The Broken Square

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by jonwilly, Oct 7, 2009.

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  1. How many times in history did a cavalry charge, brake an Infantry Square ?
    Was a British Square ever broken ?
  2. Don't know the answer to that but you reminded me that in 'Old Soldier Sahib' by Frank Richards, he talks of the practice of starting fights with other regiments by dropping an insult.

    With one regiment which he doesn't name whose square was allegedly broken, the best way to insult them and get the fists and belts flying was to loudly order in the canteen, "A pint of Broken Square'
  3. Fang_Farrier

    Fang_Farrier LE Reviewer Book Reviewer

    Trying to remember which regiment and battle but I think British square was broken in Spain in Pensinular war.
  4. Yes, and I think it was the Black Watch.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. Actually I thought the British square was never broken until the "Fuzzy Wuzzies".

    "... until Abu Klea, a fully-formed British square had never been broken by assault."

    'E's the on'y thing that doesn't give a damn
    For a Regiment o' British Infantree!
    ...............So 'ere's to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your 'ome in the Soudan;
    ...............You're a pore benighted 'eathen but a first-class fightin' man;
    ...............An' 'ere's to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, with your 'ayrick 'ead of 'air -
    ...............You big black boundin' beggar - for you broke a British square!
    • Like Like x 2
  6. Kipling's poem refures to two battles where the square broke in the Mahdist war Tamai and Abu Klea, the other probable one was Maiwand in Afghanistan
  7. Noticed that as well, rather thought the Black Watch were overun at Quatre Bras.
  8. I thought it was the 69th Lincs regt
  9. KGL Cavalry broke IIRC two French squares in Spain in one charge.
  10. Read 'Redcoat' by Richard Holmes. He talks about a couple of examples.
  11. Some where in the distant past I read that there where only 3 occasions when Cavalry had broken a Properly Formed Square.
    The KGL business in the Peninsular is well known.
    I am sure a Austrian Regt charged and broke a French battalion.
    And I am sure that Brit Hussars broke a French formation in the closing stages of Waterloo, if they where formed up I do not know.
    The Old tale of 'Square Broke' in Brit Army being guaranteed way to provoke certain units to fight is very old tale, but as to which Regt I have no idea..
  12. Jac Weller also says that the 69th were broken at Quatre Bras, after an order by the Prince of Orange, to change formation from square to line.

    Richard Holmes says in 'Tommy' that asking a Highlander for 'half a pint of broken square' was a guarantee of a scrap, but doesn't know why, and doesn't name a specific regiment.
    • Informative Informative x 1
  13. A few years back now my step father was getting bike lessons of an ex black watch bloke. He new I was joining up and I had a chat with him a few times.

    I certainly remember him telling me about various things, including wearing spats which were cut flat across the front. I remember him saying it was to remind them not to break the line from a battle years and years ago.

    Not having a dig at the BW, just recounting what I was told from this bloke who claimed to be an ex RSM.
  14. Pimpernel, I believe you may be correct in that one.
  15. Holmes is almost certainly quoting Frank Richards who wrote, in the early twenties; of life in the Royal Welch Fusiliers in 1900;
    I've just dug my copy out and it gives;

    As the event in question allegedly took place only a short time before, it might have been a true reflection of what happened or it might be a mythical regimental slur (like the 'raping of nuns' being the reason for a regiment's black facings) - I've no idea.

    Sir Henry Newbolt also mentions a broken square in vitai lampada

    The sand of the desert is sodden red, --
    Red with the wreck of a square that broke; --
    The Gatling's jammed and the colonel dead,
    And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.

    Although that was probably written with a great deal of poetic licence!!