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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 31 May 2012
Even for those who claim to understand the Great War, dismissing cavalry as outdated in the 20th century is par of the course. It is all too easy for history buffs to use the eventual mechanization of horsemen into tank crews to imply that the cavalry was redundant on the battlefield. However, it is often overlooked that the tank, even with conciderable development and large numbers had it's limitations, even by 1918. The change from horse to tank was still a long way off. Moreover this was not mere hidebound traditionalism.

It is clear that from his deep interest the author is pro-cavalry. Nevertheless he does not let this get in the way of a balanced argument. Kenyon brings us steadily into the realm of the cavalry of the BEF. Their value in the retreat from Mons is never doubted, even by dismissive historians, who place their argument of the impotence of cavalry once trench warfare is established. As a consequence, the author makes it his business to centre his fight on this very ground of his enemy's choosing. In addition, the author does not point to other theatres where the cavalry's value was undoubtedly immesurable.

The body of the book shows how the structure of the BEF as well as the ongoing struggle conspired to hobble the cavalry as well as hoard them; how they were constrained from making their potential impact, despite sustaining equal losses to the infantry- often through dismounted trench duty alongside them.

In addition to exploring the "politics" of the cavalry's career in the BEF, Kenyon picks out all the mounted actions to explore each deftly with vivid colourful narrative, and examine the successes and strife, their frustrations and the "what ifs". Often the narrative is seamlessly populated with actual memoir that makes the events feel personal.

Best of all, and for the first time, we see the real complexities, constraints, achievements and limitations in a thoroughly accurate context. Kenyon helps us easily appreciate them; much to his credit, as other historians before him have simply given up trying and written the cavalry down.

In saying "for the first time", I suspect this will be the last ink spent on the subject. Not because it doesn't merit further debate, but simply because the author is so balanced and thorough I cannot imagine any more will be said in favour or against.

Quite simply the definitive book on the subject, and one that every self-proclaimed enthusiast of the Great War needs to read if he wishes to claim any depth to their understanding or view on the BEF on the Western Front.

Without question, it is a "must".
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 6 October 2011
I would recommend this book to anyone who has even a cursory interest in the history of the First World War, regardless of previous knowledge or interest in this specific subject, this work has enough data to keep the scholar happy whilst at the same time explaining things enough so anyone (at any level of knowledge) can follow the narrative and enjoy the journey.

This book stands alone in its subject matter, and like many books on the First World War which have come out in the last 10 years or so, it will stop and make people re-evaluate there previous conceptions on the conflict. Kenyon obviously has a keen affinity with the mounted wing of the BEF, and along with his encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject in question it would be easy to believe that he would have a specific agenda and bias his evidence accordingly. Yet, he shows a picture of the cavalry in a believable and colourful manner, 'Warts and all' explaining the faults as well as the good, and presenting evidence and arguments on the relative flexibility and usefulness that mounted troops provided a commander.

I started this book with the entrenched belief that the cavalry was an outdated and useless body of men, a throwback to a bygone era. But, the evidence presented and the counter arguments to this common misconception are both very compelling and persuasive. As with most of our misconceptions of this war the author shows how many of the common beliefs start with an element of truth which, over the years grow into a barely recognisable slur. As with most of the recent re-evaluations over the last few years the simple presentation of the available evidence that has been previously masked by our obsession with all things infantry can help redress the balance.

Horsemen in No Mans Land started life as a Phd thesis under the late Professor Holmes and I mention this for two reasons. One, The narrative style and formula of backing up every proposition with the available evidence is fairly academic in style and certainly much more 'serious' than the author's last book 'Digging the Trenches' which he co-wrote with TVs Andy Robertshaw. And two, the influence of Professor Holmes can be felt throughout, with a similar narrative pace and style Kenyon uses his knowledge to talk the reader through the evidence he presents, and like a guide he helps you get a grasp on a situation and draw your own conclusions in an entertaining and enjoyable way.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 20 December 2011
I called this review finally, because, finally a serious, in depth study, of the British, (and Commenwealth)cavalry, in the First World War.

David Kenyons book, although very detailed, gallops along (sorry) at a cracking pace, exploding myths along the way. These, indeed all, arguments, are backed up with extensive maps, and notes.

The authors love of the mounted arm comes through, although he is not afraid of detailing failures, as well as success, of the horsemen, this, unlike a lot of WW1 books, leads me to trust the research more than in other books on the subject.

The notes about his father, and Richard Holmes, both heavily involved in this book, neither of whom lived to see it's publication, actually made for moving narrative, much like a lot of the tales of loss, on many scales, contained in this, excellent work.

In conclusion, and I don't say this lightly, the book against which all other WW1 Cavalry books should be judged.

A must!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 14 February 2013
It's nice to see a book about the Cavalry, WW1 has a tendency to the infantryman's war where as the Cavalry still had an enormous potential role throughout the war and European military planners still considered them essential especially in the east
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on 16 August 2014
David Kenyon questions the assumption that the cavalry played no useful part in WW1. Because of the day by day reporting of engagements, the need to remember what has gone before in the account and nature of cavalryman's life, it is wise to read the book more or less at one sitting.
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on 8 October 2014
Provided much needed background for me when I wrote my cavalry novel, Over by Christmas.
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on 29 September 2014
A wonderful book by Dr Dave
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 1 February 2014
This is essentially a military historian's account of how the cavalry were used in World War One. Full of dry historical detail but devoid of any account of the cavalryman's life or that of his horses. Could have been written by somebody with no knowledge of horses at all. Very disappointing
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on 22 December 2014
all ok
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