Soldiers in the cavalry were trained to fight on horseback – in fact the word ‘cavalry’ originates in the French word for horse: cheval. The use of horses meant that these troops could move quickly, carry out surprise attacks on the enemy and retreat at speed if necessary.
In the distant past chariots were used as well as horses, but as time passed, the chariots disappeared and were replaced by warriors on horseback. This took time because horses were smaller in those days and had difficulty carrying a warrior in full armour. In addition to this, it was easier to fight from a chariot than from horseback as early warriors had no saddles, stirrups etc with which to steady themselves during a battle. The use of chariots in battles died out in Roman times – the exceptions being for ceremonial duties and chariot-racing. Eventually the use of armour died out, but not until the 17th century.
After the end of World War I cavalry units had to be modernised – horses were often replaced with tanks. Exceptions do exist but carry out ceremonial roles – royal or state duties, for example.
The word ‘artillery’ has a disputed origin. Some believe it comes from the French word ‘artillier’. An artillier, from the 1200s on, was someone who built war weaponry. Others believe that the word may come from the Italian ‘arte de tirare’ which means ‘the art of shooting’.
Once upon a time the word artillery was used to describe soldiers who used projectile weapons, such as guns and cannons but now it has also come to mean the weapons themselves.
The role of the artillery was originally to break down castle walls and the like. Of course, it has come a long way since then and now has a range of highly flexible weapons at its disposal, such as machine-guns and missiles.
Artillery has been used since Roman times but the adoption of gunpowder (discovered in China in the 9th century) in weaponry in the Middle Ages meant that artillery equipment no longer needed to be limited by the use of mechanical devices (e.g. catapults) to launch ammunition at the enemy.
Artillery units are not used for combat at close quarters - for that the army uses the infantry.
Soldiers in the infantry are trained to fight on foot, face-to-face with the enemy. They must be extremely fit and are trained to be more aggressive than other army units. Their job is traditonally to attack the enemy, kill him in close combat (or capture him) and hold the ground. Nowadays they also carry out patrols, raids, escort duties and the collecting of intelligence. History tells us the infantry are the oldest type of fighting force, existing before either the artillery or the cavalry. In the past they would have fought with clubs and lances, nowadays they use guns and hand-grenades, etc. The infantry used to fight in formation, rank after rank marching into battle but modern infantry tends to work in smaller units which are able to keep in touch thanks to the advanced made in communications in more recent times. Since the end of World War II however, the infantry has not expanded at the same rate as the artillery in modern armies. This is due to the fact that the technology required by the military has become more and more advanced and because the role of logistics in modern warfare has been recognised and expanded.
Se also: Women and homosexuals should not be allowed to join the army
Quick Quiz: Read the clues below and write the solutions on a piece of paper. Then take the first letter of each answer and rearrange them to find the hidden word connected with this Talking Point.
1. The word ‘cavalry’ __________ in the French word for horse: cheval.
2. It was easier to fight from a chariot than from horseback as early warriors had no __________, stirrups etc with which to steady themselves during a battle.
3. The use of chariots in battles died out in __________ times.
4. The word ‘artillery’ has a __________ origin.
5. Soldiers in the __________ are trained to fight on foot, face-to-face with the enemy.
6. Nowadays the infantry also carry out patrols, raids, __________ duties and the collecting of intelligence.
7. The role of __________ in modern warfare has been recognised and expanded.