The article, drily entitled ‘Cruickshank’s Improvements in Cavalry Equipments’, describes an armoured suit for horses consisting of a rigid adjustable armoured frame to protect the horse and the lower extremities of the rider.
However, any similarities to the armour-clad chargers of Arthurian folklore end here, for attached to this frame is a series of retractable lever-operated cutting implements and weapons with which the rider could scythe his way through enemy troops. ‘These cutting edges are capable of being adjusted to act as offensive weapons during an attack and of being returned to an innocuous position when not required,’ reported The Engineer. It would, continues the piece, ‘render the attack of cavalry more formidable by providing horses with a means of destroying troops against which the attack is directed’.
The cunning design enables even the most nervous war-horse to enter battle, courtesy of a helmet-mounted blinker system. ‘When occasion shall require, such as when the horse is required to face danger, a sliding piece of blind is provided. This is fitted with rings which run on guide rods, and by means of cords passing upwards and through guides at the top of the helmet, the soldier is enabled to raise the blind’.
It’s not clear whether Cruickshank’s invention ever made it from the sketchbook to the battlefield, but a quick scan of the history books suggests that, sadly, the horse-tank may have fallen at the first hurdle.