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Waggoner

Supplying the British Army in the First World War

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Waggoner

I am presently reading this book by Janet MacDonald. I was wondering if anyone else has read it and, if so, what your opinion of it was? Personally, I find it a bit disappointing. The information provided ranges from high level strategy to the details of looking after harness. There does not appear to be a clear thesis. While much of the information is very interesting, there are no references given. However, there are some general sources cited for each chapter. She also seems to be unclear about the functions of the AOC and ASC. Overall, interesting but not definitive.

 

All the best,

 

Gary

Edited by Waggoner
Left out word

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seaJane

Her book 'Feeding Nelson's Navy' was good, but I suspect she could gain the necessary background knowledge from a shorter list of books than would be necessary for this one. I pointed her in the direction of some material for this, but it would mostly have been for comparative purposes (since what I had to hand referred mostly to the RN).

 

Are there any recipes in this one?

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KernelPanic

How the Army was supplied in WW1 is a topic in which I'm quite interested, particularly from an ASC perspective. But there seem to be very few recent books about it. Unfortunately MacDonald's book does not get good reviews. But despite that, I'm wondering if it has enough redeeming features to make it worth reading, particularly for someone who knows little about this vast topic? 

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Marilyne

Where logistics are concerned in WWI, there is but one good reference: Brown, Ian Malcolm (1998), British Logistics on the Western Front: 1914–1919.

Followed closely by the last one: Clem Maginniss:  An Unappreciated Field of Endeavour: Logistics and the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front 1914-1918

another good reference is Martin van Creveld and his seminal "supplying War", the requisite reading for all logisticians!!

 

M.

Edited by Marilyne

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KernelPanic
13 hours ago, Marilyne said:

Where logistics are concerned in WWI, there is but one good reference: Brown, Ian Malcolm (1998), British Logistics on the Western Front: 1914–1919.

Followed closely by the last one: Clem Maginniss:  An Unappreciated Field of Endeavour: Logistics and the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front 1914-1918

another good reference is Martin van Creveld and his seminal "supplying War", the requisite reading for all logisticians!!

 

M.

 

Thanks Marilyne,

 

Brown and van Creveld are both in my University Library so I can easily take a look, although I suspect the van Creveld might be a bit outside my immediate interest zone. I was hoping that Janet MacDonald's book might fit the bill, but I'm a bit wary about purchasing if it's not that good.

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Grovetown

You might also like to try Army Service Corps 1902-1918 by Michael Young. Not definitive either, yet well researched and an easy read. Hard to find, yet good libraries should have it/ be able to source it.

 

Cheers,

 

GT.

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Marilyne
43 minutes ago, Grovetown said:

You might also like to try Army Service Corps 1902-1918 by Michael Young. Not definitive either, yet well researched and an easy read. Hard to find, yet good libraries should have it/ be able to source it.

 

Cheers,

 

GT.

 

THANKS !!!

As it happens, Bel Def Library has a copy !!!!

 

M.

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KernelPanic
On 27/07/2019 at 05:22, Grovetown said:

You might also like to try Army Service Corps 1902-1918 by Michael Young. Not definitive either, yet well researched and an easy read. Hard to find, yet good libraries should have it/ be able to source it.

 

Cheers,

 

GT.

 

Michael Young’s book was the first I sought out when I became interested in the ASC’s role on the Western Front, and particularly the Horse Transport. While I found it had a good many interesting details, in places it reads more like a somewhat loosely connected collection of short articles that are arranged chronologically.

 

While there’s no doubt that these provide many specific details, I was looking more for an account that integrates the work of the ASC into the broader aspects of operations in France and Belgium. For example, how were the Divisional Supply Columns coordinated with the Trains; how did the different Divisional ASC HT companies work with their brigades; how were the Artillery and Engineer brigades supplied; what did the HQ Company do? Etc.

 

Maybe there’s not much more to be written about these aspects of the ASC’s work and I’m just looking in the wrong places, or perhaps a cohesive account of this type has yet to be written. 

Edited by KernelPanic

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MikeMeech

Hi

 

For the RFC logistics there is Peter Dye's 'The Bridge to Airpower - Logistics Support for Royal Flying Corps Operations on the Western Front, 1914-18'.  This organisation was part of the BEF and relied on the ASC for many of its stores and consumables and also on the Inspector General Communications' transportation and distribution network, so some of it could well be relevant to how the BEF logistics worked as a whole.  'Sustaining Air Power - Royal Air Force Logistics since 1918' by Trevor Stone is also of interest for a wider context.

 

Mike 

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yperman
On 16/05/2019 at 19:18, Waggoner said:

There does not appear to be a clear thesis. 

I found 'Supplying the British Army' a very useful introductory overview and source of information. I am interested in the Dover Patrol and   learnt a lot from this book about the French channel ports.  The subject of logistics in the first world war is so vast there must be a couple of dozen- Phd possibilities in this book alone. I think the author intended - and succeeded in- writing a "go to" quick reference book.Not an academic  analysis of the British response to the logistics challenge of the world's first industrial war.  My only criticism is that the "other theatres" section is rather thin, but I am still glad I bought this book.

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healdav
19 hours ago, KernelPanic said:

 

Michael Young’s book was the first I sought out when I became interested in the ASC’s role on the Western Front, and particularly the Horse Transport. While I found it had a good many interesting details, in places it reads more like a somewhat loosely connected collection of short articles that are arranged chronologically.

 

While there’s no doubt that these provide many specific details, I was looking more for an account that integrates the work of the ASC into the broader aspects of operations in France and Belgium. For example, how were the Divisional Supply Columns coordinated with the Trains; how did the different Divisional ASC HT companies work with their brigades; how were the Artillery and Engineer brigades supplied; what did the HQ Company do? Etc.

 

Maybe there’s not much more to be written about these aspects of the ASC’s work and I’m just looking in the wrong places, or perhaps a cohesive account of this type has yet to be written. 

It would be nice as well to know how they calculated expenditure (on stores, not money).

And it is amazing how few people have brains that can cope with the technicalities of logistics. I used to work with a bloke who was full of his PhD in nuclear something.

He actually thought that before a warship sailed, the captain wandered down to the armaments depot, picked up a supermarket trolley and had a wander round the magazines to see if there was a special offer on 4 inch ammunition or depth charges! On the way back he popped into a store to pick up some nails and screws.

He simply would not believe the amount of calculation that goes into it all, and simply couldn't grasp that to calculate a one hour journey for a train you have to load it,  get it to wherever, unload and than send it back and get it ready to load again (factoring crew down time as well).

Logistics is a complete mystery to most people.

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Marilyne
3 hours ago, healdav said:

 

Logistics is a complete mystery to most people.

 

… to logisticians themselves also sometimes… Believe me !!

 

LOL.

 

M.

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Ron Clifton
23 hours ago, KernelPanic said:

For example, how were the Divisional Supply Columns coordinated with the Trains; how did the different Divisional ASC HT companies work with their brigades; how were the Artillery and Engineer brigades supplied; what did the HQ Company do?

Quick answers: the Divisional Supply Columns, which were lorried units of the ASC, picked up supplies at railheads and conveyed them as far forward as decent roads permitted, there they transferred them at refilling points to the Divisional Trains, which were horse-drawn. (Divisional Ammunition Parks and Divisional Ammunition Columns had the same relationship.)

 

Three of the companies in the Divisional Train each handled the baggage and supplies for one infantry brigade and one field ambulance. The HQ Company performed the same functions for the rest of the divisional troops, including the artillery and engineers. There is some useful information on these aspects in the Field Service Pocket Book 1914, which was reprinted in the 1970s by David & Charles.

 

Mike Young's book is invaluable in particular for its various Annexes, one of which lists all the ASC Companies which served, with their roles and the WO95 references to their War Diaries. It does not seek to be a general history of the war. Sadly Michael is no longer with us but he was a valued member of this Forum.

 

Ron

 

 

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healdav
19 hours ago, Marilyne said:

 

… to logisticians themselves also sometimes… Believe me !!

 

LOL.

 

M.

Having been one; and qualified in supplies management..................................................

In fact, the first person with the RN supply system to be qualified (not boasting).

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Marilyne
22 hours ago, healdav said:

Having been one; and qualified in supplies management..................................................

In fact, the first person with the RN supply system to be qualified (not boasting).

 

Still am …

 

I recently said to a colleague that I find the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the use of nuclear weapons easier to read than the new Single Operational Logistics Level handbook. He was not amused…

 

but Spass beiseite, I do think we can still learn from the logistics of the BEF (and other previous wars… I mean look at the logistics for operation Overlord and the SPOD at Arromanches…) for today's work. We just seem to think that we know it all better today, but we don't.

Simple example: when reading memoirs of the soldiers, one returning feature is the mail call: home made cakes and jams (Sapper Martin received a chocolate birthday cake complete with décorations) and other material being sent over to the soldiers on the front in 1918!! I was on mission in Mali first semester 2018 and the quickest mailroad was the German Feldpost: 2 weeks max! The Belgian chain took four to six weeks in the best cases for a simple package or letter to get from Brussels to Mali.

 

M.

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healdav
1 hour ago, Marilyne said:

 

Still am …

 

I recently said to a colleague that I find the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the use of nuclear weapons easier to read than the new Single Operational Logistics Level handbook. He was not amused…

 

but Spass beiseite, I do think we can still learn from the logistics of the BEF (and other previous wars… I mean look at the logistics for operation Overlord and the SPOD at Arromanches…) for today's work. We just seem to think that we know it all better today, but we don't.

Simple example: when reading memoirs of the soldiers, one returning feature is the mail call: home made cakes and jams (Sapper Martin received a chocolate birthday cake complete with décorations) and other material being sent over to the soldiers on the front in 1918!! I was on mission in Mali first semester 2018 and the quickest mailroad was the German Feldpost: 2 weeks max! The Belgian chain took four to six weeks in the best cases for a simple package or letter to get from Brussels to Mali.

 

M.

I agree.

There is a German film which surfaces from time to time on German TV channels, about the Battle of the Bulge and Peiper.

Towards the end of the film a senior officer turns up at his HQ demanding to know why he wasn't in Antwerp by now, "because the Allies are on their last legs". His batman/driver comes in with coffee and a cake.

Peiper points to the cake and says, "That's the reason why we aren't in Antwerp". Of course, the officer is baffled . Peiper goes on, "That was captured today in a mail truck. It was posted yesterday in the USA. It's still fresh. If they are on their last legs, how come they have the capacity to fly birthday cakes across the Atlantic?".

Exit senior officer.

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