By Tony Buttler

WPT029 Warpaint Books - Hawker Sea Hawk

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After the defeat of Austria in 1805 and Prussia in 1806, French cavalry acquired a number of good horses, and was also strengthened by the excellent riders of the Confederation of the Rhine (German states) and the Duchy of Warsaw (Poland). Light lancer regiments were formed of these Polish troops, modelled on the Austrian uhlans. At Eckmül (1809), in the largest cavalry battle of the Napoleonic Wars, the French cuirassiers, in fierce and persistent combat, routed the Austrian cuirassiers and dragoons, and at Wagram, the same year, the charge of guard cavalry and cuirassiers facilitated the infantry's penetration of the centre.

Their horses were about 140 cm/55 in tall, short-legged, strong and hardy. They survived the climate - freezing winters and hot summers of the steppes, and could subsist for days on end with very little food. The equipment used by ordinary warriors was simple: they had woodframed saddles or leather pillows, and did not use stirrups or spurs. They controlled their horses with leather reins or whips and their main weapon was the composite bow, which they were adept at using. The manufacture of these bows was complex, consisting of binding several layers of wood with adhesive; this gave them great strength and flexibility.

There were also several types of helmets, and it was probably the auxiliary units that popularized various types of helmets, with names such as Gallic or Sassanian, in the Roman army. The man in the drawing has a helmet drawn from the depiction on the tomb (stela) of the trooper Dolanus. Units not armed and equipped at the expense of the Roman state kept their own equipment and armaments. Mounted troops carried either a short Roman sword (gladius), or a longer Celtic one (spatha), hung on the right side.

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