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The EK1

The men of the supply units transported all that was necessary to fight a war to the immediate front line. On many occasions they braved enemy barrages to bring much needed supplies to the frontline troops who were sheltered in their dugouts.  

This chapter is meant to give an overview to the collector as the units of the “Train” can be rather confusing due to the frequent changes in the structure of these units.

Above: A member of Res.-Inf.-Mun.-Kol. 32, with the 21st Reserve Division in the Champagne Sector, march 1915.

At the end of this page you will find the "dry" description of the organizational changes made within the supply branch during the war. It goes a long way in helping to inter prate period documents and understanding entries in military passes.

Landsturmmann Martin Kreutz served in a Bespannte Abteilung and later in a Fußartillerie ammunition column. He fought on the Maas and mosel, at Verdun and near Rheims. His Iron Cross document and a description of the conditions he fought under can be found HERE.

Vizewachtmeister d.Ldw.I Friedrich Karl Utz was a Württemberger who served for the full duration of the war earning the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd class. His award documents and a tribute to the ammunition supply soldiers can be found HERE

Willi Engelke and August Kruse served in supply columns and were decorated for supplying the front lines on the Somme and at Verdun (amongst other sectors), there documents and a description of supply columns in action can be found HERE

Along with the soldiers millions of horses suffered and died during WW1. Sgt Alwin Büttner and Korpsstabsveterinar Kutzner served in the Horse hospitals that were essential for treating the sick and wounded. Iron Cross documents and text can be found HERE

(To avoid any confusion, "Train" has nothing to do with the railways!)

Munitions-Kolonnen (Munitions Columns) and Train (Support Services) Units

In peace time the Train was an independent branch of service. When mobilised in time of war, the Train’s units were amalgamated with the Infanterie-Munitions-Kolonnen (Infantry Ammunition Columns), Artillerie-Munitions-Kolonnen (Artillery Ammunition Columns) and separate Füßartillerie-Munitions-Kolonnen (Foot Artillery Ammunition Columns), into a combined Munitions-Kolonnen und Trains formation. These were assigned at Armeekorps (Army Corp), Reservekorps (Reserve Corp), or Etappe (Staff) command level and consisted of:                          

(a)     Munitions-Kolonnen-Abteilung (Mixed Infantry and Artillery munitions columns);
(b)     Füßartillerie-Munitions-Kolonnen-Abteilung (Foot artillery munitions columns), and;
(c)     Train (which included the Feldlazarette (Field hospitals), Proviant-Kolonnen and Fuhrpark-Kolonnen (Supply Columns – Provision and Vehicle columns respectively), Pferdedepots (Horse Depots) and Feldbäckerei-Kolonnen (Field bakeries)).  

Typically an active Armeekorps would have two Munitions-Kolonnen-Abteilung (of four Infanterie and nine Artillerie-Munitions-Kolonnen), one Füßartillerie-Munitions-Kolonnen-Abteilung (of eight Kolonnen), two Train-Abteilungen (of twelve Feldlazarette, six Proviant-Kolonnen, seven Fuhrpark-Kolonnen, two Pferdedepots and two Feldbäckerei-Kolonnen). A Reservekorps would have two Reserve-Munition-Kolonnen-Abteilungen and two Reserve-Train-Abteilungen, with less equipment than an active Armeekorps.  

The Munitions Supply Columns

Initially the men of the Infanterie- and Artillerie-Munitions-Kolonnen were trained and supplied by the Feldartillerie, while the Füßartillerie formed its own Munitions-Kolonnen, the latter being under the command of the various Armeekorps. In addition to this, the Feldartillerie-Abteilungen and Füßartillerie-Bataillons at the front had their own Leichten-Munitions-Kolonnen.  

In autumn 1916 the complicated system of Infantry and Artillery munitions columns for Active, Reserve and Landwehr units was discontinued and all columns were regrouped as "Munitions-Kolonnen neuer Art (new style)". Once the restructuring of the Army under Hindenburg and Ludendorff had taken place the "neuer Art"  was discontinued and replaced by a central numbering system and 507 Munitions-Kolonnen were created to supply both the Infanterie and Feldartillerie .

At the beginning of 1917 the Leichte-Munitions-Kolonnen (Light munitions columns) were taken from their respective Feldartillerie units and renumbered centrally under Armee level command forming 785 columns for the Artillery. (Note: “Armee level”:Under the direct command of the Army they were attached to.)   A third group, the Füßartillerie-Munitions-Kolonnen-Abteilungen and the Leichten-Füßartillerie-Munitions-Kolonnen were amalgamated as Armee level Füßartillerie-Munitions-Kolonnen, which for practical reasons (with the exception of eleven which stayed at Armee level) were later reassigned as Battery level columns when the Füßartillerie units became horse drawn and needed a more flexible supply chain.  

In the end there were 507 mixed Infantrie- and Feldartillerie-Munitions-Kolonnen, 785 Leichten-Kolonnen exclusively for the Feldartillerie and 11 Armee-Füßartillerie-Munitions-Kolonnen all at Armee level. As an exception to the Armee level units, each Füßartillerie-Batterie had its own integrated Munitions-Kolonnen.  

In addition to these columns organised at command level, combat units had single munitions wagons as part of their table of organisation equipment. One munitions wagon per infantry company, two per Jäger company, one per machine gun zug (platoon) and one per gun for Feldartillerie and Füßartillerie.  

Personnel were drawn from both the artillery and train initially but by October 1918, with the manpower shortage becoming serious, the Munitions-Kolonne began to lose their complement of artillerymen. Only the Leichten-Munitions-Kolonne supporting the Feldartillerie, the Batterie-Kolonne supporting the Füßartillerie and the eleven Armee-Füßartillerie-Munitions-Kolonnen continued to receive their complement of artillerymen from the artillery branch, the rest of their personnel came from train units.    

Supply Train  

The Supply Trains were divided into Proviant and Fuhrpark-Kolonnen, the former consisting of twenty-seven 4-span wagons, the latter of forty-eight 2-span wagons. Originally numbered according to their Armeekorps, they were restructured in January 1917 to become Armee level units, numbered 1st to 180th for the Proviant-Kolonnen and 1st to 444th for the Fuhrpark-Kolonnen. Tragetier-Kolonnen (Mule Columns) were formed for service in Mountainous areas in 1915 by the Armee-Abteilung-Gaede, and soon twelve divisions had their own Tragetier-Kolonnen. In May 1918 these were numbered 1st to 19th and assigned at at Armee level.    

Horse Doctors and Horse Hospitals  

Sharing the dangers with the driver were his horses, millions of which were killed during the war.  

The Pferdedepots (Horse Depots) moved from Armeekorps to Armee command in January 1917 at which stage five Heeres-Pferdedepots (Army Horse Depots), ten kavallerie-Pferdedepots (Cavalry Horse Depots) and forty-eight Pferdedepots existed.  

Pferde-Lazarette (Horse Hospitals) and Pferde-Sammelstellen (Horse Collection Points) were formed in the spring of 1915 at Armeekorps and Divisional level, although the Sammelstelle were soon integrated into the Hospitals. In February 1917 the Pferde-Lazarette were renumbered 1st to 288th and attached to Divisions, also formed were six independent Räudellazarette (Infectious skin diseases) and twenty-eight Gruppen-Pferde-Lazarette which were at Armee level.    

The Field Hospital

The Feldlazarette was part of the Train and was initially assigned at Armeekorps level (numbered 1st to 12th per Armeekorps). The Reserve-Feldlazarette attached to the Reserve-Korps or Reserve-Division however, were numbered at Armee level and not within the Reserve-Korps they were serving under. In December 1916 this system was found to be more practical for the active Feldlazarette as well and the individual Armeekorps lost their Feldlazarette, each division getting two Feldlazaretten, the balance coming directly under Armee command. By the end of the war there were 592 hospitals, including 113 Reservekorp-Feldlazarette and 26 Landwehr-Feldlazarette.  

The Feldlazarette usually consisted of six Doktors (doctors), one Oberapotheker (Chemist), nine Sanitäts-Unteroffizier (Medical N.C.O.s), fourteen Militärkrankenwärter (Male Nurses), one Krankenwagen (Ambulance), two Sanitätswagen (Ambulances/Medical wagons) and four Gerätewagen (Equipment wagons).  

The Field bakery

A Feldbäckerei-kolonnen had twelve 4-span, horse drawn, ovens and twelve equipment wagons. They were initially attached at Armeekorps level as Nr.1 (Number 1) and Nr.2 Feldbäckerei, but in the Spring of 1917 they were renumbered and transferred to Armee command. At the end of the war they were numbered 1st to 184th.