Monday, September 12, 2022

Something About the Battle of Montcel-Frétoy

Spear carriers.

I saw a recent article by Alexander Zakrzewski at the Military History Now blog discussing the 1914 Battle of Montcel-Frétoy, which he calls history's last fight between mounted lancers. Lancers were horse-mounted soldiers that fought with a lance or pole-based weapon, similar to a spear.

If you think taking part in modern warfare with what you might consider an old-fashioned instrument sounds odd, you're not alone. Lewis Barnavelt was of the same opinion when he first heard about his great-grandfather's role in the Fifth Michigan Fire Zouave Lancers, as seen in The Figure in the Shadows (1975).

On the morning of Sept. 7, 1914, Lieutenant-Colonel David Campbell, commander of the British Army’s 9th Lancers, was reconnoitering with about 30 men near the French village of Montcel-Frétoy, when he heard rifle fire in the distance.

Campbell was the epitome of the swashbuckling cavalry officer. A champion jockey and polo player, his nickname was “Soarer” after the horse on which he had won the Grand National in 1896. Just days earlier on Aug. 24, he had led the 9th Lancers in a costly and futile charge against German guns at Elouges, surviving unscathed.

The 9th Queen's Royal Lancers was a cavalry regiment of the British Army, first raised in 1715. It saw service for three centuries, including the First and Second World Wars.  It was amalgamated with the 12th Royal Lancers to form the 9th/12th Royal Lancers in 1960, and amalgamated with the Queen's Royal Lancers in 2015 to form the Royal Lancers.  The Royal Lancers is now the last regiment in the British Army to retain the title of "lancers". It has directly or indirectly inherited the traditions of the six British lancer regiments that were in existence until a series of mergers [1].


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