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The Indian Cavalry – Vol I
Maj. Gen. Gurcharn Singh Sandhu The Indian Cavalry – Vol I : Maj. Gen. Gurcharn Singh Sandhu : Vision Books : Book (ISBN: 8170940133)
Pages: 472
Price: Rs. 350
Format: Hardcover
ISBN13/10: / 8170940133
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The cavalry in Europe has had its ups and downs but in the armies of India the cavalry has held a pre-eminent position over a continuous period of over 1200 years — beginning from the introduction of the stirrup in the 5th century (when was chariots yielded place to the cavalry) right up to World War I. A familiarisation with the history of the horsed cavalry, particularly the role it played during World War I, would therefore form a necessary part of any complete understanding of warfare in general. The Indian Cavalry deals primarily with the British Indian Cavalry — that glorious institution which became a befitting culmination to the Indian Cavalry tradition — unique in its combination of an age-old system and modern military methods. As a cavalry which acquired legendary fame in a very short span of time, it is still remembered as the ultimate in colour and dash and all the romance and fascination associated with the word ‘cavalry’.

The British started to raise Indian Cavalry units in the middle of the 18th century and continued to do so until the end of World War I. The success of these units lay largely in the intelligent selection of training methods by he British.

The traditional system of raising the cavalry was adopted nearly unchanged by them. While old rank designations, weapons and equipment were retained, Western battle drills were incorporated with local methods which in turn set great store by individual proficiency. The Indian cavalryman had been a man of substance since the 7th century since he had to provide his own horse, uniform and equipment. This added to the prestige of the service in the ‘risala’.

This book deals at length with the wars fought by the Indian Cavalry in Afghanistan, Persia, Ethiopia, Egypt and China during the 19th century and its participation in various momentous battles during World War I, i.e., in France, the Netherlands, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Russian Turkestan and its service in East Africa, Aden and Persia. The book contains an account of the magnificent battle of Megiddo — ‘one of the most complete victories’ — in which two Indian Cavalry Divisions took part and which was perhaps the last occasion on which massed horsed cavalry played a decisive role in a major campaign.

An entirely unique feature of the book is its discussion, in each case, of the tactics employed by the cavalry units and of the reasons why victory went to the side that it did.

Although the mechnisation of this famous horsed cavalry in the late’40s completely transformed it, relics of the original pomp and splendour of the British Indian Cavalry cab be glimpsed in the President’s Body Guard (which is maintained to this day) on the annual spectacle of the Republic Day Parade in Delhi.


“Maj Gen Sandhu deserves to be congratulated for this book”  —The Tribune

“The fascinating history of the Indian Armoured Corps from the early Vedic days till the last days of cavalry in India during the British and post-Independence India”  —The Pioneer

“Maj Gen Gurcharn Singh Sandhu has done a great service ... gives a view of the rich traditions and exploits of the most glamorous of all arms in our army ... a well-written book containing a wealth of information. It is a book that should be read by all officers”  — The Hindustan Times

Maj. Gen. Gurcharn Singh Sandhu

Major General Gurcharn Singh Sandhu (b. December 1922) graduated with a first class honours from Government College, Lahore; his subjects of study were History and Political Science. He went on to obtain a Master’s degree in English before joining the Army in 1944. He was commissioned into the 18th King Edward’s Own Cavalry in 1945 and saw military service during World War II on the Northwest Frontier. In 1948, he attended the first Staff College course at Wellington. As a staff officer at HQ 1 Armoured Division, he took part in the Hyderabad Police Action in 1948.

In 1959 he was selected to attend a year-long Armor Officers’ Advance Course at the US Armor School at Fort Knox. Soon after the 1962 India-China War he was posted as Military Assistant to the newly-appointed Chief of the Army Staff, General J. N. Chaudhuri, and continued in that appointment during the 1965 Indo-Pak War. He raised an armoured brigade at Siliguri before India's 1971 war with Pakistan and took part in operations against the Pak army in the northwest sector of erstwhile East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). He was awarded a Param Vasisht Seva Medal for his service during the 1971 war. After a course at the National Defence College, he commanded another armoured brigade followed by the command of an infantry division. His last appointment in the Indian Army was as head of the Armoured Corps at Army Headquarters from where he retired early in 1978.

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