The Cavalry of the Wehrmacht 1941-1945
By Klaus Christian Richter
Hardcover in dustjacket, 208 pages, heavily illustrated
Published by Schiffer Publishing, Ltd January 2004
Dimensions: 7.2 x 0.8 x 10.2 inches
Some of the lesser-known formations in the Wehrmacht order battle consisted of traditional horse cavalry units. After the First World War the Reichsheer possessed eighteen Cavalry Regiments totaling 16,400 men. These were organized along the lines of standard infantry regiments with integral supporting formations such as artillery, communications, anti-tank, and anti-aircraft. Cavalry brigades fought in Poland, Holland, Belgium, and France. Several of these units were amalgamated to form the 1st Cavalry Division in October 1940. The division fought during the invasion of Russia, but was reorganized to form the 24th Panzer Division during the winter of 41-42.
At this point the remaining cavalry strength of the Wehrmacht was disbursed into divisional reconnaissance battalions, 85 in all. These units were valuable due to their mobility, being faster than standard infantry and often able to maintain mobility on terrain which proved impassable for motorized transport. These units were often used as mobile reserves, used to plug penetrations in the lines. In 1943 Cavalry Regiments were reformed from these units. These continued to fight during the long withdrawal of German forces back into the Reich, surrendering to British forces in Austria at the end of the war. The Waffen-SS formed two cavalry divisions of its own in 1942 which fought in the East until destroyed in the defense of Budapest in February 1945. The Cossacks also had cavalry divisions which fought alongside the Germans against the Soviets.
This book tells the story of the German Cavalry units using a rather large selection of well captioned photographs. There is a focus on the organization and equipment of these units, covering the horses and their tack as well as the cavalrymen and their armaments. The supporting arms are not neglected either and there are several photographs of the various vehicles assigned. The cavalry units also possessed bicycle troops, which proved quite mobile where the roads were good but suffered greatly in the Russian mud.
This is a unique insight into an unusual branch of the German Wehrmacht which doesn’t generally get much attention. Recommended.