The Use of the Cavalry Lance (‘Pike’) and the Red Army (1924) 

Translator’s Note: The Soviet Red Army Cavalry ‘officially’ used ‘pikes’ (or ‘lances’) from 1918-1941. This means that for a large part of its early history, the Red Army Cavalry was outfitted with 10-foot ‘pikes’ and trained how to use them when recruited. In this instance, the Russian term ‘пика’ (pika) translates as ‘pike in English, or perhaps by the French word ‘pique’ (as in to ‘pierce’ or ‘penetrate’), but refers to a six-foot lance. (In England, ‘pikes’ are often viewed as being hefty 10-15-foot long, wooden shafted, metal-pointed weapons, used extensively by massed-infantry throughout the English Civil Wars of the 1640s). Just like the traditional English cavalry, the Soviet Red Army Cavalry used lances in mass cavalry charges designed to ‘break-up’ enemy formations of massed infantry, but as the modern-era was the epoch within which the Soviet Red Army Cavalry was developed and used, massed infantry formations positioned in the open with no structured defences, was very much a thing of the past. With modern machine-guns, mortars and devastating and highly-accurate artillery fire, men on horses massing for an attack in the open served as a simple target that could be easily destroyed in the ten or fifteen minutes required for such horses to traverse the open-ground between themselves and the intended enemy! Considering this, it is remarkable that cavalry survived into the 20th century in any form! However, within the USSR, the Red Army Cavalry served as a Mounted Light Infantry that could move quickly from one place to another, dismount, open-fire, and leave quickly to avoid retaliatory enemy action! This certainly was the case during the Russian Civil War (1918-1921) – where even so – the occasional massed cavalry attack would still occur with men charging on horse-back carrying pikes! Between 1921-1941, there was relative ‘peace’ within the Soviet Union. In 1941, the Soviet Red Army Cavalry modified its tactics to hide in the day, (usually in forests, caves and remote areas), and carried-out hit and run attacks against Nazi German targets at night, using fire-arms to good effect. The Red Army Cavalry was finally transitioned into Tank Regiments in 1955 – with small contingents retained for traditional cavalry duties. The article translated below is dated to late 1924. This was the year that Lenin passed away and the Cavalry Commander here (Gayem Dmitrievich Guy – Гаем Дмитриевичем Гай), seems not to understand the ‘democratisation’ process of the cavalry – which rejects the elitism of the feudal past and allows ‘new’ recruits from any social background into an institution that used to routinely discriminate – and when it did recruit from peasant backgrounds, the recruits were often brutalised to make them conform to the expected aristocratic standards. The recruits of the Soviet Red Army Cavalry were treated with respect, were taught to read and write, and to study Marxist-Leninism. This extended to ‘horses’ which included animals from any background – breaking the link between the elite stables owned by upper-classes and the horses that protected the people on the battlefield. The ‘new’ Red Army Cavalry must be ‘changed’ to represent the ‘Socialist’ form of society and, a process which requires different and innovative methods to achieve military success on the battlefield. Of course, ‘pikes’ were plentiful in the USSR even though they were obsolete. They were used by the Communist Party as a means to an end. Masses of men (and some women), were recruited into the Red Army Cavalry – and trained how to ride and fight using the out-of-date ‘pike’. As the Commander quite rightly points out, many cavalrymen immediately discarded the pike when arriving on the battlefield, and took to using whatever fire-arms were available, with this happening as early as 1918! Even after 1941, when ‘carbines’ were ‘officially’ issued to the Red Army Cavalry – there were still incidences of cavalry charges using ‘pikes’ against Nazi German infantry and tanks, etc! The available Russian-language literature states that only the front-ranks of the cavalry were issued with ‘pikes’ (or ‘lances’) – with strikes from pikes usually aimed at the groin-area (when delivered to the front of the body) or to the lumbar region (when aimed at the back). Often, in the heat of combat, pike-blows were also delivered above the belt into the torso and throat-area. It was often impossible to dodge such blows (or it would take a great martial skill to do so) – with the wounds caused often proving fatal! I suspect that the context of the document below, is that until 1924, Red Army Cavalry used pikes (lances) in the front-ranks with perhaps swordsmen forming the ranks behind – but from late-1924 onwards – the use of swords was discontinued and ‘pikes’ were issued to ALL Red Army Cavalrymen. Of course, this is an area that requires further research and clarification. ACW (11.5.2022) 

December 13, 1924. 
No. 42/sec.op. 


According to the Protocol of the Plenum of the RVS SSR No. 2 / s.s. 5, the pike (or ‘lance’) remains in service with the Red Army Cavalry, practical conclusions have to be drawn from this, both in terms of the difficulty in learning how to effectively use the pike in battle, and in terms of a number of practical consequences of leaving it in service. 

With regard to the formulation of training, the prerequisites are well known: 

1) The arriving replenishment (that is the ‘new’ intake) is physically raw, often (as noted in particular in parts of the Corps entrusted to me) in relation to the autumn replenishment – are generally unsuitable for service in the cavalry to a high degree. This means far more time must be spent on training than would usually be allowed, to achieve even the minimum standard expected by a cavalryman.  

2) The problem of ‘unsuitable recruits’ is coupled with the supplying of equally ‘unsuitable horses’ – whereby the composition of which around only 10% corresponds to the concept of a proper ‘drill horse’. In general, the combination of today’s ‘unusual’ cavalry soldier with this type of horse is very far, unfortunately, from the image that is desirable or associated with a ‘traditional’ cavalryman. Meanwhile, a ‘pike’ (or ‘lance’) is good only in the hands of an excellent rider, sitting on an excellent and well-trodden horse! History sufficiently proves (through a number of examples) that in the absence of these two vital attributes – the pike is only a burden that rushes into battle without finding any effective use for itself!  

From the point of view of these considerations, more or less common to all of our ‘Red Army’ Cavalry, the introduction of a pike is a purely formal requirement, as we simply lack the well-trained and experienced horses and men who know how to effectively use these weapons in combat! Horse and man must instinctively ‘work together’ so that the weapon can be used (and re-used) properly, and at speed! it is true that there exist expert Polish and Romanian cavalry in the Red Army who can use the pike properly, but these men (and their horses) are not part of our part of the Red Army cavalry! Those who advocate the use of the pike ‘imagine’ that the unsuitable raw recruits we receive can be moulded into this kind of ‘expert’ – but this is an impossible assumption! Of course, given a greater length of time for training, and better material conditions, the use of the pike could be improved, but as we possess none of these attributes, and are not likely to possess any of these attributes, the relatively ‘short’ time-span allotted to ‘training’ these unsuitable men and horses means that the use of the pike will be severely limited.   

It is appropriate to recall, in addition, that the Red Army Cavalry during the Civil War (1918-1921) although possessing pikes – voluntarily gave them up in favour of the use of arms more suited to the theatre of battle – often acting against enemy cavalry that possessed (and often used) pikes in conditions especially favourable for such operations. Nevertheless, the absence of the pike from the Red Army Cavalry on the frontline was never felt, and the few units that arrived to replenish our losses still using the pike (for example, from the Reserve Army) abandoned them very quickly.  

Since the conditions for the actions of the Red Army Cavalry, which were experienced on the domestic and Polish fronts are unlikely to be repeated in the same form in the future, one must think that the absence of pikes will be even less noticeable than at that time.  

Of particular concern is the question of the assumed (or intended) operational consequences of the official introduction of the pike (or ‘lance’) into the Red Army Cavalry. The nature of modern warfare requires from the cavalry, in the final analysis, not so much mass close cavalry charges, but rather the ability to make large and fast marches through all types of terrain, as a necessary condition for its operational work.  

Every ounce of excess weight to be carried by the Red Army Cavalryman (and horse) must be carefully accounted for here. The modern cavalryman needs a shovel, a gas mask, a steel helmet, and more ammunition than before. The weight of all this is added to by the load of personal packs, which are already heavy and self-limiting.  

Now – the load of a ‘pike’ is to be added – yet another five pounds weight. Insignificant at first glance, but over time (and distance), this added encumbrance will have a debilitating effect on both horse and rider – a negative effect which will be enhanced due to the lack of quality of the new horse-stock.   

Since the introduction of pike is now an accomplished fact, I consider it my duty to bring the above issues to your attention for serious consideration. Of course, these are only my personal opinions expressing my views on the advisability of maintaining the pike as the ‘official’ weapon of the Red Army Cavalry. My experience involved in the cavalry over many years has left me no choice but utilise my status to achieve this objective.   

Corps Commander Guy 

Russian Language Article; 

Кавалерийская пика и Красная Армия 

Венгерские и польские конники вплоть до начала Второй Мировой войны имели на вооружении такое, казалось бы, архаичное оружие, как пика. Кавалерийские части русской армии в Первую Мировую войну также применяли пики, однако с началом Гражданской Войны, несмотря на то, что как минимум 40000 пик все ещё числилось в составе вооружения армии, о их боевом применении слышать не приходилось. 

Почему же пика вышла из употребления? Ответ на этот вопрос мы найдем в рапорте командованию, составленном 13 декабря 1924 года командиром 3-го кавалерийского корпуса Гаем Дмитриевичем Гай. 

«13» декабря 1924 года. 
№ 42/сек.оп. 


Согласно протокола Пленума РВС ССР № 2/с.с. п. 5, пика сохраняется на вооружении конницы, из этого приходится делать практические выводы, как в смысле обучения владению пикой, так и в смысле ряда практический последствий оставления ее на вооружения. 

В отношении постановки обучения предпосылки общеизвестны: 

1) Прибывающее пополнение физически сырое, зачастую, как это отмечается в частности и в частях Вверенного мне корпуса, в отношении осеннего пополнения и довольно значительной % норме — вообще негодное для службы в коннице. 

2) Конский состав лишь на 10% соответствует понятию о строевой лошади. В общем и целом, сочетание сегодняшнего бойца-кавалериста с его конем весьма далеко, к сожалению, от того образа, который желателен. Между тем, пика хороша лишь в руках отличного наездника, сидящего на отличной же и отлично выезженной лошади, история достаточно доказывает на ряде примеров, что при отсутствии этих данных пика является лишь обузой и бросается в бою, не находя себе применения. 

С точки зрения этих соображений, в большей или меньшей мере общих для всей нашей конницы, введение пики — момент чисто формальный, он является правда ответом на наличие пик у Польской и Румынской конницы, но не может дать и не даст нам тех пикинеров, которые рисуются воображению отдельных сторонников пики, не говоря уже о перечисленных органически неблагоприятных предпосылках, самый факт некоторой перегрузки программы препятствует возможности уделять технике владения пикой то внимание, которого она требует по существу, как таковая. 

Уместно вспомнить кроме того, что Красная конница провела гражданскую войну без пик, действуя против противника, имевшего их и в условиях особо благоприятных для действий в конном строю. Тем не менее отсутствие пики никогда не чувствовалось, а немногие части, прибывшие на пополнение с пиками, (например, из запасной Армии), весьма быстро бросали их. 

Поскольку те условия для действий конницы, которые создавались на гражданском и польском фронтах, вряд ли повторятся в таком же виде в будущем, нужно думать, что отсутствие пик будет еще менее заметно, чем в те времена. 

Особо стоит вопрос о некоторых частных последствиях введения пики. Характер современных войн требует от конницы в конечном счете не столько массовых сомкнутых конных атак, сколько способности к совершению больших и быстрых переходов, как необходимого условия ее оперативной работы. 

Каждый золотник лишней нагрузки всадника здесь на учете. Современному кавалеристу необходимы лопата, противогаз, стальной шлем и больший запас патронов чем прежде. Вес всего этого прибавляется к нагрузке нашего вьюка, и без того тяжелой и почти предельной. 

Теперь прибавляется еще пика — или новых пять фунтов. Ничтожная на первый взгляд, эта новая нагрузка скажется в свое время и в своем месте самым невыгодным образом, особенно учитывая качества нашего конского состава. 

Поскольку введение пики факт совершившийся, я считаю возможным довести изложенное соображение до Вашего сведения лишь как материал по данному вопросу, отражающий мое личное мнение о целесообразности сохранения пики, изложить же это мнение я считаю долгом службы, делающей меня по занимаемой должности причастным к вопросам этого порядка. 

Командир корпуса Гай 

Источник: компиляция по открытым источникам сети интернет 

Russian Language Articles:Пика

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