View Full Version : Cav terminology

19-04-2009, 07:33
With the advent of some really cool air cav units, I wanted to check with the resident historians and army members here on Warseer about some terms. It is my understanding that cav units are a mix of armor, AFVs, and air assault. What is the usual make-up of say a company, battalion, etc? What's the difference between hussars, light horse, dragoons, etc? Are all those just historic names for the units, or do they have something to do with the makeup of those units?

19-04-2009, 10:30
Dragoons, historically, were mounted infantry rather than cavalry - they got off the horses before entering combat. Hussar was originally a specific type of Hungarian light cavalry, but everyone else copied the idea.

Given that nobody rides horses into battle these days, and 'infantry' units are also equipped with vehicles, the terms are pretty much meaningless now.

19-04-2009, 10:46
Well the current cav terms are still used to this day. Only the horse is either for purely ceremonial or replaced with a armoured transport in war. For example: the Regiment Huzaren Prins van Oranje is a hussar regiment operating in Leopard 2 battle tanks, while the Regiment Huzaren van Boreel is a hussar unit operating as a scout force.

Same goes for dragoons mostly. The First US air cav regiment was a draconian regiment IIRC. In 40k many mech regiments composed out of infantry and chimera's are called dragoons. For example the Jouran Dragoons regiment who served with distinction in the 13th black crusade.

19-04-2009, 10:57
I'll take it you are more interested in the more modern times, so I will skip the ancient, medieval, renessaince and early modern times, and start with the cavalry in the times of the Napoleonic wars (early 19th century). Bach then cavalry was spread into two main types: heavy cavalry, whose task was to make concentrated charges against enemy positions with cold steel, and light cavalry whose purpose was to scout, screen, skirmish and pursue fleeing enemy.

Cavalry units could have various fancy terms, such as lancers, cuirassiers, chasseurs, dragoons or hussars. Lancers were heavy cavalry armed with lances, while cuirassiers were heavy cavalry with breastplate (cuirass) and likely a helmet and sabre. Dragoons were originally (17th century) mounted infantry, typically musketeers with nags that would travel mounted but dismount to fight - however later these units tended to turn into proper cavalry units. Hussars were originally Hungarian light cavalry (though in Poland the term came to mean heavy cavalry), and in the 18th century it came fashionable in western Europe to establish hussar regiments dressed in a Hungarian fashion (hat, jacket and moustache).

During the 19th century, the roles of the light and heavy cavalry eventually came to merge, but individual regiments could well stick to their traditional names (a trend that continued in UK even after the mechanisation of cavalry). In WWI cavalry was found out to have serious troubles doing traditional charges against infantry, and in many areas cavalrymen had to adapt to finding dismounted with infantry weapons. However, horse cavalry stayed in use until after WWII - though the rider was forced to dismount to fight, the horses still gave the units operational mobility. There were large numbers of horse cavalry in use in WWII, especially by the Soviet Red Army.

However, after WWI we start seeing partial mechanisation of cavalry units in US and UK armies, though both armies still had limited numbers of horse cavalry in use at the end of 1941 (soon after which they were mechanised). But the mechanised units tended to maintain their traditional names (so you might see UK hussar regiments driving around in tanks), and the units would use cavalry terminology - troops and squadrons instead of companies and battalions.

(Will be continued a bit later.)

(Edit: looks like I got flanked by ninja cavalry.)

19-04-2009, 11:21
By 1943, US cavalry was fully mechanised with jeeps, armoured cars and a limited number of light tanks for support. Their main roles were still reconnaissance and patrolling, traditional cavalry activities. Typically a squadron was attached to every corps or armoured division. Some handy information on their structure can be obtained from here:


By Vietnam war era, there were two types of cavalry units: armoured cavalry and freshly invented air cavalry, with cavalry squadrons consisting of a mixture of both types of troops. Armoured cavalry was heavier equipped than their WWII era predecessors, now operating a mixture of M113 APCs and M48 battle tanks. The structure of an armoured cavalry troop can be found here:


Air cavalry utilised helicopters, a troop having a mixture of scout and combat helicopters, plus an airmobile infantry platoon with transport. More information can be found here:


More modern US armoured cavalry is even more heavily equipped, operating a mixture of M1 Abrams battle tanks and M3 Bradley IFVs, plus AFAIK also some lighter reconnaissance vehicles.

19-04-2009, 18:48
That's a lot of great info there guys. Thanks a lot. Right now I'm planning two IG armies. One of them will be using either Cadian or Tallarn miniatures (but with fluff for whatever desert plantet I make up). It is going to be a mix of air cav, armor (including self propelled artilley), AFVs (including RR scouts), and some static artillery.

My next question is what do I call them? Do I call the mech infantry XX Dragoons while calling the air cav the XX Hussars or XX Light Horse? Do I just call the entire army Dragoons, Hussars, or Light Horse? I really want to do a homebrew regiment, but I want to be accurate in my terminology.

19-04-2009, 19:27
Well, considering that the current units called hussars or dragoons have little to do with the original meanings of the terms, imagine how things would be 38000+ years to the future... probably you should just pick the coolest sounding term that you can think about.

Of course a lot would depend on whether your forces are all part of a single organic unit (in which case they should probably all share the same name), or if they have been patched up as a composite unit from elements of multiple regiments (in which case the different units could be called by different names). Alternatively, stick them with a name that describes the biggest component (so if the majority is mech infantry, call them dragoons, if light vehicles, hussars, if heavy armour, cuirassiers).

Thematically, in a cavalry type army, I would consider going light on artillery (Griffons would probably be the best pick), but consider adding some scout sentinels (which as reconnaissance vehicles should fit fine the traditional cavalry concepts).

19-04-2009, 22:19
Take a unit of roughtriders too. Assigned to the army due to an administrative error.

19-04-2009, 23:14
My regiment, the 9th Lutzow Lancers, have always been specc'd as heavy cavalry. Heavy armour, very little artillery, mainly mechanised infantry (until high points levels, where I run out of chimeras, and have to go to mechanised platoons within a larger army...) and a full platoon of rough riders, complete with command squad. They're the ceremonial unit.

The British army has most of their cavalry units as Recon units, in light armour, so different armies have ways of interpreting their traditions.

19-04-2009, 23:51
It is my understanding that cav units are a mix of armor, AFVs, and air assault.

That depends on the army and the size of the unit. In the United States Army the 3d Cavalry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3d_Armored_Cavalry_Regiment_(United_States)) (one of the few cavalry regiments left and of which I was a member for two years) has three squadrons of M1A2 tanks and M3 Bradleys (as well as some supporting units like M113 mortar systems within each troop and a howitzer battery within each squadron) a support squadron and an air squadron that is equipped with OH-58 Kiowas and AH-64 Apaches.

Currently I'm in a National Guard light cavalry squadron which is equipped with Humvees and dismounted scouts.

What is the usual make-up of say a company, battalion, etc?

In the US military the cavalry has different terminology. A troop is equivalent to a company, a squadron is equivalent to a battalion and a regiment is equivalent to a brigade.

As for the makeup it depends. A cavalry troop in the 3d Cavalry would have two platoons of 4 tanks and two platoons of six Bradleys. I think that's how it was anyway, it's been a while. Here's a graphic of the whole regiment's organization. Note that D, H and M companies are tank companies and don't have any Bradleys in them.


My current light cavalry squadron in an IBCT is organized as described here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSTA).

20-04-2009, 20:06
You guys are ******* awesome. Thanks for all the info.