The following are first hand quotes and diary extracts of the cavalry in 1914. They are taken from Paul Allens book 'Neath a foreign sky.'
Extract: Cavalry dismounted
The Royal Horse Guards had been had been the first regiment of the Household Cavalry to drawn blood, when, on the 26th of October, the regiments three squadrons [a Squadron of cavalry had consisted of six officers and a hundred and fifty four other ranks] had charged up onto Vandvoorde Ridge to draw the enemy's fire away from the 20th Brigade of Seventh Division who were attempting to extricate themselves from a 'perilous situation'. One of the squadrons had subsequently dismounted on the ridge, and as a volley of rifle fire had burst from them the other two had had galloped on to the east thereby extending the British line and menacing the German's flank. The Royal Horse Guards had achieved their objective as the enemy had turned all their attention on the cavalrymen thus allowing the infantry to get out of a tricky situation. The 'Blues' had eventually been able to get away under the cover of darkness.
Alas soon after this episode the unthinkable had happened, not only had the Cavalry had their treasured horses taken away, they had also begun to dig trenches and act the part of infantry, of this deplorable state of affairs an Officer had wrote in his diary;
'I have half my troop, twelve men in all, with me in a shallow trench... the rest of the squadron is spread out a hundred yards each side of us... in ten day's I have washed twice and had my boots off once. Horses? I've almost forgotten what a horse looks like!'
...A number of cavalry subalterns when ordered to get their men digging had said reasonably enough: 'Yes, sir. But what are they going to dig with?, only to be blasted by majors and colonels who had told them not to ask such damn fool questions. 'If needs be with their hands!'
Extract: Like the charge of the Light Brigade
Faced with machine guns and artillery, the assault, made by 8TH Cavalry Brigade [Essex Yeomanry, 10TH [Prince of Wales's Own Royal] Hussars, and 8TH Cavalry Brigade Machine Gun Squadron], had been a disaster reminiscent of the charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava sixty-three years before;
'During a lull in the snowstorm [an observer would later report] an excited shout was raised that our cavalry were coming up! Sure enough away behind us, moving quickly in extended order down the slope of Orange Hill, was line upon line of mounted men covering the whole of the hillside as far as we could see...
It may have been a fine sight, but it was a wicked waste of men and horses, for the enemy immediately opened on them a hurricane of every kind of missile. If the cavalry advanced through us at the canter or trot, they came back at a gallop, including dismounted men and riderless horses....
I saw with the whole of its muzzle blown away
They left numbers of dead and wounded amongst us, but the horses seem to have suffered the most, and for a while after we put bullets into poor brutes that were aimlessly limping about on three legs, or careering madly in their agony like one I saw with the whole of its muzzle blown away'...
[Although Monchy had been captured that day it had been won at a fearful cost. The exact number of horses lost by 8TH Brigade is not known, however, soon after the attack over eight hundred horses had been requested as remounts. Although badly wounded in both legs, Lance Corporal Harold Sandford Mugford of 8TH Brigade Machine Gun Squadron had nonetheless kept his weapon in action during the assault on Monchy-le –Preux and had subsequently been awarded with the Victoria Cross].