Sunday, 18 August 2019

Peterloo 3

Not many people have yet read yesterday's post, but the complaints have already started coming in. It has been pointed out that I didn't find space among my sub-Marxist class war diatribe to tell anyone what the speaker (Dr John Rumsby - didn't find room for that either) actually said about the actions of the 15th Hussars on August 16th 1819.

The 15th were an experienced regiment, many of whom had served in the Peninsula - most notably at Sahagún - and obviously at Waterloo as well. It was a time of significant unrest in Britain and troopers and officers had served in support of the civil power on many previous occasions, especially against protesting agricultural workers in East Anglia. They didn't relish the role, but had regularly dispersed crowds (although obviously none as large) without causing any injuries. Their tactics were controlled use of their horses (rather like a modern mounted police officer) together with striking the 'mobbists' with the flat side of their sabres. The reason for the Hussars to move into the crowd were, in his opinion, both to rescue the Manchester Yeomanry and to stop them inflicting further casualties.

Dr Rumsby - whose main issue with the recent film seemed to be the wearing of busbies - had with him a British light cavalry sabre of the period, and the width of the blade showed how effective using it as a surrogate truncheon might be. He very kindly allowed me to handle it and it was only the fact that we were in a library - and his rapid intervention - which prevented me from giving it the full swing that I was tempted to. However, it was very interesting to experience how it felt in one's hand. It only weighs about a kilogramme, but the length is such that it's easy to understand the momentum that could be developed cutting down from above one's left shoulder against someone on foot to the right side of the horse. Dr Rumsby quoted a French cavalryman as saying that the British might miss with nineteen out of twenty sabre slashes, but the twentieth would cut your arm off.


  1. Bozzer with a bit of spare time on his hands before he met Die Kanzlerin and sniffed out your reference to the Bullingdon? Or was it those Petty Bourgeois-Bakuninite-Syndicalist-Counter-Revolutonaries again?

    1. Hmm, not sure you can lump Bakunin and syndicalists together like that, but always very happy to debate that sort of thing.

    2. I didn't say they weren't confused did I? :D

      To be honest I was thinking of him as a proto-Anarcho-Syndicalist. I might be hazy on the details. My days of being able to discuss such things with any competence are behind me.