positions with minimal losses. One of the Polish authors claims that last Polish cavalry charge during WWII was made on 21st April 1945 at Heckelberg and nearby Grunthal.

    Certainly the last charge of Polish cavalry was made by mounted troops of Border Security Forces (Wojska Ochrony Pogranicza) against Ukrainian UPA insurgents in 1947.

  2. WWII german propaganda against Poland ” cavalry units attaking armored units ,with swords” well shit happens in history books :)

      • Yes, the horses was used only as a transport. Soldiers dismounted them when going to fight.

        quote “Although the cavalrymen retained their Szabla wz. 1934 sabres, after 1937 the lance was dropped and it was issued to cavalrymen as a weapon of choice only. Instead, the cavalry units were equipped with modern armament, including 75 mm guns, tankettes, 37mm AT guns, 40mm AA guns, anti-tank rifles and other pieces of modern weaponry.
        During the campaign, the brigades were distributed among the Polish armies and served as mobile reserves. In this role, the Polish cavalry proved itself a successful measure in filling the gaps in the front and covering the withdrawal of friendly units. Polish cavalry units took part in most of the battles of 1939 and on several occasions proved to be the elite of the Polish Army.
        After the September Campaign, the Polish Army on the Western Front continued its pre-war tradition of Uhlan regiments giving their names to armoured units, while Polish units on the Eastern Front used cavalry as mobile infantry until the end of the war.”

    • Something similar happens in Civ 5.

      Spearmen drunk as fuck, attacking my artilerry units and shit :D

      • Bah. Civ 1 shall NEVER live down the instances of defending Militia (as in “peasants with pitchforks”) somehow sinking attacking Battleships. “You Gotta Know Where To Stick ‘Em” as Murphy’s Rules put it.

    • Cavalry-Mechanized was often a designation for cavalry units recently converted to mechanized units; albeit there really are some cases of a mixed unit of horse cavalry and mechanized infantry in the Red Army.

      • Polish armed forces are/were called “mechanized cavalry” because of the major role of cavalry in the history of Polish armed forces, so You might be mistaking that.

          • The real story about the Polish cavalry charge is that they had to do it against tanks because one of the infantry units was pinned by a german armored units and soon to be destroyed. The cavalry charged so they distract the german armoured unit and this way leaving time for the polish infantry to retreat to safety.
            They knew they have no chance but still, being more mobile the chances to have less casualties was better then for infantry men.

            • But many times they was usefull

              “September 1 – Battle of Mokra – 19th Volhynian Uhlan Regiment took by surprise the elements of German 4th Panzer Division, which retreated in panic.[5][8] During the charge, lances were used. In fact, the cavalry charge in the traditional sense was neither planned, nor executed. The mounted infantry rode over behind the attacking German armor in behind the tankettes with the tank men throwing smoke grenades to cover the approach. Indeed, the mounted infantry did repel the German support infantry and forced part of the German armored regiment to continue to advance while deprived of the infantry support.”

      • The russian BT-tanks (B for bistro=speedy) were designed for those cavalry-mechanized units.

  3. Very good stuff SStalker,though i belive im in minority and most of your readers comes to your blog for WoT news ( at start i was too but then my interest shifted,stoped playing wot ) i would like to see more of this “sheading the light” pieces in future alongside with historical ones

  4. Horses were used until the end of the war by the German forces drawing wagons, also allied reconnaissance units used horses through out the war.

    • It would be a waste not to use that horses for transportation. And there were more people from that time that could “control horses” that those who could drive a car.

    • Ironically at the start if the war much of the German horse herd was apparently British surplus sold off when they converted their army into what was pretty much the first entirely motorised and mechanised force in the world, random vestiges in colonial backwaters nonwithstanding.

    • “You are gays?”

      Killing a tank with You are gays AT rifle, that’s literally adding isult to injury. :D

    • “Highly efficient”

      Sure, against light tanks, that were close enough, and you could hit something that would debilitate the tank.

        • Penetration is one thing; “terminal effect” quite another with a projectile that small.

          • Uniquely, compared to other armour-piercing designs, the DS round instead of using tungsten or a similar hard metal for the core had lead, as with standard ball, but with a steel jacket. The penetration was not through punching the core through the armor but from the impact of the bullet flattening against the plate, transferring kinetic energy to the metal. The key to success for this technique was a very high bullet velocity. The result was that the bullet was punching a spall, about 20 mm in diameter, out of the armour, a size larger than the actual rifle caliber. The fragment would then ricochet inside of an armoured vehicle, possibly damaging the engine or killing the crew (an effect similar to that of a modern HESH tank round).

            Well, I guess you didn’t bothered reading this part of article?

  5. Even Australia got in the cavalry act in WW11, forming at least two special army units with colourful names. Curtin’s Cowboys were a recon/counter espionage force running along to northern coast after Japan bombed Darwin to stop the Japanese marine recon teams that came ashore. Good luck at finding any hard Info on either side of this as both sides concidered it very secret work. The other unit was the Kelly Gang formed in Syria using captured French cav horses to guard the flank of the advancing allied army in areas not suitable for armoured cars etc.

  6. How about the cavalry charges by Afghan Army and militia, which presumabely have been joined by US Military individuals?