EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Wayne, your description of the myth about Polish lancers in WWII was much better described than mine!
The idea of the pennon serving as a deterrent for over penetration sounds plausible, but it is notable that the German uhlan units typically removed them from their lances.
Certainly there would seem to be a certain plausibility for unit recognition, however there were not that many lancer regiments so as to be confused in action. At Balaclava (1854), there was only one, in front as in battle order, the 17th Lancers.
Actually lancer units usually had more of a 'national' pennon color combination. The British used red and white (taken from the Napoleonic Polish lancers that inspired them); while others had different colors (Germany black & white). Lance pennons were not regimentally specific, while guidons were.
There were lances with the cross bars in the Spanish cavalry, 18th c.
The lance became the primary weapon used by horsemen in colonial New Spain in the frontiers of northern Mexico and the Spanish southwest. The reason for this was often described as because of the unreliability of the firearms and lack of powder. The Spaniards were adept in the use of the lance (with American Indians quickly adopting same).
The cross bar on boar spears and such hunting weapons was to prevent the animal from 'riding up' the shaft to its attacker in wounded fury, not to restrict penetration.
However over penetration is a notable problem with the lance as the lancer becomes instantly disarmed. This is why lances have the lanyard straps at center, as the lance is used at that stance in jabbing thrusts, rather than full tilt full penetration . At San Pascual in the Mexican American war, the Californio lancers destroyed an American dragoon column with lances, but the dragoons were essentially unarmed. Their paper cartridges had been dampened by rain, it was dark night, unfamiliar terrain, the mounts were spent, and they could not effectively place the caps in their guns in the dark.
Most received many shallow wounds, with many fatal, but gruesomely lingering deaths.
As has been noted, for these reasons, lancers were much despised, and never received quarter as in many cavalry cases others were.