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Author Topic: If its true that an army marches on its stomach...  (Read 1619 times)

Offline P-Kasso2

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If its true that an army marches on its stomach...
« on: 28 March, 2017, 09:31:01 AM »
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How on earth did the soldiers in the trenches in World War One manage to get fed every day? It is something that I've never seen or heard mentioned anywhere.

The logistics of feeding a million men a day while under bombardment must have been truly immense.

How did the Army manage to make sure such a vast army under such horrendous conditions had enough to eat seven days a week and didn't starve to death?

What did they eat every day? Was it fresh cooked? How was it done?
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Offline siasl

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Re: If its true that an army marches on its stomach...
« Reply #1 on: 28 March, 2017, 01:44:29 PM »
The good folks at the logistics corps would have been in charge of it. And they know a thing or two about shifting large volumes of kit around at short notice, and adjusting this to reflect conditions on the ground, while protecting their supply lines at the same time.

Munitions was more of an issue, though, as there was a reliance on shelling to control the battlefield. In 1915 there was even a "Shell Crisis" as use outstripped supply.

In terms of the "how" of it all, there was a lot of materiel coming from the US, which led to shipping convoys, which would unload in France (I guess). From there, trains were used to get closer to the front line, and then I think horse drawn carriages for the last segment. Food would then be cooked in field kitchens a little way behind the trenches.

The main constituents were meat and bread, with a small amount of veg. Over time the meat portions shrank due to scarcity.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/0/ww1/26247563

Offline P-Kasso2

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Re: If its true that an army marches on its stomach...
« Reply #2 on: 29 March, 2017, 10:48:21 AM »
The good folks at the logistics corps would have been in charge of it. And they know a thing or two about shifting large volumes of kit around at short notice, and adjusting this to reflect conditions on the ground, while protecting their supply lines at the same time.

Munitions was more of an issue, though, as there was a reliance on shelling to control the battlefield. In 1915 there was even a "Shell Crisis" as use outstripped supply.

In terms of the "how" of it all, there was a lot of materiel coming from the US, which led to shipping convoys, which would unload in France (I guess). From there, trains were used to get closer to the front line, and then I think horse drawn carriages for the last segment. Food would then be cooked in field kitchens a little way behind the trenches.

The main constituents were meat and bread, with a small amount of veg. Over time the meat portions shrank due to scarcity.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/0/ww1/26247563


That weblink of yours says it all.
I wish the Internet had been around where I were a kid. Good on the BBC schools dept too. I can't think what the Tories are thinking of trying to emasculate the Beeb.
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Offline Hiheels

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Re: If its true that an army marches on its stomach...
« Reply #3 on: 30 March, 2017, 03:50:45 PM »
I think the Logistics Corp are a more recent spring-off and back in the day it would have been those stout fellers of the Royal Engineers...one of whom was my Dad  :D

Offline P-Kasso2

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Re: If its true that an army marches on its stomach...
« Reply #4 on: 01 April, 2017, 03:12:12 PM »
I think the Logistics Corp are a more recent spring-off and back in the day it would have been those stout fellers of the Royal Engineers...one of whom was my Dad  :D

Wasn't the indomitable Army Catering Corps in force in back in 1914? Nope. I just did a swift tap dance on Google and found that the Catering Corps only came into being in 1941.

Not a peep about the Logistic Corps, or the Royal Engineers either, feeding the trench rats. Sorry Heels. But there is a glimmer of hope....

According to a talk forum called 'The Great War Forum'*
who discussed exactly this topic (unfortunately without reaching any sensible conclusion) that back in 1914 "in the Infantry, there were usually two cooks per company and when possible one would be with the Company in the Trenches and cooking there - the other (one) slightly further back would be involved in preparing food to be carried forward in Dixies for stews and hot drinks and Hayboxes for solid food."

As a side-line, one respondent merrily recalls that, during the Second War, the Army Catering Corps or ACC (also fondly known as the Aldershot Concrete Company) had a happy knack of "turning food into **** and **** into food".

But, going back to the First World War for a moment,
they do say on the website "Cooks were regimental people and sergeant-cooks were usually trained at the Army School of Cookery at (I think) Aldershot. Other similar schools may have been set up in France and other theatres."

Another member says "There were, however, Expeditionary Force Canteens to provide food and drink for soldiers in rest areas. These were run by the Army Service Corps, or by private ventures such as the Salvation Army, and were the predecessors of the NAAFI."

They then get on to discussing Divisional Bakeries....at which point I started to wish I'd never asked this bliddy question.

None of which gets me much nearer to a definitive answer to how on earth did the hundreds of thousands of squaddies in the trenches get their five a day when week-long bombardments were in full blast?

*  http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?/topic/206388-was-there-a-catering-corps-or-the-like-in-ww1/
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Offline P-Kasso2

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Re: If its true that an army marches on its stomach...
« Reply #5 on: 02 April, 2017, 09:02:32 AM »
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Further to my previous answer: Although this doesn’t clarify which Army department or military corps was responsible for making sure Tommies in the trenches in WW1 got their daily five a day while under intense bombardment, it does paint a bleak picture of the sheer weight of problems involved in supplying food to a million men up to their knees in mud while howitzer shells and bullets were flying overhead.

It comes from an  Imperial War Museum site and I quote it not in full...

http://www.iwm.org.uk/history/transport-and-supply-during-the-first-world-war

"Railways were the only way of shifting this volume of material overland and a very sophisticated transportation and supply system was developed, especially after a major reorganization in 1916. For the British the challenge was complicated by the English Channel. War material had to be railed to a Channel port and, until special ferries were built to carry wagons, loaded onto a ferry, reloaded onto a French train or barges and carried forward to the main supply dumps behind the British lines.

Getting close to the front was the relatively easy part of the process. The problems really began about 7 miles behind the front. Anywhere beyond this point was potentially within range of the devastating effects of long distance artillery shelling. Consequently the main supply dumps and railway yards had to be established before this danger zone had been reached.

The next problem was how to bridge the gap between the supply dumps and the soldiers who needed the supplies - and the problems got more and more difficult the closer supplies were moved towards the front lines. This distance was too long to be bridged effectively with horse-drawn vehicles, because horses could not manage a daily round trip of this length.

The French and Germans had a ready solution for the first part of this journey because they had recognised before the war that there would be an important role for 60cm gauge light railway systems...

...The British, however, planned for a more mobile war and had decided to rely primarily on motor transport. Over 1,000 civilian lorries and over 300 buses were requisitioned at the outbreak of hostilities and were hurriedly moved across the Channel. The owners had been encouraged by a financial subsidy to purchase vehicles that met a War Department specification, a condition of which was that the vehicles could be requisitioned. These were only a temporary stopgap - although some vehicles such as London buses remained in service throughout the war - and thousands more vehicles were ordered from manufacturers in Britain and increasingly the USA. In the meantime, a heavy reliance had to be placed on far less efficient horse-drawn transport. The fodder for the horses alone took up more transportation capacity than food and ammunition for the men.

The inadequacy of motor transport was cruelly exposed during the Somme campaign from July 1916 onwards. The combination of heavy rainfall, inadequately built roads and the pounding caused by large numbers of heavy lorries on narrow, solid-rubber tyres caused the supply lines literally to bog down in the mud. The British artillery was to fire nearly 28 million shells during the Somme battles, but increasingly the 20,000 tonnes of supplies required daily to support an offensive on a front of about 12 miles could not be distributed adequately.

Belatedly the British also decided to embark upon the rapid development of light railway systems. However, they found to their consternation that the main British railway manufacturers already had a huge backlog of French orders. Only American industry could supply material in large quantities at such short notice to augment the limited British manufacturing capacity.

By late 1916 construction of lines was under way, and between January and September 1917 the average tonnage conveyed weekly on light railways operated by British and Dominion forces expanded from barely 10,000 tonnes to more than 200,000 tonnes. The network was to grow to some 2,000 miles of track.
Light railways could bridge part of the gap but also became vulnerable to enemy artillery and small arms fire as they got closer to the front. Consequently, smaller dumps were established at road-heads from which horse and mule transport collected material. Often the final leg had to be carried out by the soldiers themselves carrying the food, water and other supplies to the front lines. This relentless challenge to maintain the flow of supplies forward from the supply dumps had to be undertaken largely at night to minimise the risk from harassing fire.

By early 1917 these increasingly complex transportation networks - supported by a specially created Labour Corps which included tens of thousands of men recruited from China, Egypt, India and other Empire countries - were capable of supporting defensive lines almost indefinitely. They also developed the capacity to support the concentration of forces and supplies sufficient to unleash a blow that could shatter the opposing lines.

But even this revealed a further problem. As the troops advanced, supplies and reinforcements had to be brought forward across the shattered landscape of the battlefield where roads and railways had been obliterated. Despite the best efforts, it took time to build new lines of communication. Only then could artillery and infantry be moved forward with adequate supplies."

All of which makes me even more grateful to my grandfather's generation that they sacrificed so much so we could have Peace and even more critical of the so-called royal families who helped cause and prolonged this utterly senseless and bitterly cruel escapade.
« Last Edit: 02 April, 2017, 09:11:16 AM by P-Kasso2 »
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