1877, Japan. Samurai rebellion. A charging unit of Japanese cavalry armed with pole weapons emerges from the fog. It attacks the opponent and massacres him ruthlessly. Is this the scene from "The Last Samurai" with Tom Cruise? No, because cavalrymen wear uniforms of the Imperial Guard, they hold lances in their hands, with which there are " chevau-léger” pennants in red and white color and strike according to the rules developed 66 years earlier by Count Vincent Krasinski ...
How is this possible?
Japan, during the so-called Meiji restaurants, accelerated Europeanisation of the country and emerging from almost three-century isolation also decided to modernise its army. Japan initially chose France. Only later, after the victory of Prussia in the war of 1870, did it "switch" to German standards and regulations. The Land of the Cherry Blossoms sent young people to France to study, and officers from France came to train the Japanese army.
The Imperial Guard was created, and it consisted of troops of scouts, uhlans-lancers, armed with easily accessible bamboo lances and classic, red-white, pennants popularised by Poles during the Napoleonic Wars. This color was the most popular color of pennants in the world (including the British light brigade during the charge near Balaklava, the most famous English charge in the 19th century).
The Japanese were trained according to the lance fight handbook, written in French for Emperor Napoleon in 1811 by Count. Vincent Krasinski. These regulations have become the basis for the whole of Europe and the world in the field of lance training. The said instruction was repeatedly copied and reworked (England 1820, Prussia 1825, Russia 1844), becoming the benchmark for fighting with polearm weapons all over the world.
After switching to German standards, the "Polish" lance training of Japanese soldiers was obviously continued (the Germans themselves had cavalry lances in 1934!). By the way, one can disprove another myth from the movie "The Last Samurai" - because American officers did not train the Japanese army. The reason was prosaic. In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was by no means considered a country with an outstanding army capable of giving any real combat against European empires. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Japanese have applied to countries that were world-famous in the field of military.
It is interesting that the army of the Japanese Empire, having such a great, more than a thousand years old traditions of horse fighting with spear weapons (yari spears) of their own chose European, hence Polish models of lance wielding. Apparently, effectiveness has been chosen over tradition.
The Japanese lords of the Imperial Guard underwent their baptism of war during the samurai rebellion in 1877, the so-called of the Satsuma rebellion, on the canvas of which the already mentioned film "The Last Samurai" was made. In a series of battles with lifelong practicing samurai, imperial uhlans were actually conscripted peasants; for the first time they only took lances in the army, achieved a number of successes (e.g. captain’s Asakawa charge). What's more, contrary to the picture from Hollywood, the rebellious samurai used firearms (among others, English Enfield rifles), so it cannot be said that the imperial uhlans only fought against warriors armed with just melee weapons.
Japanese uhlans waving red and white pennants also fought and won in subsequent wars (with China and Russia - the Manchurian War).
How much the "Polish" lance with pennants was imprinted in the Japanese tradition, testifies the armament of the Quing Dynasty Guard in Manchuria conquered by the Japanese. Established in 1933, the Guard, which protected the authorities of the puppet state of Manchukuo, consisted of guardsmen equipped in addition to the Uchigatana sabres with lances with bells (bunchuks) (!) and red-white pennants.
Although the Poles have never clashed directly in the fight against the celebrated samurai, is it not amazing that the weapon which was globally taken from the Poles after the influence of their staggering successes on the battlefields of the Napoleonic Era, several decades later would go to the hands of Japanese conscripts and there, waving the "Polish" colors face victoriously the warriors so glorified by the whole world pop culture?
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