The Minute Book
Saturday, 21 May 2016

Feeding an Army (1914)
Topic: Army Rations

A very simple but exceptionally practical part of these rations is the erbswurst, or pea bologna, …

Feeding an Army (1914)

The Milwaukee Sentinel, 28 November 1914

Among the unnamed heroes in the European war whose deeds receive little or no attention are the men who take care of the hungry soldiers and horses during and after battle. In an up to date army these men form a little army by themselves, and from the very commencement of war a great strain falls upon their shoulders.

The responsibilities of the department for food supply are simply stupendous, and to fulfill successfully its task the provision department must be equipped and organized to perfection.

The feeding of a modern army is a problem of the utmost significance, as upon the efficiency of regular and quick supply of nourishing food depends its success to a very large extent.

A German army of 1,000,000 men consumes daily not less than 500 tons of food, while the feeding of the horses require daily quantities of over twice that weight.

The German military supply department is divided into two divisions, the first of which is responsible for the quick and timely distribution of food, forage and clothing, while the second division is the medical department, and attends to medical supplies only.

The main difficulties which confront the food supply department in war are the obstacles which may block the way of the supply columns. Aside from bad roads, wagons will break down, horses will be lost, and if these things are avoided the roads will be blocked by ambulances, marching troops, etc.

Also, as soon as the army begins to operate out of its own territory, there are the possibilities of the destruction of food magazines and the owners of obtainable food will often hide or destroy available victuals rather than let the enemy have them.

The war equipment of each German soldier includes the so-called "iron rations," consisting of the erbswurst, preserved meat and vegetables, biscuits, coffee and salt sufficient to furnish satisfactory meals for three days.

A very simple but exceptionally practical part of these rations is the erbswurst, or pea bologna, which is made out of mashed peas, to which minced bacon, salt and spices are added, and which, through extraction of the moisture, is preserved in containers of parchment about 10 inches long and 2 inches wide.

The simple addition of hot water to this preparation creates a wholesome, nourishing and decidedly tasty meal. In case of dire necessity the preparation can also be used cold.

But the "iron ration" of the soldier is not to be used under any circumstances unless he is cut off entirely from food supply of any kind.

Each army corps, 40,000 men, is accompanied twelve or thirteen supply columns, or one wagon to about 500 men, carrying a full ration for two days for each men.

The organization provides for food magazines on a large scale, which sends to the different army corps at regular intervals supply columns with rations per man for four days, and which is supplemented in proportion.

Thus we see that the German soldier in the field is practically continuously in reach of provisions for nine full days, and the possibility of starving soldiers, provided sufficient time is found for meals, is very remote.

What is done for the man is also done for the beast, with the exception that the cavalryman carries only one day's provisions and one day's supply of oats, in order not to hinder quick and efficient movement, and in consideration of the fact that the riding troops can be more easily brought back to the supply columns, says the Boston Globe.

The main load of these columns consist invariably of flour, to provide the fighting men daily with fresh bread. For this purpose each army corps is followed by two field bakery columns, which represent the result of many years of study and practical tests.

Whether stationary or en route these field bakeries are turning out daily from 25,000 to 40,000 portions of fresh rye bread, each portion weighing six pounds. It is far easier to move flour than baked bread, and this system eliminates also the chance of stale or moldy bread.

An innovation in the provisioning of the German army is the water columns, which are devised to prevent the use of unclean or even poisoned water as far as possible.

Previous war have taught terrible lessons to what extent the use of unclean water can decimate the strength of an army by typhoid and cholera, which, under war conditions, inevitably become epidemic.

Scientific research has revealed the disinfecting influence of free oxygen, and the military authorities were not slow in using this knowledge. The working of these water wagons is a rather complicated process, but it may suffice to say that water of any kind and from any place has been proven pure after having been pumped through the apparatus and charged with oxygen.

An equipment of this kind is of enormous value and will keep men and animals of a far greater basis of efficiency than has been possible heretofore.

While part of the supply columns are marching with the corps, another part follows at a distance of about ten miles, and a third groups keeps a day's march to the rear. These precautions are taken with a possible defeat in view and also to eliminate the capture of too great a part of the supply division.

Field bakeries as a rule follow at a distance which permits the ’army corps the use of the bread within twenty-four hours after it leaves the ovens.

To provide for three meals, the German soldier received daily: 1 pound 10 ounces bread, 1 pound 1 ½ ounce meat (fresh when possible), 1 pound 8 ounces bacon, 3/4 ounce coffee, salt.

Vegetables are provided as procurable. Wherever possible, 1 ½ ounces of tobacco is added daily. While in communication with the food magazine fresh meat is supplied when possible, and in foraging in the enemy's land the hunt for fresh meat is conducted very thoroughly.

But is conditions do not permit a sufficient supply of the fresh, the preserved meats are of such an excellent quality and so carefully prepared that they must be considered nourishing meals.

The German government has seen to it that grafting and substituting of inferior products in the supply department is an impossibility, for the value of the man in the field is keenly appreciated, and consequently most explicit care it taken to sustain the fighter and his spirit by caring for his inner machinery.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT

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