Looking along to our right we saw a brave sight, the bravest possible — a body of cavalry charging. It was none other than the renowned Cavalry of the Guides, which by a wonderful effort had crossed the seemingly impassable nullah, and was now falling with dauntless fury on ten times their numbers of the enemy. They whirled past us, and we, cheering like mad, dashed after them.
It is a splendid sight, such as no other perhaps equals, the wild charge of horsemen. Each man going for all he is worth, yelling to Allah, or other deity, to help him ; yelling curses the most blood-curdling on his enemy ; low bent so as almost to be lying along his horse’s neck, and swish after swish, bringing his keen curved sword on to the head, or neck, or back, of a flying enemy.
No time here for quarter, given or taken. The pursued, when overtaken, stops, turns, fires point-blank at his pursuer, or slashes at him with his long knife, and next instant either escapes unscathed, or goes down like a blade of corn. These were separate single combats, but here and there were little miniature battles, where clumps of the enemy had got together, and where clumps of The Guides were attacking them. These seemed always tough knots, and we could see many a horse and man go down before the knot was cut.
Then came the 10th Hussars, charging in more regular fashion, and doing bravely their share of the pursuit. Next, with a rattle and clatter and bang, up came the Horse Artillery, and began planting shells amongst the larger and more distant groups, and these too now began to melt away ; and soon the whole plain behind the ridge was covered with flying figures.
Flying much too fast for us on foot to catch them, but the sun still glittered on the blades of the
Cavalry as they hunted on, till at last man and horse could do no more. The sword arm was weary, and could no longer rise to strike ; and the horse, ready to drop with fatigue, could barely be urged out of a walk. The Cavalry had shot its bolt, and four hundred of the enemy, killed with the sword, lay along that stricken line of flight.
And so ended our first battle, a day full of adventure, with some honour and not a little glory; more exciting than any of our schoolboy games. Even the long, weary march back to camp failed to freeze the tingle down, and it was only late at night when, dog-tired, stumbling into the tent and lighting the lantern, we noticed one little camp bed empty, never to be filled again.
Such is the experience of an Infantry subaltern in his first battle … .