«LONDON PRINTED BY AUTHORITY OF THE MINISTRY, OVERSEAS MILITARY FORCES OF CANADA. REPORT of the MINISTRY Overseas Military Forces of Canada LONDON ...»
Owing to the systematic destruction by the enemy during evacuation, of railways and bridges-destruction which continued far more rapidly than the facilities for repair-it was frequently necessary for the Mechanical Transport convoy to make wide detours in bringing supplies to points where they could be turned over to horsed transport. On other occasions the supplies had to be dumped at a considerable distance behind the front line, in consequence of the damaged roads being impassable for lorries, and picked up by waggons and limbers, which in emergencies could proceed across fields or otherwise evade mined points and shell-holes.
During the past summer's operations both Mechanical Transport and Heavy Transport played a very important part, the former in hauling supplies expeditiously over great distances which occasionally intervened between railhead and refilling points ; the latter, in carrying them forward in spite of all obstacles, thus making it possible for the Infantry and Artillery to follow up rapidly a fast-retiring army which was causing all possible damage to rail and road in order to protect itself from absolute destruction. Railways are, of course, useful only so long as they are kept repaired and plentifully supplied with fuel ; and Mechanical Transport, with its heavy 3-ton lorries, is only of service whilst the surface of the roads remains hard. But the faithful horse and mule, plod on perseveringly through mud and slime, occasionally on short rations, and often during the darkness of the blackest nights, guided only by the lights of the Infantry flares ahead. Last year' the supply waggons of the Artillery frequently travelled with the guns, supplies being so off-loaded that it was not necessary for the gunners to leave their posts, as a detail could carry them from the point where they were dumped-and cooked on an open brick fire-to the gun-pit.
The duties of a Divisional Train include (as already mentioned) the receiving and transmitting of supplies to the numerous Units composing a Division, and also the transporting of Units' baggage, both personal and technical. Each of the Corps Administration. 253 four Companies is divided into three parts, namely Headquarters Section, Supply Section, and Supply and Baggage Transport Section ; and to each of these an officer and two N.C.O.'s are attached. To No. I Company, which is more than twice the strength of the Brigade Companies, are allotted the duties of rationing and transporting baggage for what are known as the Divisional Troops, which include two Brigades of Artillery, the Divisional Ammunition Column, one Machine Gun Battalion, one Engineer Battalion, three Ambulances, one Signal Company, and various small Units included in a Divisional Establishment. Each of the three Brigade Companies is responsible for feeding and transporting the baggage of one Brigade of Infantry. All are provided with trained artificers, saddlers, wheelers and farriers, who subject, to their Commanding Officer and Company Commander, are charged with the responsibility of keeping in good repair the harness and waggons, and of supervising the horse-shoeing of the Units served by their respective Companies.
When any such Units are ordered to move, the " Q " Branch of the Division, which deals with such matters, advises the Officer Commanding Train of the pending movement. The Senior Supply Officer is similarly warned, with a view to the amendment, if necessary, of existent arrangements as to indents for and distribution of rations. The Commanding Officer in turn issues orders to Company Commanders concerned, as to where and when Units are expected to move, and directs any necessary postings between Companies of transport drivers and waggons, to serve their Units within a new ration group, should a change become necessary for topographical reasons. These redistributions may occur in the case of any formation except the two Brigades of Artillery and the Divisional Ammunition Column, which always remain with No.
Concurrently, the Senior Supply Officer, a Major on the strength of the Train, having been advised by Division " Q " of changes in connection with railhead, Army Service Corps supplies, and components of the Divisional ration group, issues instructions to his four Supply Captains (one for each Train Company) as to any alterations in the feeding strength of their Units, and in case of movements, locates new refilling points if necessary. This is usually done in conjunction with the Officer Commanding Train, and orders covering movements, locations of Units, varying feeding strengths, switches of formations between ration groups, positions of new dumps, and movements of supply details, transport turnouts, etc., and instructions in connection therewith, are issued to all Company Commanders 254 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.
and Supply Officers, a copy being sent to the Officer Commanding and the Senior Officer of the Mechanical Transport Company, to inform them of the new locations where lorries are required to dump supplies.
This is necessitated by the fact that the lorries are loaded at railhead in bulk for the four groups.
The nature and quantity of such supplies depends upon the indents received from Units, consolidated by the Brigade Supply Officer on Army Form 3316, and by the Senior Supply Officer on Army Form 3317, and forwarded to the S.O. of the Mechanical Transport Company.
On arrival of the supplies by motor transport at their respective refilling points, these points being usually located in the Forward Area, they are off-loaded, and a check made by the Supply Officer as to quality and quantity. The Supply details attached to the dump then apportion them to the different Units of their particular group, and they are loaded on the waggons and limbers of the Divisional Train and transported to the Quartermaster's stores of the respective. formations. They are once more checked in order to ascertain whether they comply with the requirements set out in the indents.
Summarising this, the normal procedure, it may be seen that the delivery of rations, etc., from railhead to the point where they are taken over by the Units' first line transport, involves two hauls, one by lorries of the Divisional Mechanical Transport Company to the respective Refilling Points (or " Supply Dumps "), the other by horse transport from the Dumps, after subdivision, to all the Units and Formations of the various groups, ranging from small isolated parties of three or four men (e.g., Town Major's staffs or guards of ammunition dumps) to a Battalion of over 900 men and 55 animals.
This sequence of functions is not invariably followed. It is occasionally necessary for Train Transport to haul from railhead to the dumps, or even to the Units' lines, owing to the Mechanical Transport being withdrawn on account of the condition of the roads, or for other duties. As a rule, under such circumstances, the first line transport picks up its Unit's supplies at the refilling point, and carries it to the Quartermaster's stores, or beyond.
A few words regarding the method of indenting for supplies. Each Unit prepares, daily, a statement on Army (Form) B. 55 of the number of personnel and of horses (the latter classified under three categories) for whom rations are required, together with a list of articles usually termed " Sundries," such as oils and disinfectants, likely to be needed. At the supply dumps the A.B. 55's for the group are tabulated on Army Form W. 3316, Corps Administration. 255 and the 3316's daily compiled for the four refilling points are collected by the Senior Supply Officer, consolidated on Army Form W. 3317, and forwarded to the S.O. Mechanical Transport Company. Such demands as are urgently needed and cannot be drawn from the pack train may be obtained from Field Supply Depots or reserve stores located in the forward area. The period elapsing between the time an A.B. 55 is submitted and the date on which the rations are consumed is usually four days. For example, indents are submitted and consolidated on the 1st of the month, for rations to be drawn from the pack train on the 2nd, for issue to Units from the dumps on the 3rd, and for consumption on the 4th. The correct distribution of the supplies as between the four Groups is determined by the S.O.Mechanical Transport Company by reference to A.Fs.W.3316.
In addition to superintending the distribution and haulage of supplies for all Units of the Division, and ensuring that sufficient baggage waggons are always available for the use of Battalions in the event of a sudden move, the Commanding Officer of the Train, in his capacity of senior Transport Officer, is responsible for the proper upkeep of First Line transport, and in the discharge of this duty, assisted by his Company Commanders, one Major and three Captains, holds monthly inspections and renders detailed reports containing criticisms and suggestions for the guidance of Units' Transport Officers.
The problem of subsistence for the inhabitants of reclaimed towns and villages in Northern France and Belgium was a necessary incident of the rapid advance of the Canadian Corps in the Fall of 1918, subsequent to the capture of Cambrai. The rapidity with which Divisions' responsibilities increased in this respect may be illustrated from the experience of the 4th Canadian Division. On the 19th October last a telegram was received from 10th Brigade Headquarters by the Senior Supply Officer that the town of Abscon contained 2,300 civilians who must be fed, if possible, on the following nay. Later on the same day, the occupation of the large town of Denain and the necessities of 5,000 inhabitants were reported, the ration figure being later increased to 15,000, and the next day to 28,000. The Corps organised a special branch to arrange for feeding civilians in its area, and placed in charge an Officer of the 1st Divisional Train who, working in conjunction with the French mission, kept hourly in touch with the situation and instructed Senior Supply Officers as to their respective ration groups. Depots of "iron rations" and jam and milk, had been established at different 256 Overseas Military Forces of Canada.
points by the Army. To supply requirements on the 20th, rations were made available from the Railway Supply Officer's store at Arras, through a special liaison officer, and were then hauled over this great distance by lorries of the Mechanical Transport Company. The supplies were delivered to the Maires of the towns requiring them, and instructions given as to the manner of distribution, depots being opened by the town authorities and rations handed out to civilians calling for them. Receipts were obtained from the Maires and forwarded through the usual channels to the Deputy Director Supply and Transport of the Army to which the Corps was then attached. In pursuance of arrangements previously entered into with the French Government, the Division's responsibility for feeding civilians should have expired after four days, large stores having been accumulated for them at Boulogne ; but owing to transportation difficulties the first French pack train did not arrive until November 5. Needless to add, the relief convoys were very heartily welcomed by the local population and a very large number of areas benefited by their prompt activity.
Many and varied have been the duties performed by Mechanical Transport and Train Transport, as the following examples amply show:— In the Spring of 1916, the 2nd Canadian Divisional Train was asked to transport a large number of gas cylinders to an advanced position. To carry out this project successfully, it was necessary to bind all waggon wheels with old automobile tyres, pad loose parts of the waggon with canvas, muffle chains and loose parts of harness with sacking, and, upon approaching the Line, to cover the horses' hoofs with the same material.
Thanks to these precautions, the operation was carried out with very slight loss of life, although at this point the width of No Man's Land was much less than usual, and the roadway was almost continuously swept by machine-gun fire.
At Albert, in the Fall of the same year, train transport was employed to draw cars of ammunition on the light railway to Sausage Valley, prior to the fall of Courcelette.
From January, 1917, until two weeks before the attack on Vimy Ridge, the Trains were supplying convoys of from ten to forty waggons per night, to haul 18-lb. shells to advanced Artillery positions.
During September, 1917, a large programme of work for the Engineers was carried out by the 4th Train in the Forward Area, Corps Administration. 257 and over 1,130 waggons were detailed for day or night duty, exclusive of hauling of supplies.
About the same time, the 2nd Train successfully delivered Engineer material by night almost to the Front Line, for the construction of an Advanced Dressing Station preparatory to the Sallaumines attack.
In November, during the period of intense fighting near Passchendaele, horse transport was largely employed in the hauling of miscellaneous material, such as barbed wire and trench mats, to assist in consolidating our advanced positions ; and heavy bombing and shell fire alike failed to divert the convoys from delivery of their supplies.
During the latter part of the summer of 1918, both men and horse were taxed to the utmost in hauling supplies 20 to 30 miles per day over muddy roads, byways and even fields, and in some Trains heavy losses were incurred from enemy action. In no instance, however, were Units deprived of their rations.
The foregoing is necessarily a light sketch of a large subject, and it is felt that it does less than justice both to the mechanical or horsed transport Units, with whose unobtrusive but capable and conscientious work it is designed to deal ; but it is hoped that enough has been said to indicate that the Canadian Army Service Corps in the Field, in all its branches, has played an indispensable role in Corps operations, with efficiency and success.
THE DIVISIONAL TRAIN.
The Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding the Train is directly responsible to the G.O.C., Division for all executive duties in connection with supplies and transport. In the discharge of these functions he must keep in close touch with the " A " and " Q " branches of the Division. As Senior Transport Officer he is responsible to the G.O.C. for the efficiency of all First-Line transport.