History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

The word cavalry is derived from the French word cavalerie which means horse. Historically the term cavalry has been used to represent troops mounted on horseback. After the invention of battle tanks and the decline of usage of horses in army the term started representing tanks regiments. Which army first stated to call its tanks regiments as Cavalry? And when did this happen? Why are tank regiments called cavalry but not other mechanized regiments (e.g. mechanized infantry or artillery)?

share|improve this question
Question needs improvement. Its assumption that tank regiments are called cavalry is to a significant extent wrong in relation to UK's 1 & 2 Royal Tank Regiments which lack "cavalry tradition." Australia makes a similar distinction army.gov.au/Who-we-are/Corps/… with "cavalry" being used for armoured scouting units, and "armour" used to describe tanks, and "light horse" describing motorised and mechanised infantry. "Its complicated." – Samuel Russell Apr 23 '14 at 22:50
up vote 12 down vote accepted

Several reasons. First and foremost, they perform the same role on the battlefield, providing a fast moving spearhead.
Second, and related, many of the units were cavalry units before getting tanks, they just exchanged their horses for tanks.
Artillery exchanged guns pulled by horses (and trucks) with self propelled guns (at least part of them, most armies still have pulled guns).
Same with infantry, where horse drawn carts and trucks were replaced in part with armoured fighting vehicles.
And those latter two are in part to "blame" on the tank. Their deployment was needed for those units to keep up with the tanks.

share|improve this answer
Don't forget the air cavalry, which also fill the role of mounted infantry. – Comintern Apr 23 '14 at 13:01
@Comintern depends on the unit. Traditionally they're the armed helicopters, the gunships. Of course some of those could and can carry troops (thing the Mi-24 and armed UH-1 and UH-60 variants). – jwenting Apr 23 '14 at 13:03
Also, many Armoured Cavalry units today are Recon units. This and the first reason listed above combined leave us with the primary roles of horse mounted Cavalry. – Kobunite Apr 23 '14 at 22:48
Simplistic and lacking in sources. – Samuel Russell Apr 23 '14 at 22:50
@SamuelRussell but if it is simple… – o0'. Dec 5 '14 at 10:39

It was noticed in pre WW2 Germany that the Germans were in fact building stocks of Tanks in their Cavalry HQ in Zossen, south of Berlin. This was also the German HQ during WW2. It is rumoured that a Civil Servant at the time stated that if the Germans could use Cavalry for their Tank crews then the British should to.

share|improve this answer
Any source for this rumour? – Semaphore Jul 21 '15 at 6:47
Noticed by whom? Where is this reported? This is a set of assertions, and it is not possible to use historical methods to understand how these assertions relate to other information. – Mark C. Wallace Jul 21 '15 at 12:21

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.