The Boer War (1899-1902) and British Cavalry Doctrine: A Re-Evaluation

Among the important British Army reforms following the Boer War (1899–1902) was the introduction of a longer-range rifle for the cavalry instead of a carbine, and a tactical doctrine including dismounted fire. It remains the view of most historians that the cavalry learned dismounted tactics from their Boer opponents, and that postwar reform of the cavalry was imposed from outside. Senior cavalry officers of the period are viewed as reactionary, and their performance in the First World War judged accordingly. This view is based on a partisan interpretation of the Boer War and the cavalry's role in it, fostered by its contemporary institutional critics. In fact, a cavalry reform movement was introducing dismounted tactics before the Boer War, both sides in the war used mounted and dismounted tactics, and the cavalry's problems were largely those of supply and not of their own making. This has much wider implications for the assessment of British military doctrines up to the end of the First World War.