Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

The British Cavalry 1920-1940

Evans, Gary (2011) The British Cavalry 1920-1940. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94332) (KAR id:94332)

PDF (Optical Character Recognition (OCR) of this thesis enables read aloud functionality of the text.)
Language: English

Download this file
[thumbnail of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) of this thesis enables read aloud functionality of the text.]
Official URL:


This thesis examines the British cavalry 1920-40. It investigates the issues facing the cavalry and General Staff during the period. To do this it takes several methodological approaches. Firstly, using War Office files and other primary sources it looks at the political, economic and doctrinal issues affecting the army and how these impacted upon the cavalry. The time frames for analysing these factors arc built around the creation of the DRC in 1934. This year saw a watershed when the likelihood of the cavalry being mechanised moved from being a possibility to a certainty. It shows that there were cavalrymen who supported modernisation but the General Staff were hampered in their efforts by politicians and, to a lesser extent, tank advocates themselves. An analysis of the Yeomanry cavalry is also undertaken which reveals that the General Staff at the beginning of this period tried to undertake a radical restructuring of its Territorial Force. The selfish outlook of amateur military men of social influence along with the political dalliances of Churchill forced the General Staff to virtually abandon its plans. This was to have repercussions upon mobilisation and beyond. The thesis utilises the large oral testimony held at the IWM, to investigate the cultural nature of the cavalry of this period. This reveals a service arm frequently lacking in professionalism; a source of enmity between services branches, in particular, the RTC, who mistook lack of focus for a resistance to change. Yet, longer-serving officers were committed to modernisation and it was the ‘bright young things’ of the 20s and 30s who were especially enamoured with the cult of the horse. Then, using 23, Cavalry Journal along with other primary records, an analysis is made of how the British cavalry saw itself in comparison to other nations’ mounted units. It shows how the cavalry and the General Staff believed that they were in advance of other nations in their perceptions on cavalry. However, by the late 1930s, this confidence was misplaced as the Germans, the French with their DLMs and the US cavalry began to overtake the British. The conclusions drawn show that the cavalry did not retard the mechanisation of the British army but it did not advance it either. The failings of mechanisation lay in factors often beyond the control of the army and for the cavalry’s part when it asked to mechanise it did so with far more zeal than it is given credit for.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Connelly, Mark L.
Thesis advisor: Bowman, Timothy
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94332
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: General Staff, mechanised, mechanisation
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2022 09:26 UTC
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2022 11:08 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.