Traditional weapons in shock tactics

It is often important to remember that however technology may have evolved, the people who use this technology have not. An example of this fact can be seen in the use of swords in modern warfare. I recently came across an article by Bou Jean which examines the introduction of sword usage into the Australian Mounted Division’s training programme in 1917-1918.

Although never considered as a replacement for modern firearms, the sword became an important element of shock tactics when charging Turkish machine gun positions: “the rapid rush of the horsemen and the sight of the steel had its usual unnerving effect.” (123) The intimidation of encountering mounted sword-wielding enemies has clearly not diminished.

The experience of the division throughout the operations from 19th September to 2nd October 1918 was that our force had its value practically doubled by the issue of the sword. They retained all their old value as mounted rifles, with exactly the same firepower, and added to this was the power of shock action—a power {whose lack} had been keenly felt on previous occasions since leaving the desert of SINAI. (123)

Bou, Jean. “Cavalry, Firepower, and Swords: The Australian Light Horse and the Tactical Lessons of Cavalry Operations in Palestine, 1916-1918.” The Journal of Military History 71.1 (2007): 99-125. Project MUSE. 9 Apr. 2010 .