A platoon is a military unit composed of two or more squads/sections/patrols. Platoon organization varies depending on the country and the branch, but per the official tables of organization as published in U. S. military documents. S. infantry rifle platoon consists of 43 Marines. There are other types of infantry platoons, depending upon service and type of infantry company/battalion to which the platoon is assigned, these platoons may range from as few as 18 to 69. Non-infantry platoons may range from as small as a nine-man communications platoon to a 102-man maintenance platoon. A platoon leader or commander is the officer in command of a platoon; this person is a junior officer—a second or first lieutenant or an equivalent rank. The officer is assisted by a platoon sergeant. A platoon is the smallest military unit led by a commissioned officer. Rifle platoons consist of a small platoon headquarters and three or four sections or squads. In some armies, platoon is used throughout the branches of the army.
In a few armies, such as the French Army, a platoon is a cavalry unit, the infantry use "section" as the equivalent unit. A unit consisting of several platoons is called a company/battery/troop. According to Merriam-Webster, "The term was first used in the 17th century to refer to a small body of musketeers who fired together in a volley alternately with another platoon." The word came from pelote meaning a small ball. The suffix "-on" can be an augmentative suffix in French, but on the other hand is a diminutive suffix in relationship to animals, so the original intention in forming peloton from pelote is not clear. Nonetheless it is documented that it took the meaning of a group of soldiers firing a volley together, while a different platoon reloaded; this implies an augmentative intention in the etymology. Since soldiers were organized in two or three lines, which were supposed to fire volleys together, this would have meant platoons organised with the intention of a half or a third of the company firing at once.
The modern French word peloton, when not meaning platoon, can refer to the main body of riders in a bicycle race. Pelote itself comes from the low Latin "pilotta" from Latin "pila", meaning "ball", the French suffix "-on" derives from the Latin suffix "-onus"; the platoon was a firing unit rather than an organization. The system was said to have been invented by Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden in 1618. In the French Army in the 1670s, a battalion was divided into 18 platoons who were grouped into three "firings"; the system was used in the British, Austrian and Dutch armies. On 1 October 1913, under a scheme by General Sir Ivor Maxse, the regular battalions of the British Army were reorganised from the previous eight companies to a four company structure, with each company having four platoons as separate units each commanded by a lieutenant with a platoon sergeant as his deputy; each platoon was divided into four sections, each commanded by a corporal. Due to a shortage of officers, a non commissioned officer rank of Platoon Sergeant Major was introduced from 1938 to 1940 for experienced non-commissioned officers who were given command of platoons.
In the Australian Army, an infantry platoon has thirty-six soldiers organized into three eight-man sections and a twelve-man maneuver support section. A lieutenant as platoon commander and a sergeant as platoon sergeant, accompanied by a platoon signaller and sometimes a platoon medic. A section comprises eight soldiers led by a corporal with a lance corporal as second in command; each section has two fireteams of four men, one led by the corporal and the other by the lance corporal. Each fireteam has one soldier with a 7.62mm Maximi GSMG and the other three armed with F88 Steyr assault rifles. One rifle per fireteam has an attached 40mm grenade launcher. Fireteam bravo has a HK417 7.62mm for the designated marksman role. More the designated marksman of each Australian fireteam has been issued the HK417 in Afghanistan and afterwards; the platoon may have three MAG 58 general-purpose machine guns, one M2 Browning heavy machine gun or a Mk 19 grenade launcher at its disposal. In the British Army, a rifle platoon from an infantry company consists of three sections of eight men, plus a signaller, a platoon sergeant, the platoon commander and a mortar man operating a light mortar.
This may not be the case for all British Infantry units, since the 51mm mortars are not part of the TOE post-Afghanistan. Under Army 2020, a platoon in the Heavy Protected Mobility Regiments will consist of around 30 soldiers in four Mastiff/FRES UV vehicles; as of March 2016, the British Army is reviewing whether to retain the FN Herstal Para Minimi 5.56×45mm light machine gun and the M6-640 Commando 60 mm mortar at platoon level in dismounted units. Each section is commanded by a corporal, with a lance corporal as second-in-command and s
Enfilade and defilade
Enfilade and defilade are concepts in military tactics used to describe a military formation's exposure to enemy fire. A formation or position is "in enfilade". A unit or position is "in defilade" if it uses natural or artificial obstacles to shield or conceal itself from enfilade; the strategies named by the English use the French enfiler and défiler, which the English nobility used at that time. Enfilade fire—gunfire directed against an enfiladed formation or position—is commonly known as "flanking fire". Raking fire is the equivalent term in naval warfare. Strafing, firing on targets from a flying platform, is done with enfilade fire, it is a advantageous, much sought for, position for the attacking force. A formation or position is "in enfilade". For instance, a trench is enfiladed. A column of marching troops is enfiladed if fired on from the front or rear such that the projectiles travel the length of the column. A rank or line of advancing troops is defiladed; the advantages of enfilading missiles have been appreciated since antiquity, whether in pitched battles such as the Battle of Taginae or in fortifications designed to provide the defenders with opportunities to enfilade attacking forces.
Although sophisticated archery tactics grew rare in Western Europe during the Early Middle Ages, enfilade fire was reemphasized by the late medieval English using ranked archers combined with dismounted knights, first employed at the Battle of Dupplin Moor in 1332 and used to devastating effect against the French in the Hundred Years War. The benefit of enfilading an enemy formation is that, by firing along the long axis, it becomes easier to hit targets within that formation. Enfilade fire takes advantage of the fact that it is easier to aim laterally than to estimate the range to avoid shooting too long or short. Additionally, both indirect and direct fire projectiles that might miss an intended target are more to hit another valuable target within the formation if firing along the long axis; when planning field and other fortifications, it became common for mutually supporting positions to be arranged so that it became impossible to attack any one position without exposing oneself to enfilading fire from the others, this being found for example in the mutually supporting bastions of star forts, the caponiers of fortifications.
Fire is delivered so that the long axis of the target coincides or nearly coincides with the long axis of the beaten zone. A unit or position is "in defilade" if it uses artificial obstacles to shield or conceal. For an armored fighting vehicle, defilade is synonymous with a turret-down position. Defilade is used to refer to a position on the reverse slope of a hill or within a depression in level or rolling terrain. Defiladed positions on hilltops are advantageous because "dead space" – a space that cannot be engaged with direct fire – will be created in front of the position. Ideally, this dead space should be covered by the interlocking fields of fire of other nearby positions, and/or by pre-planned indirect fire such as mortars or other forms of artillery. In the case of antitank weapons, short-range man-portable antitank rockets, defiladed positions behind a hill have several important advantages; this is because the dead space created by the intervening crest of the hill prevents an approaching tank from using the range of its direct-fire weapons, neither the attacker nor defender will have a clear shot until the tank is within range of the defending antitank weapon.
In such engagements the tank is at a further disadvantage because the defender will be camouflaged while the attacking tank will be silhouetted against the sky, giving the defender an easier shot. In addition, if the tank fails to detect the defending antitank weapon while the tank is still defiladed, but advances beyond that position to the crest of the hill, it may expose the thinner armor of its lower hull or belly to the defender. Early detection and elimination of antitank threats is an important reason that tanks attack with infantry support. Artificial entrenchments can provide defilade by allowing troops to seek shelter behind a raised berm that increases the effective height of the ground, within an excavation that allows the troops to shelter below the surface of the ground or a combination of the two; the same principles apply to fighting positions for artillery and armored fighting vehicles. A unit sited in defilade threatens an enemy that decides to pass it and move forward, because the enemy would be put in an enfiladed position when moving in a rank.
The friendly unit would be in a position, shielded by terrain from direct enemy fire, while still being able to fire on the enemy in an effective manner. Crossing the T Plunging fire Raking fire Reverse slope defence Russian Fortresses, 1480–1682. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-916-9. Chartrand, René. French Fortresses in North America 1535–1763: Québec, Montréal, Louisbourg and New Orleans. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84176-714-7
1842 retreat from Kabul
The 1842 retreat from Kabul took place during the First Anglo-Afghan War. At the beginning of the conflict, British forces had defeated the forces of Afghan Emir Dost Mohammad Barakzai and in 1839 occupied Kabul, restoring the former ruler, Shah Shujah Durrani, as emir; however a deteriorating situation made their position more and more precarious, until an uprising in Kabul forced the commander, Major General Sir William Elphinstone, to withdraw the garrison. To this end he negotiated an agreement with Wazir Akbar Khan, one of the sons of Dost Mohammad Barakzai, by which his army was to fall back to the British garrison at Jalalabad, more than 90 miles away; as the army and its numerous dependents and camp followers began its march, it came under attack from Afghan tribesmen. Many of the column were killed during the fighting; the Afghans launched numerous attacks against the column as it made slow progress through the winter snows of the Hindu Kush. In total the British army lost 4,500 troops, along with about 12,000 civilians: the latter comprising both the families of Indian and British soldiers, plus workmen and other Indian camp-followers.
The final stand was made just outside a village called Gandamak on 13 January. Out of more than 16,000 people from the column commanded by Elphinstone, only one European and a few Indian sepoys reached Jalalabad. Over one hundred British prisoners and civilian hostages were released. Around 2,000 of the Indians, many of whom were maimed by frostbite and returned to Kabul to exist by begging or to be sold into slavery; some at least returned to India after another British invasion of Kabul several months but others remained behind in Afghanistan. In 2013, a writer for The Economist called the retreat "the worst British military disaster until the fall of Singapore a century later." In 1838 the British East India Company feared an increased Russian influence in Afghanistan after Dost Mohammad Barakzai had seized power from former ruler Shuja Shah Durrani in 1834. Dost Mohammad had rejected earlier overtures from Russia, but after Lord Auckland, the Governor-General of India, tried to force Afghan foreign policy under British guidance, he renewed his relationship with the Russians.
Lord Auckland followed the counsel of his adviser William Hay Macnaghten to support Shuja Shah, dismissing the advice of Alexander Burnes that Dost Mohammad should be supported, resolved to seek a military solution. He began to assemble his forces in late 1838; the army, under the command of General Sir Willoughby Cotton, with Macnaghten as his chief adviser, consisted of 20,000 soldiers and were accompanied by 38,000 civilian camp followers. In March 1839 they began their march to Kabul, they advanced through rough terrain, crossing deserts and mountain passes at a height of 4,000 metres but made good progress and took Kandahar on 25 April. They captured the until-then impregnable fortress of Ghazni on 22 July in a surprise attack, losing 200 men killed and wounded while the Afghans lost nearly 500 men killed and 1,600 taken prisoner, with an unknown number wounded. An Afghan had betrayed his sovereign and the British troops managed to blow one city gate and marched into the city in a euphoric mood.
The ample supplies acquired in Ghazni aided the further advance, which otherwise would have been difficult. Dost Mohammad sought refuge in the wilds of the Hindu Kush. Kabul fell without a fight on 6 August 1839. Shuja Shah was proclaimed emir by the British, he established a court in the fortress of Bala Hissar above Kabul. More than a year Dost Mohammad surrendered to Macnaghten on 4 November 1840 and was exiled to India. In August 1839, the British refrained from occupying Kabul's citadel, instead establishing their military cantonments 1.5 miles outside Kabul. This decision, made on diplomatic grounds, would prove to be a grave military error, as the garrison was sited in a defensively weak position; as political agent and envoy at the court of Shuja Shah, Macnaghten became a leader of British society in Kabul. The city was described at the time as clean and pleasant with many spacious wooden houses surrounded by well-kept gardens; the occupiers enjoyed themselves arranging cricket horse races and hunting parties.
In the evenings amateur dramatics were staged by their wives. Performances included, it was considered a special honour to be invited to evening soirées hosted by Lady Florentia Sale, the wife of Brigadier-General Robert Henry Sale. Such social gatherings saw the serving of salmon and stew with madeira wine, port wine and champagne. Under these conditions, many of the East India Company troops were sent back to their garrisons in India. While the British enjoyed this lifestyle, some Afghans chafed under occupation by a foreign power. Britain had replaced Dost Mohammad, a popular ruler, with Shuja Shah, a weak puppet, seen as much more cruel and vindictive to his enemies than his predecessor. In 1840, the son of Dost Mohammad, Wazir Akbar Khan, began assembling allies amongst the tribesmen in the rural areas where British influence was weakest, he initiated a guerrilla war. The efforts to control Afghanistan were further weakened by the British government in India. Dismayed at the costs of maintaining the large garrison in Kabul, it discontinued the periodic subsidies (essentially b
A partisan is a member of an irregular military force formed to oppose control of an area by a foreign power or by an army of occupation by some kind of insurgent activity. The term can apply to the field element of resistance movements, examples of which are the civilians who opposed Nazi German, Fascist Italian and Ustaše Croatian rule in several countries during World War II. Rustaham Suren, better known as Surena or Suren was a Parthian spahbed during the 1st century BC, he was the leader of the House of Suren and was best known for defeating the Romans in the Battle of Carrhae. Under his command Parthians decisively defeated a numerically superior Roman invasion force under the command of Marcus Licinius Crassus; the word Partisan is derived from the Italian word Partigiano. The initial concept of partisan warfare involved the use of troops raised from the local population in a war zone who would operate behind enemy lines to disrupt communications, seize posts or villages as forward-operating bases, ambush convoys, impose war taxes or contributions, raid logistical stockpiles, compel enemy forces to disperse and protect their base of operations.
One of the first manuals of partisan tactics in the 18th century was The Partisan, or the Art of Making War in Detachment... published in London in 1760 by de Jeney, a Hungarian military officer who served in the Prussian Army as captain of military engineers during the Seven Years' War of 1756–1763. Johann von Ewald described techniques of partisan warfare in detail in his Abhandlung über den kleinen Krieg; the concept of partisan warfare would form the basis of the "Partisan Rangers" of the American Civil War. In that war, Confederate States Army Partisan leaders, such as John S. Mosby, Jesse James, William Quantrill, or Bloody Bill Anderson, operated along the lines described by von Ewald. In essence, 19th-century American partisans were closer to commando or ranger forces raised during World War II than to the "partisan" forces operating in occupied Europe. Mosby-style fighters would have been considered uniformed members of their state's armed forces. Partisans in the mid-19th century were different from raiding cavalry, or from unorganized/semi-organized guerrilla forces.
Russian partisans played a crucial part in the downfall of Napoleon. Their fierce resistance and persistent inroads helped compel the French emperor to retreat from Russia after invading in 1812. During the Second Boer War, the Boers waged a successful guerrilla campaign against the British. Imperial Russia made use of partisans in World War I, for example Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz. In 1922, Benito Mussolini and Fascist troop entered Rome. One of the most important episodes of resistance by Italian armed forces after the armistice was the battle of Piombino, Tuscany. On 10 September 1943, during Operation Achse, a small German flotilla, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Karl-Wolf Albrand, tried to enter the harbour of Piombino but was denied access by the port authorities.. The order to organize partisan groups was issued by Marshal of Poland Rydz-Smigly on the 16th of September, 1939; the first sabotage groups were created in Warsaw on September 18, 1939. Each battalion was to choose 3 soldiers who were to sabotage enemy's war effort behind the front lines.
The sabotage groups were organized. The situation amongst the Polish partisans and the situation of the Polish partisans were both complicated; the founding organizations that lead to the creation of the Home Army or Armia Krajowa known as AK, were themselves organized in 1939. Home Army was the largest Polish partisan organization; the communist Gwardia Ludowa remained indifferent and hostile towards the Home Army, of two Jewish organizations, the Jewish Military Union did cooperate with the Home Army, when the leftist and pro-Soviet Jewish Combat Organization did not. Nota bene, the Polish Socialist Party and the British counterpart were the only two socialist parties in Europe not controlled by Joseph Stalin. Both Jewish combat organizations staged the Ghetto uprising in 1944. Armia Krajowa staged Warsaw Uprising in 1944, amongst other activities. Bataliony Chlopskie fought in Zamosc Uprising; the Polish partisans faced many enemies. The main enemies were the Nazi Germans, Ukrainian nationalists, Lithuanian Nazi collaborators, the Soviets.
In spite of the ideological enmity, the Home Army did launch a massive sabotage campaign after the Germans began Operation Barbarossa. Amongst other acts of sabotage, the Polish partisans damaged nearly 7,000 locomotives, over 19,000 railway cars, over 4,000 German military vehicles and built-in faults into 92,000 artillery projectiles as well as 4710 built-in faults into aircraft engines, just to mention a few and just in between 1941 and 1944. In Ukraine and southeastern Poland, the Poles fought against the Ukrainian nationalists and UPA to protect the ethnic Poles from mass murder visited upon them during Massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, they were aided. At least 60,000 Poles lost their lives, the majority of them civilians, men and children; some of the victims were Poles of Jewish descent who had escaped from the death camp. The majority of the Polish partisans in Ukraine assisted the invading Soviet Army. Few o
Hannibal Barca was a general and statesman from Ancient Carthage, considered one of the greatest military commanders in history. His father, Hamilcar Barca, was a leading Carthaginian commander during the First Punic War, his younger brothers were Mago and Hasdrubal, he was brother-in-law to Hasdrubal the Fair, all commanded Carthaginian armies. Hannibal lived during a period of great tension in the western Mediterranean Basin, triggered by the emergence of the Roman Republic as a great power after it had established its supremacy over Italy. Although Rome had won the First Punic War, revanchism prevailed in Carthage, symbolised by the alleged pledge that Hannibal made to his father to never be a friend of Rome; the Second Punic War broke out in 218 after Hannibal's attack on Saguntum, an ally of Rome in Hispania. He made his famous military exploit of carrying war to Italy by crossing the Alps with his African elephants. In his first few years in Italy, he won a succession of dramatic victories at the Trebia, Lake Trasimene, Cannae.
He distinguished himself for his ability to determine his and his opponent's respective strengths and weaknesses, to plan battles accordingly. Hannibal's well-planned strategies allowed him to conquer. Hannibal occupied most of southern Italy for 15 years, but could not win a decisive victory, as the Romans led by Fabius Maximus avoided confrontation with him, instead waging a war of attrition. A counter-invasion of North Africa led by Scipio Africanus forced him to return to Carthage. Scipio had studied Hannibal's tactics and brilliantly devised some of his own, he defeated Rome's nemesis at the Battle of Zama, having driven Hannibal's brother Hasdrubal out of the Iberian Peninsula. After the war, Hannibal ran for the office of sufet, he enacted political and financial reforms to enable the payment of the war indemnity imposed by Rome. During this time, he lived at the Seleucid court, where he acted as military advisor to Antiochus III the Great in his war against Rome. Antiochus met defeat at the Battle of Magnesia and was forced to accept Rome's terms, Hannibal fled again, making a stop in the Kingdom of Armenia.
His flight ended in the court of Bithynia, where he achieved an outstanding naval victory against a fleet from Pergamon. He was afterwards betrayed to the committed suicide by poisoning himself. Hannibal is regarded as one of the greatest military strategists in history and one of the greatest generals of Mediterranean antiquity, together with Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Scipio Africanus. Plutarch states that Scipio asked Hannibal "who the greatest general was", to which Hannibal replied "either Alexander or Pyrrhus himself" Military historian Theodore Ayrault Dodge called Hannibal the "father of strategy", because Roman armies adopted elements of his military tactics into its own strategic arsenal. Hannibal has been cited by various subsequent military leaders, such as Napoleon Bonaparte, as an inspiration and the greatest strategist of all time; the English form of the name is derived from the Latin. Greek historians rendered the name as Anníbas Bárkas. Hannibal was a common Carthaginian masculine given name.
The name was recorded in Carthaginian sources as ḤNBʿL. It is a combination of the common Carthaginian masculine given name Hanno with the Northwest Semitic Canaanite deity Baal, its precise vocalization remains a matter of debate. Suggested readings include Ḥannobaʿal, Ḥannibaʿl, or Ḥannibaʿal, meaning "Baʿal/The Lord is Gracious", "Baʿal Has Been Gracious", or "The Grace of Baʿal". Barca was the Semitic surname of his aristocratic family, meaning "shining" or "lightning", it is thus the Phoenician equivalent to the Arabic name Barq or the Hebrew name Barak or the ancient Greek epithet Keraunos, given to military commanders in the Hellenistic period. In English, his clan are sometimes collectively known as the Barcids; as with Greek and Roman practice, patronymics were a common part of Carthaginian nomenclature, so that Hannibal would have been known as "Hannibal son of Hamilcar". Hannibal was one of the sons of a Carthaginian leader, he was born in what is present day northern Tunisia, one of many Mediterranean regions colonised by the Canaanites from their homelands in Phoenicia.
He had several sisters and two brothers and Mago. His brothers-in-law were the Numidian king Naravas, he was still a child when his sisters married, his brothers-in-law were close associates during his father's struggles in the Mercenary War and the Punic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. In light of Hamilcar Barca's cognomen, historians refer to Hamilcar's family as the Barcids. However, there is debate as to whether the cognomen Barca was applied to Hamilcar alone or was hereditary within his family. If the latter Hannibal and his brothers bore the name "Barca". After Carthage's defeat in the First Punic War, Hamilcar set out to improve his family's and Carthage's fortunes. With that in mind and supported by Gades, Hamilcar began the subjugation of the tribes of the Iberian Peninsula. Carthage at the time was in such a poor state. According to Polybius, Hannibal much said that when he came upon his father and begged to go with him, Hamilcar agreed and dem
In military tactics, a flanking maneuver, or flanking manoeuvre is a movement of an armed force around a flank to achieve an advantageous position over an enemy. Flanking is useful. Therefore, to circumvent a force's front and attack a flank is to concentrate offense in the area where the enemy is least able to concentrate defense. Flanking can occur at the operational and strategic levels of warfare; the flanking maneuver is a basic military tactic, with several variations. Flanking an enemy means attacking from one or more sides, at an angle to the enemy's direction of engagement. One type is employed in an ambush, where a unit performs a surprise attack from a concealed position. Units friendly to the ambushing unit may be hidden to the sides of the ambush site to surround the enemy, but care must be taken in setting up fields of fire to avoid friendly fire. Another type is used in the attack. Upon receiving fire from the enemy, the unit commander may decide to order a flank attack. A part of the attacking unit "fixes" the enemy with suppressive fire, preventing them from returning fire, retreating or changing position to meet the flank attack.
The flanking force advances to the enemy flank and attacks them at close range. Coordination to avoid friendly fire is important in this situation; the most effective form of flanking maneuver is the double envelopment, which involves simultaneous flank attacks on both sides of the enemy. A classic example is Hannibal's victory over the Roman armies at the Battle of Cannae. Another example of the double envelopment is Khalid ibn al-Walid's victory over the Persian Empire at the Battle of Walaja. Despite being associated with land warfare, flanking maneuvers have been used in naval battles. A famous example of this is the Battle of Salamis, where the combined naval forces of the Greek city-states managed to outflank the Persian navy and won a decisive victory. Flanking on land in the pre-modern era was achieved with cavalry due to their speed and maneuverability, while armored infantry was used to fix the enemy, as in the Battle of Pharsalus. Armored vehicles such as tanks replaced cavalry as the main force of flanking maneuvers in the 20th century, as seen in the Battle of France in World War II.
The threat of flanking has been existent since the dawn of warfare and the art of being a commander entailed the choice of terrain to allow flanking attacks or prevent them. In addition, proper adjustment and positioning of soldiers is imperative in assuring the protection against flanking. A commander could prevent being flanked by anchoring one or both parts of his line on terrain impassable to his enemies, such as gorges, lakes or mountains, e.g. the Spartans at Thermopylae, Hannibal at the Battle of Lake Trasimene, the Romans at the Battle of Watling Street. Although not impassable, forests, rivers and marshy ground could be used to anchor a flank, e.g. Henry V at Agincourt. However, in such instances it was still wise to have skirmishers covering these flanks. In exceptional circumstances, an army may be fortunate enough to be able to anchor a flank with a friendly castle, fortress or walled city. In such circumstances it was not necessary to fix the line to the fortress but to allow a killing space between the fortress and the battle line so that any enemy forces attempting to flank the field forces could be brought under fire from the garrison.
As good was if natural strongholds could be incorporated into the battle line, e.g. the Union positions of Culp's Hill, Cemetery Hill on the right flank, Big Round Top and Little Round Top on the left flank, at the Battle of Gettysburg. If time and circumstances allowed field fortifications could be created or expanded to protect the flanks, such as the Allied forces did with the hamlet of Papelotte and the farmhouse of Hougoumont on the left and right flanks at the Battle of Waterloo; when the terrain favoured neither side it was down to the disposition of forces in the battle line to prevent flanking attacks. For as long as they had a place on the battlefield, it was the role of cavalry to be placed on the flanks of the infantry battle line. With speed and greater tactical flexibility, the cavalry could both make flanking attacks and guard against them, it was the marked superiority of Hannibal's cavalry at Cannae that allowed him to chase off the Roman cavalry and complete the encirclement of the Roman legions.
With matched cavalry, commanders have been content to allow inaction, with the cavalry of both sides preventing the other from action. With no cavalry, inferior cavalry or in armies whose cavalry had gone off on their own it was down to the disposition of the infantry to guard against flanking attacks, it was the danger of being flanked by the numerically superior Persians that led Miltiades to lengthen the Athenian line at the Battle of Marathon by decreasing the depth of the centre. The importance of the flank positions led to the practise, which became tradition of placing the best troops on the flanks. So that at the Battle of Platea the Tegeans squabbled with Athenians as to who should have the privilege of holding a flank; this is the source of the tradition of giving the honour of the right to the most senior regiment present, that persisted into the modern era. With troops confident and reliable enough to operate in separate dispersed units, the echelon formation may be adopted; this can take different forms with either strong "divisions" or a massively reinforced wing or centre s