JF Ptak Science Books Post 1392
The caption stamped on the back of the news photo service agency photograph (from the Western Newspaper Union) said that the bitter cold encountered by these Canadian soldiers on the Western Front in the winter of 1916 "was one of many difficulties encountered by the soldiers". "Great hardships have been caused by the frigid weather in this region" continues the caption. Indeed. Even for Canadians this was a cold winter, though not so cold that the Canadian trooper in the foreground stopped to put on his gloves to remove the ice from the water trough. These soldiers may have been cavalry, as there is a horse-like medallion on the front of their lids. (This photo is available for purchase from our blog bookstore, here.)
Evidently the role of the cavalry in the BEF along the Western Front is an under-appreciated thing, or misunderstood, at least. I'm not sure how they influenced the outcome of this stagnant section of the war, where the line of battle remained essentially unchanged throughout the duration of the war. Millions of troops were deeply entrenched over hundreds of miles of battlefront, wailing away at one another with massive artillery barrages, countless machine gun nests, and then eventually tanks, planes and poison gas. Back in February 1916 there weather was so tough and frigid that the battle of Verdun was postponed a bit, waiting for less intense weather conditions. Dozens of millions of artillery shells and billions of bullets later, in 1918, there was little change in the positions of the armies, except of course for the millions of casualties.