Portfolio > Semiotext(s) Works

Supplying War

They have 500 000 men at sea and 3 000 000 in the arsenals and factories

As factory chimneys grew taller, so did the size of military instruments maintained by the continental powers

The proportion of animals to men increasing from 1:4 in the Prussian army of 1870 to 1:3 animals to men for the same army in 1914

At the time of the Franco Prussian war a single train line could carry eight trains per day and on a double track 12 per day

On the eve of World War One the figure was 40 and 60 respectively

The wagons for field bakeries, hospital, engineering equipment of a German army corps numbered 30 in 1870. This was more than doubled 40 years later

In August 1870 double track lines served to deploy 350 000 German troops in fifteen days

Forty-four years later in 1914 thirteen lines brought up 1 500 000 to the western front in ten days

World War One is the paradigm of an utterly pointless war

This war was a consequence of fatuous assertions of national pride, together with a series of misjudgements about anticipatory mobilization and alliance commitments

In August 1914, territorial imperative, the fears it engendered, the threat inherent in mobilization and the stupidity of rulers and generals combined to put the war process out of control

Alliances then made the conflict general

Once momentum is released

The Germans timetabled the movements of 11 000 trains as they brought troops across the Rhine River

The French mobilized around 7 000 trains for movement

Horses were also mobilized. The British had 165 000 horses prepared for cavalry, the Austrians 600 000, the Germans 715 000 and the Russians over a million

1. Army and 2. Army arranged their Corps behind each other as they passed through the defile between Brussels and Namur

As 1. and 2. Armies defiled through the Liege gap the six corps making up each of them would be restricted to three roads only

This lead to the formation of huge columns some eighty miles (128 km) long

Congestion and a loss of contact between combat unit and their logistic support

Each army corps, each a small army in itself, consumed about 130 tons of food and fodder a day

Foraging parties had to be sent out over a large area

Kluck alone had 84 000 horses consuming 900 000 kg per day, enough to fill 924 standard model fodder wagons

Consequently the Germans entered the War with no arrangement to feed their horse in the field from base

By the time the Germans crossed into France all the horsed forces were suffering from exhaustion

The German horse drawn heavy artillery was no longer able to keep up

The cavalry was incurring unnecessary casualties because the horses were too weak to carry their riders out of danger quickly

As Moltke himself put it, the army no longer had a single horse capable of dragging itself forward

The supply of fodder was ignored until the horses dropped dead, ammunition presented a more serious problem

Precision-made modern arms require their own specific ammunition and spare parts

Small arms, machine guns, field artillery, howitzers and heavy artillery all had to be kept supplied and supplied at a rate that had never been thought possible before the War

Food was obtained from the country; horses remained unfed until they died

Ammunition did somehow arrive from the rear in more or less adequate quantities

The sheer size and weight of the German Army in 1914 proved wholly out of proportion to the means of tactical transportation at its disposal

In 1914 a British Division required 27 wagon-loads of supplies of all classes

Two years later it was 20 wagons for food, fodder and the like, but the number needed to carry materials of combat, especially ammunition, had risen to 30 wagons

After 1914 subsistence for men and horses was only a fraction and usually a small fraction of the total supplies needed by armies in the field

In an attack in 1917 the French consumed 6 947 000 explosive shells, or 28% of the existing stock

The old modes of transport were inadequate to handle the demands of modern war

This is demonstrated by the permanently-fixed lines of trenches that were a hallmark of World War One

Had a few tunnels been blown up along Kluck’s route, the entire campaign would have been utterly impossible

The Belgians thought they had learnt their lesson by mining every one of their own railway-installations and preparing them for instant demolition

However, by then the face of war had changed once more

3rd September 1939

Hitler was stunned. He turned to Ribbentrop and said “Well, now what?”

Supplying War
Text on paper
841mm x 1189mm

Semiotext(s) Works VI - Supplying War

Text works on A zero paper

15pt Arial font "centred" on A0 paper

841mm x 1189mm

presented here as Text only - sans formatting (15pt Arial font "centred" on A0 paper)

Chronological history of Military Logistics part 2 (with artistic licence) from;

Van Creveld, M 1977, Supplying War, Cambridge University Press, USA.