Benjamin Clouting joined the British Cavalry in August 1913, one year before the outbreak of the First World War. As a pre-war regular Clouting accompanied the BEF to France in 1914, despite officially being too young for combat duties.
This memoir goes a long way towards dispelling the idea of the cavalry as sitting idly behind the lines for the entire war, waiting for the elusive breakthrough. He was present when the BEF fired its first shots of the entire war, and took part in the retreat from Mons, the battle of the Marne and the advance back to the Aisne. During this advance he was on detached duty with an intelligence officer, but the rest of his unit also played a major part in this last period of open warfare. For long periods after this he was an orderly, working directly for a senior officer, and was thus a little sheltered from the worst of the fighting, but he did spend some time in the front line trenches when the cavalry was pressed into service as reinforcements, and he was with his unit during the final victorious offensives.
The text is based on a series of interviews between Ben and Richard van Emden, conducted in 1989-90. Most of the text is Ben's, with some useful editorial comments, always clearly noted.
Ben took part in two of the most famous cavalry incidents of the First World War. On 22 August 1914 he was present when the BEF fired its first shots, during a cavalry skirmish at Casteau. Two days later he took part in the famously disastrous cavalry charge at Audregnies, a clear sign that the age of the cavalry had passed. Both of these famous incidents are dealt with in some detail, and Ben's account provides details missing from other accounts.
This is a splendid account of the life of a Great War cavalryman, and makes a interesting change from the more familiar infantry memoirs.
1 - A Sussex Childhood
2 - Crazy to be a Soldier
3 - The First Shot
4 - Audregnies and the Retreat from Mons
5 - Behind Enemy Lines
6 - Knee-deep in Mud
7 - A Different Life
8 - 1918: From Cayeux to Cologne
9 - They think it's all over
Editor: Richard van Emden
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2013 edition of 1996 original