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Remembered Today:

Barges and the Germans


SteveMarsdin
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Good evening,

I understand that the efficient German rail network is often cited as one reason why they could mobilise so efficiently and continue to maintain their armies but once in Belgium and France I wondered if they made use of the barge ? Once the Meuse fortresses had fallen with the Meuse itself flowing down to Verdun, was it used ? (I don't think it crossed the frontline ?). Would Dutch neutrality have prevented them feeding in at the "other end" ?

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I don't know about the Germans but the French certainly not only used the canals to move supplies and evacuate the wounded they had small barges mounting 14 and 16 cm guns which were moved around in eastern and western France (e.g. the Somme and Verdun) and were used to bombard the German lines. Cannot, somehow, imagine the Germans missing such a trick.

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It has always been one of my theories that if the Germans had not crossed the Meuse at St. Mihiel and broken the canal, the French would have found the battle of Verdun much easier.

The Germans could not use the canal or the Meuse for that battle as they simply did not old enough of it. Effectiely all they held was a shot stretch which prevented the French using it.

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Barges were used by the Germans in the immediate aftermath of First Army's advance into France. I can't give you precise figures on tonnage, but their use helped while the railways were re-opened.

Robert

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From an account in early 1919

We seized at Namur an immense flotilla of German barges laden with produce, which varied from ammunition to children's toys, and was evidence that the Germans had determined to stop there for the winter. We were disposing of it as well as we could, but for lack of sufficient guards, which could not be supplied, the barges were heavily pillaged. Robbery reached surprising lengths in Belgium. Numbers of motor-cars were stolen, and supply trains were robbed by men in uniform, who got into the waggons at night and threw out the contents to their confederates while the train was moving. At last we put a guard in every waggon, and sent two orderlies with each car.

However a German commuminque of September 1915

Flotillas of German barges are ceaselessly bringing shells from the Njemen to Kovno,from there motor trucks take them to the front.

I think German barges more in evidence in the East than the West.

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The Germans certainly did make use of Rhine barges which came through Holland: the Dutch paper Der Telegraaf reported on 29 Oct 1915 that barges, with military crews, were carrying materials up the Rhine, through the Netherlands then down the Lys to towns such as Menin and Courtrai, then going back to Germany with scrap and raw materials. There was a lot of diplomatic complaining by the British, through the British Ambassador, Sir Alan Johnstone, at first the Dutch denied the accusations but later put a limit on the German tognage, which was rarely monitored (they were benefitting from tolls).

There was a Parliamentary Report published in 1918 "Further Correspondence Respecting the Transit Across Holland of Materials Susceptible as Military Supplies" which detailed about 250 diplomatic memos to the Dutch.

By using the barges for heavy materials such as construction materials for defence works, horse fodder, ammunition etc, these materials were kept off the rail sytem.

Regards, Peter

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Thank you for all your interesting replies,

Does anyone know how far south the Germans used the Meuse ?

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Does anyone know how far south the Germans used the Meuse ?
I have seen reference to barges at Namur, but not sure about Dinant.

Robert

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The Germans were actually involved in some canal building

" Canal du Centre: Seneffe junction - Mons north/Nimy (27 km)

The route was to connect the Haine river/canal by Mons with the Charleroi canal. Lift 1 was inaugurated in 1888, but various difficulties (particularly water supply) delayed completion until World War One. The German occupiers decided that the canal would be useful for moving military supplies and it was opened in August 1917"

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See my earlier post
Let me rephrase to be clear. Independently of the previous post, I have seen descriptions of German barges in operation around Namur prior to 1919. Unfortunately I am travelling at present and don't have access to my primary sources, so can't verify whether barges travelled further up the Meuse.

Robert

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