By Rob Morgan
The Imperial Russian army’s morale was at rock bottom following the debacle of the 1904-1905 war with Japan – a war in which General Aleksei Kuropatkin, commander of the Tsar’s army in Manchuria, proved himself a candidate for the list of history’s worst military leaders. He was relieved of his command in 1905, having lost every single battle he fought, including Mukden and the Yalu.
One of the Tsar’s ideas was to mount the Guard cavalry regiments on similarly coloured horses: the Lancers were mounted on chestnuts, Hussars on greys, Dragoons on bays, and Horse Grenadiers on black horses. Gendarmes were mounted on ‘white’, i.e. grey, horses, and the Cossacks on bays. An attractive, if short lived, decision ( especially in wargame terms where it makes painting a bit easier! ) The Scots Greys lasted rather longer – I believe they gave up their splendid mounts as late as 1938?
Incidentally, the Tsar took the colouring decision a bit further. Conscripts for the Guard infantry were selected for their physical characteristics; the Pavlovski Regiment had to have fair hair, as did the Preobrazhenski!