Does supply include replacement and repairs?

Discussion in 'Command Ops Series' started by J. van Limpt, Feb 8, 2020.

  1. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

    May 20, 2015
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    This may need clarification. This was one of my accidental finds that included WAST-office info posted in the Wehrmacht-Forum, where a forum member tried to find some info about his relative, it was off-topic and explained in a diff. thread, which I couldn't find.

    As I see it, the soldier received boot camp training in the replacement Bn 222's base in Wismar, Germany. Garrison refers to the Replacement Bn's base/quarters in Wismar (coastal town right at the Baltic Sea)

    In Wismar he was put in a march Coy that was ordered to replenish a nearby rifle Bn.
    Actually, the Coy just had to march 8-10 km, as the Bn was stationed just south of Wismar, at Lake Schwerin.
    He was then registered as "arrived" in the Landesschützen-Bataillon 263. That Landesschützen Bn was part of the "Ersatzheer" ("Replacement Army").
    The soldier must have been somewhat older (see below), since he was not sent to a combat unit.

    The Ersatzheer was the entity (and Supreme HQ) that was tasked with conscription, recruitment, training + replacement of troops and with testing new military equipment.
    It was based within Germany, had command and administration units, training units (the Ersatz-Bns) and guard troops. Guard troops could guard government facilties, ministries (if based in Berlin), Wehrmacht barracks + training compounds, etc, if needed. While it wasn't a full-fledged "Army", it had authority to use its troops (in training or in deployment within Germany), as well as the guard contingents, in emergency situations. Some of its elements were used to guard Wehrmacht POW camps.

    The Ersatzheer was also tasked (secret plan called "Valkyrie") with occupying/protecting government offices and blocking roads in case there would be uprisings or even a coup. The officers around Stauffenberg, who tried to assassinate Hitler, activated that plan and ordered a Bn of the Ersatzheer to arrest Goebbels, to capture the national radio station and occupy a number of Wehrmacht HQs, including the Supreme HQ of the Ersatzheer, along with the arrest of its commander. Basically, they used the plan meant to protect the Nazi government against the Nazis, and even managed to alter it (with Hitler's signature) in a tricky way, so that it became easier to activate Valkyrie, and that parts of the planning authority were moved to the involved officers.

    EDIT: Several German inf regiments were named "Landesschützen-Regimenter". The majority of their personnel consisted of men from Landwehr and Landsturm (see below).

    These units were part of the so-called "bodenständige" Einheiten pool, which meant their ordered structure did not allow them to have organic transport vehicles. They depended on the superior unit/structure if transport of troops and equipment/weapons was needed. Basically, they couldn't even transport ammunition or light/heavier weapons, without external help.

    While it was still possible that the Bn CO had a passenger car, a Krad, a messenger, a bike or a horse at his disposal, such units were deployed (tactically) over a long(er) time in a particular town/village/place, respectively used within relatively small areas/perimeters, only.
    In the main, such Landesschützen units were used for occupational duties or to provide security in the Homeland. When on occupation duty, they were subordinated to the Commander of the Army's rear area ("Kommandeur des rückwärtigen Armeegebiets", or short "Korück"), who was directly subordinated to the respective Army Ober Command (AOK), whose rear area his units had to secure/"pacify".

    A number of regular Infantry-Divisions carried the "bodenständig" designation, which was put right behind the unit designation, as well. Example: Inf Division XYZ "bo". It was ordered not to use the additional "bo" designation anymore, on May 23, 1943, but the units still existed. In order to identify such units for game research, the unit history (the name history) has to be checked/researched.

    "Landwehr" and "Landsturm":
    During the buildup of the Wehrmacht (1930s), Landwehr (transl.: Land Defense, ages of 35-45) and Landsturm (Land storm/assault, ages over 45) recruits were projected to be assigned to Landwehr and Landsturm Divisions for the 9th wave (conscription in Febr. 1940). The idea was dropped and these older men sent to the Landesschützen-Regiments and a number of Infantry divisions, instead.
    The Landesschützen Regiments mainly consisted of these 2 groups of older soldiers, but probably had a number of younger soldiers that were only conditionally fit for service, so they were moved to units that weren't sent to the frontlines.

    While the Landesschützen regiments and Bns had the same structure as regular Inf units of the Wehrmacht, they had the lowest priority if it came to equipment and personnel. Some of the units didn't even have a sufficient amount of uniforms.

    The weaponry consisted mainly of captured weapons, which made ammunition supply difficult and which turned out to be a serious problem when such unit was committed (partisans or frontline) as a whole, as the regular ammo supply channels had a hard time to come up with ammo for foreign weaponry. While the SS built their own factories to meet the demand for their large pool of captured weapons (employed in quite a few SS divisions), eventually, and while the Wehrmacht ordered to produce ammunition for the Russian 76-mm AT guns that were captured in 1941/42 (several thousand, iirc), ammo production/assignment for captured weapons of such low priority units (like the LSB), was neglected. Such captured weapons issued to LSBs could also be outdated weapons from the inter-war period or even from the WW I era (eg. machine guns).

    Most of the Landesschützen units were organized and deployed as Bns (short: "LSB"), so the Bn structure was the dominating unit level/layout, not the regiment structure, even though regimental HQs might have existed, and LSB were the bodies that were subordinated to the AOKs for occup. duties, imho.

    Their equipment level/quality was poor/inadequate and their older/wiser personnel probably not too eager to die.

    Back to the soldier:
    The Landesschützen-Bn resided in Bad Kleinen, near Wismar, right at Lake Schwerin, from 1941-1945, as part of the Ersatzheer. It was directly subordinated to the "commander of the prisoners of war" of the military district no. 2 in 1941, so I would imagine that the unit either guarded POWs (on a camp compound or during forced labor outside the compound), or that it was deployed as security contingent (for escapes or uprisings in the district's camp/s).
    My bet would be on the former, as some other LSBs assumed guard duties in pow camps, their soldiers occupied watchtowers, patrolled the area, and provided aides and NCOs for the camp command(er) post.

    His departure (from the LSB) log entry neither contains a destination unit, nor a date/year, which is rather odd. It's possible that documents were lost, or that the info was omitted by the units/echelons involved. It's also possible that the Forum member omitted the destination number by accident. My guess would be that the OKH sifted through Homeland units (a process that continued until the end of the war) and that then a vital amount of troops was taken away from that LS Bn and sent to a frontline unit, as a result.

    It's possible that the soldier's march Bn was then used as part of a Kampfgruppe or forced to act like an independent unit, and then wiped out, or wiped out when it was inserted on the frontline. It's also possible that the unit got hit and/or strafed by tactical bombers/fighters. I tend to think that it never reached its destination unit.

    Since the troops of such march Bns usually just carried their personal (small) arms, the combat value during transfers was very low, since they didn't bring heavy weapons (usually). I wouldn't completely rule out that some march orders specified to bring a number of additional light weapons, say LMGs and say small/light 50-mm mortars, but - in general - the rules (KStN) ordered that the staff and officers and a number of NCOs would receive bikes, but there was no such fixed layout for the grunts, so they had to walk and additional equipment was not an option, in most cases, as they had no means (no horse-drawn carriages, no trucks) to transport ammunition or weapons, unless issuance was explicitly ordered (rare, afaik).

    When German riflemen went to combat, experienced men would often use their (larger) bread bags to carry additional ammunition to the frontline.
    So it's possible that a number of troops carried more than the personal ammo outfit (30-60 rounds for their carbines), but if you have to walk say a distance of 100-200 km (or even more), carrying water, blanket/sleeping bag, helmet and rifle, you might get tempted to dump (some or all of the) the extra ammo.

    Whatsoever, it's obvious that the men of such march bns needed to be supplied at the destination, within say the first 30-60 minutes, and issued heavy weapons, in order to have any combat value.

    EDIT 2: I just read that march bns were also used for moving troops to the rear, means moving them away from the front in an orderly fashion and to (I guess) be redirected to other units. I imagine that this was used to reassign remnants or functional parts of otherwise depleted units to other units (to replenish them, or to use the march personnel to rebuild the unit in Germany/other places.
    #21 GoodGuy, Mar 5, 2020
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2020
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  2. VinSix

    VinSix Member

    Mar 27, 2020
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    GoodGuy you should be writing books …….. the content is very insightful. great info.
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  3. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

    May 20, 2015
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    Ty. I'd have to get my hands on some more NARA material and spend time in the Military Archive Freiburg and the Federal Archive in Berlin, and I would have to talk to Bundeswehr archive clerks and military historians, in order to get to an amount of material that would be worth to be presented in a book, though. Sitting on a bunch of NARA film rolls isn't sufficient. Maybe if I win the lottery. ;)
  4. Iconoclast

    Iconoclast Member

    Oct 26, 2014
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    Absolutely outstanding read, your posts are what makes me come back to the forum....and every now and then SITREPs on CO2 ;)
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  5. Markojager

    Markojager Member

    Feb 1, 2017
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    Those posts were really great, I had only a rudimentary knowledge of this, but you clarified it to me and it's not a fringe part of effort, but probably the more important. Really neat exam of the replacement army and the spare, production and distribution problem that Germany had to face for their own inefficiencies. I'll look for more of your posts in this forum, seems quite entertaining and informative as well.
  6. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

    May 20, 2015
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    I thought about adding another section about the German condenser tenders, but my posts hit the character limit several times, so I had to cut the part.
    I do think that it's an interesting detail, though, so I will add it here, now:

    Part 1:

    The German supply system had to deal with quite a few challenges in occupied territories, especially in Russia, as quite a few Polish and Russian railway stations had been bombed/destroyed, as well as their water pipelines and water reservoirs (the tanks right next to the tracks) that were needed to refill the locomotives' boilers.
    Railway water lines and reservoirs were also targeted by partisans, afaik. Also, large parts of Belarus and the Ukraine had underdeveloped railroads, thus less service stations/water reservoirs.
    In order to counter this, the Germans had equipped a larger batch of the BR 52 locomotive series with condenser tenders.
    A condenser locomotive was equipped with a suction-fan line that redirected steam from the funnel/blast pipe (or even internally, from inside the smoke box) to a condenser tender, where then the exhaust steam flow was used to propel a turbine, which then propelled several large fans (needed to cool down the steam and to regain the precious water resource through condensation). A pump then moved the gained water back to the boiler.

    Tests and several different approaches on large freight and passenger train locomotives - using such turbine-powered systems - were conducted during the 1920s, where the Germans first used a Swiss turbine system and a Swedish turbine system (Ljungström's flow-turbine system, which was eventually used in power plants around the world to enhance efficiency, as the turbine had 2 independent halfs that spinned in opposite directions, and where one half was used to drive a generator - to produce electricity - and the other half used to redirect the rest of the steam to a condenser). Other locomotive test projects used Parson's turbine system, most likely in the US and GB, but the Parson system found broader use in ship engines and power plants, eventually, not in locomotives, afaik.

    Henschel had received a patent on its own approach on the condenser technology and had already delivered condenser locomotives to Argentina, the Sovietunion and to Iraq in the 1930s.
    If I am not mistaken, Soviet train factories mounted the Henschel condenser technology on more than 1,400 locomotives " later on" - according to Zander (locomotive archive), so the Soviets had either copied the technology during/after the war, or they had obtained a license before the war, already. I am guessing that most (if not all) of them were actually built after the war and that they were straight copies, though, but I cannot verify this atm, as I don't own any material from Zander's shop.
    Interestingly, London's "District Railway" had employed condenser locomotives in the 1880s already, in order to avoid to expose the passengers of London's underground system to the pollution of the underground steam trains (which were used before the underground system was electrified).

    The turbines were needed to propel the fans (in the tender), and the fans then performed the actual cooling that was needed to regain the water.
    The turbines were purely propelled by the exhaust steam and would start up once the steam flow's pressure was high enough to actually propel their blade systems. If an additional gear was inserted, the turbines's drive shafts could also propel an additional generator.
    The generators employed in the SAR 25 locomotives (see below), a BR 52 successor built from 1953 - 1954 by Henschel and the North British Locomotive Company for South African Railways, generated 125 kW.

    Condenser locomotives could cover very large distances before they had to replenish a share of the water inside the system.
    The most efficient systems could cover a distance of 1,000 km without refuelling stop, where then only a part of the water had to be replaced.

    In the SAR-25 systems, even the steam that had to exit through the regulator valves regularly was collected + routed back to the turbine(s), so I wouldn't be surprised if the BR 52 featured the same thoroughgoing design. I wouldn't rule out that this was a post-war addition, though.

    The SAR 25 was needed in South Africa to maintain railroad connections in the Karoo desert (2 thirds of South Africa's territory), where no water supplies were available for hundreds of kilometers (the desert's dimensions - East to West: 750 km). Eventually, South Africa's railway had to employ more water tank waggons than passenger or freight waggons on the Karoo network, so the SAR 25's were actually badly needed. In the 1930's, SA's railway figured that Henschel's condenser versions appeared to be the perfect solution for their water supply problem, but the outbreak of the war prevented any negotiations - let alone a delivery.

    The condenser version of the German BR 52, designated "52 kon" was employed in Poland 1939, initially, and then also employed in France and Belgium in 1940. The 52 kon's were also used in the Belarus and the Ukraine, as parts of their networks (as well as the water supply infrastructure) were underdeveloped, but also targeted by Russian partisans later on.
    In 1942, all German locomotive manufacturers were ordered to join the "GGL" affiliation (GGL = Gemeinschaft Großdeutscher Lokomitivhersteller = Community of greater German locomotive manufacturers), which was then subordinated to the government's "Main Caucus Rail Vehicles", a government board/body that was founded the same year to address the supply problems on the EF.
    Prominent members were Speer, Minister of transport Dorpmüller, undersecretary Ganzenmüller and the former DEMAG director Degenkolb, who was appointed chairman of the board.

    The result was a substantial increase in locomotive production, which reached its peak in early July 1943, when the GGL factories had managed to complete 51 BR-52 locomotives within one day.
    Just Henschel and the company WLF (Vienna) produced ~ 1,050 locomotives each, until the end of the war. 11 other companies (including Skoda, Borsig and Krauss-Maffei - all well known for either their armament or car production capabilities) produced locomotives as well, with output numbers ranging from 139 (Alsatian Engineering Company in Grafenstaden, Alsace) to 647 BR 52 locomotives (Berlin Engineering, Wildau).

    Due to this effort, more than 6,160 BR 52's could be produced until the end of the war.

    The production orders for the boilers were given to 2 German shipyards, namely Deutsche Werke and Blohm & Voss, but also to 3 engineering companies, 2 in Germany and one in Denmark.

    According to the serial number records, 176 condenser versions of the BR 52 had been produced
    #26 GoodGuy, Apr 18, 2020
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2020
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  7. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

    May 20, 2015
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    Part 2 (of 3):

    The condenser versions were used in the East to quite some extent, especially in 1941, as the Red Army had thoroughly destroyed tracks and supply infrastructure during the retreat in some regions.
    They appeared to be very useful in the 300 km wide band of rural low capacity tracks between Brest and Minsk, during and after the encirclement battles of 1941, since the amount of water supply installations was rather low in those rural areas.

    The division of Poland in 1939, means giving half of Poland to Stalin, had an impact on the state of the railroad network in the territory that ended up in Russian hands, in particular the mentioned 300-km strip of land with low capacity tracks between Brest and Minsk.
    In fact, the division of Poland caused an unexpected logistical handycap for the Germans:

    The Germans started to upgrade the Polish railroad network in "their" half of Poland in 1939, but the Russians neglected the network in their half, which then the Germans had to convert first when they capured the area, before they could even think about upgrading it.

    Since the Germans thought that the Russian campaign would be over before x-mas, major upgrades (additional double-tracked lines, heavy-duty railroad bridges, etc.) were not applied. Some single-track lines received a 2nd track, though. The German High Command then ordered to apply major upgrades to the networks, after they had figured that the war in the East could rage for years. In the main, the efforts started in 1942 only.

    While the Germans were prepared to convert captured parts of the network, where they then first resorted to "nailing" the Russian gauge to Standard gauge, even this makeshift solution took some time + the few other lines in the rural areas of Army Group Center's sector were either converted single-track lines or completely unprocessed Russian gauge lines (eg. the line way east of Minsk, which ran almost parrallel to the Brest - Minsk - Smolensk line and which had a side route that turned W to Bialystok).

    In order to be able to use the latter (the unprocessed lines), the Germans were forced to either put their waggons on Russian bogies + either use converted German locomotives (were there any?), or forced to unload the supplies at the border and to find/use Russian train cars + locomotives for these unprocessed sections. The red lines on the German railroad map (see part 3) indicate Russian guage lines "in use" (by the Germans), tho, so they could use unprocessed railroad lines. Alternative: trucks (see below).

    Other small subsections were still under construction (conversion) + still packed with railway engineers, like the line from Smolensk to the NE in August 1941, which was supposed to supply the most Northern FUP for the 3rd series of encirclement battles + for the advance on Moscow.

    While the 2 main lines in Southern Lithuania (leading to Minsk in the East + Warsaw in the SW) had been converted, 2/3 of the SW line - amounting to 70% of the Belarusian part of the line - were still being processed, even though the engineers had converted the rest of the line with an impressive exertion of force up to Dünaburg (Daugavpils) already. The organizational planning for the railway supplies was performed by the military.
    This turned out to be a major handycap + contrib. to Barbarossa's failure, as the planning would have been in better hands, if the railway managers would have been allowed to take over the planning themselves. The US Civil War had demonstrated that the railways with self-management were the most effective ones.

    All of this resulted in a lack of capacity in the area of Smolensk eventually, where on August 28 three railroad lines could support the build-up for the 3rd series of encirclement battles (see below) in theory, and where the main line (double tracks) leading to Smolensk (from Brest) had been completely converted to standard gauge already, but where 2 of these lines were operational (and in use) but still featuring the Russian gauge, which limited supply runs.

    The supply limits on the left and the right flank delayed the build-up for the 3rd series of encirclement battles, which then ultimately hampered the timely build-up + supply effort for the final advance on Moscow.

    Still, by August 1941, the Germans had managed to convert a number of Russian lines, a total of 7 double-tracked lines had been converted from Russian to standard gauge. According to H.G.W. Davie (in the "Journal of Slavic military studies"), who viewed German railroad situation maps (yes, such maps existed :p , pls see part 3) in RU archives, the supplies for the 1st series of encirclement battles during Barbarossa had to be hauled by trucks from depots on the Polish border to the frontline units or to distribution points set up behind the units.

    The transport was conducted by one or another Grosstransportraum-Regiment (GTR, translates to "large freight space"- or "large transport capacity"-regiment; a total of 3 regiments existed - regiment 602, 605 + 616), the Regiments were mainly equipped with larger civilian 4-ton trucks which had been confiscated by the Wehrmacht.
    According to a forum source, GTR-Regiment 602 employed 4-ton trucks with attached 4-ton trailers and a total of 2,200 vehicles which could haul a total tonnage of 4,500 tons on the onset of the Polish campaign. Regiment 605 had a total tonnage of 6,000 tons and Reg. 616 a tonnage of 9,000 tons (and either bigger trucks or more trucks).

    Early in the French campaign, the GTRs received even more trucks, it seems, in an attempt to bolster the overexpanded supply lines and truck losses or breakdowns, obviously. The GTR suffered high vehicle losses during the Polish campaign, it seems (some sources indicate almost 50%), so the GTR's mission appeared to be either quite dangerous (or their deployment reckless?) or hampered by the fact that civilian vehicles were not designed to last in military missions/rough conditions.
    I cannot verify any of these numbers atm, but they sound reasonable.

    For Operation Barbarossa, the GTR tonnage (officers were in the Wehrmacht, but drivers and mechanics were civilians, if I am not mistaken) had been expanded again, supposedly to a total tonnage of 60,000 tons, this time. This was achieved by confiscating a large number of civilian trucks in occupied countries (especially in France), by incorporating the usable share of the military truck pool left behind by the BEF in France and US trucks formerly employed by the French army.

    In order to cover the distance (300 km?) to the immediate Hinterland of the front, the GTR pool was divided into 2 groups. Each group could cover 50% of the distance, which meant that the 1st-leg trucks had to be unloaded somewhere in the middle, where then the 2nd-leg group had to pick up the supplies and deliver them to the supply points behind the front. I am guessing that the divisional supply columns then picked up the supplies.
    #27 GoodGuy, Apr 18, 2020
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2020
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  8. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

    May 20, 2015
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    Part 3 (of 3):

    For the 2nd series of encirclement battles - prior to the Battle(s) of Smolensk, the Germans could use double-tracked lines already, so that a supply district was set up at a distance of 300 km to the Polish border, where then the GTR trucks covered the last leg to the advancing Armies.

    Davie stresses, that right before the 3rd series of encirclement battles, the GTR truck pool appeared to be worn out + insufficient/unable to meet the supply demands, while at the same time the converted/usable railway lines still lacked signals, depots + facilities to provide regular (maintenance + refueling) services, in addition to the fact that the network between Brest, Minsk and Smolensk was less dense - providing no more than 3 major routes (one through Minsk, 2 West + NW of Smolensk, leading to Lithuania and Bialystok).

    The German railway had started to unload supplies near Smolensk in early Aug. already, but the lack of railroad capacity in the area meant that "only a basic level of supplies could be sent" to the sector, according to Davie, at a point where the bulk of 2 of the 3 trapped Soviet Armies in the Smolensk pocket had managed to escape + maintain the ability to resist. The unexpected resistance + the partial escape made a 3rd series of encirclement battles necessary, but while the Germans had managed to maintain a proper supply regime during the 2nd series of encirclement battles, the increasing break off of truck transport capacity then appeared to be a showstopper for the planned 3rd series of encirclem. battles (October 1941), + which also caused a vital delay of the advance on Moscow.

    German historians call this mess the "transport crisis of autumn 1941", which historian Klaus A. Schüler had detailed ("Logistik im Russlandfeldzug: die Rolle der Eisenbahn bei Planung, Vorbereitung + Durchführung des deutschen Angriffs auf die Sowjetunion bis zur Krise vor Moskau im Winter 1941/42" = "Logistics during the Russian campaign: the role of the railway in planning, preparation + execution of the attack on the Sovietunion until the crisis in front of Moscow") in his dissertation (1987), already.

    The German railroad situation map from 28th of August, 1941, detailing the conversion progress in Army Group Center's sector:


    The green circles mark the areas where supplies are unloaded.
    Blue dashed line = under construction (conversion)
    Red dashed line = destroyed RU guage, under repair (to be restored to usable RU gauge)
    Red line = Russian gauge
    Blue line = convert. to standard gauge alrdy
    Red X = destroyed RR bridge

    In the Southern Ukraine, the route Taganrog - Rostov, the last leg to Rostov at the Don that amounted to ~80 km, appeared to be so thoroughly destroyed that the German repair effort was equivalent to a new construction. As the thoroughness of such actions varied quite a bit, some regions were more affected than others. Since Tarnopol was connected to the railroad lines leading to Poland and since Odessa (iirc) was connected to Rumania and - more importantly - to the dense network around Lemberg (Lwow or Lviv), Army Group South's units advancing on the Crimea and on Charkov could be supplied, but the few lines available from Odessa to Rostov appeared to be delaying bottlenecks for the movement of troops and tanks in 1941, because the segments went up North and then South (north of Kerch) again and because they mainly consisted of single-track lines with only one Southern subsection (north of the Kerch peninsula) maintaining a straight eastward direction, so that the supply effort for the advance towards Rostov involved a number of detours. Also, a number of railroad bridges were destroyed, and - in the main - heavy-duty replacements were not built before 1942.

    Davie posted a railroad map (see below) on his website, I am not sure when it was printed, though.

    Half of Moldavia, in the SE corner of the Russian territory (light blue railroad lines), namely Bessarabia + the Northern Bukovina, appears to be part of the USSR + the Russian territory borders on Germany, means Poland disappeared. The USSR annexed these 2 regions in June 1940 - the annexation was part of the secret agreements in the Molotov-Ribbentrop-Pact.
    So the map might have been printed in or after 1940.

    It's not clear why the railroad lines in Bessarabia, in the Bukovina and in parts of Lithuania are displayed as light blue lines, but high-capacity lines (double-tracked) are depicted.

    Very interesting detail: In 1941, a single-track railroad line branched off from the double-tracked line running north from Rostov (the Rostov-Voronezh line, IIRC). The single-track line branched off at Likhaya (Лихая, town of Likhovskoy?; near Kamensk) and then ran east to Stalingrad, in 1941, this line was partly used in 1942 (assault on Stalingrad).

    According to Gert C. Lübbers (see below), the bulk of the ammo supplies (and scarce food supplies) for the 6th Army, which was tasked to advance on Stalingrad, had to be squeezed through the route Chir (a river, but also a vital train station at the time) - Kalach - Stalingrad, where the main part comprised of a dusty, unpaved minor road to Stalingrad, the only usable route in the area.
    The supplies were dropped off at the Chir station 20 km West of the Don, which was connected via a single-tracked line, only.
    The supplies were then put on trucks + hauled over the Don using a road bridge near Kalach, the only bridge the Germans had managed to rebuild by September 9, 1942, and were then put back on train cars east of the don for the last leg to Stalingrad.

    A share of the supplies was completely hauled by trucks from Chir to Stalingrad, using the mentioned "road". For the general supply of subunits deployed just east of the Don, supplies were put on small Russian one-horse carts ("Panjewagen") that were meant to be pulled by tractors. The supply elements received the ridiculously low amount of 30 tractors to do the job, only, so horses had to be used.

    The Germans decided to send the refugees from the Stalingrad area to the rear, but the bulk of them had to walk to the Chir station. This clogged the German supply route, because they walked along the railroad embankment + over the road bridge (Kalach). Some civilians were picked up by returning (empty) supply trucks or put on returning trains, the former was denied later on because the Germans feared sabot./espionage. A few unguarded bridges had been blown RU resistance fighters, so the Germans had to make sure that every remaining or repaired bridge (or temp. bridge) was properly guarded, thus they mistrusted all civilians.
    German military police was then ordered to lead refugees over the bridge at night, eventually, to keep it open for Army supply runs during the day, at least. Tens of thousands fled from the Stalingr. area (at least 80 k, acc. to Lübbers, s. below), thousands of them camped in the open Steppe near the railroad embankment + kept fires going with Steppe grass because the temperature dropped below 15° C (~October).
    The Germans erected an interment camp at Chir, where delegates of the Organization Todt "recruited" fit civilians for slave labor, those who were unfit for work, sick or old were eventually expulsed + sent to Soviet territory.

    The 6th Army + the neighboring units were ordered to live off the occupied territory. While this order applied to all German units on the EF in theory, it was first + foremost enforced in Army Group B's operational area, because the transport situation kept the Wehrmacht's supply branch from meeting the demands + because priority was given to ammunition supplies (which appeared to be insuffic. as well).

    Publish./author Gert C. Lübbers stressed, in his essay (publ. in the quarterly of the German Institute for contemporary history in 2006) "The 6th Army + the civilian population of Stalingrad", that the Don salient's countryside could not suffic. support the 6th Army's food requirem. in Aug. 1942, anymore. In mid-October the 6th Army's food rations had to be halved because the region's food supplies were depleted. A vital share of the 6th Army's troops went into the ensueing house-to-house fights on halved rations, but the rations had been reduced in Aug. 1942, already.

    I am not sure if the Germans ever upgraded any subsection in the area to double tracks, but the Russians erected a monument in Kamensk (1980s), consisting of a Russian Class L locomotive, + dedicated it to the "railwaymen of Likhaya". If I am not mistaken, the Russians rebuilt the western line + reconverted it (+ upgraded it to a double-tracked line?) in record time, after they had pushed back the Germans, which would explain the monument.


    The condenser locomotives appeared to be especially useful in the Central + Southern Ukraine, afaik.

    In 1943, the remaining condensers in the East were evacuated to Germany, partly because the Germans wanted to preserve the condenser pool + because quite a few railroad stations + lines had received proper water facilities, but mainly to speed up the distribution of spare parts + resources within Germany, since the condensers could travel up to 1,000 km without refueling stop.
    #28 GoodGuy, Apr 18, 2020
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2020
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  9. Markojager

    Markojager Member

    Feb 1, 2017
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    Interesanting piece of history, the actual bulk of work to keep the armies fighting is impressive. It was a titanic labor to make work what it was basically a giant migration of people and vehicles from one continent to another, to put it in other terms.
  10. GoodGuy

    GoodGuy Member

    May 20, 2015
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    A little update regarding the crane on the pictures above:

    In the first picture, a section of the crane's base is visible (lower right middle section of the pic), and if you look close, then you can actually see 3 or 4 wheels. I didn't think about that detail when I wrote that post. But after checking the pic again, I noticed the wheels (they are unusually small, so these must be rims - means the tyres were removed or damaged/missing), which triggered my curiosity, as I've seen similar cranes (with tyres) on post-war pics of German harbor installations. So I did some more research:

    This crane is not some Russian factory crane, but a "Strabokran" ("Strabo crane", a gantry crane), developed by the German company J.S. Fries before WWII, + it seems like WWII scale modelling fans know this quite well (a popular diorama theme); they call it "Fries crane".
    Around 100 cranes were built, most of them by Fries but a number of them were built under license by Stratenwerth (Duisburg).

    Volker Ruff authored an interesting book about these cranes "Der Strabokran" (in English) in 2011:

    He found a British intel report detailing the handling + assembling of such cranes.
    The interesting parts:
    They were mobile cranes used to replace turrets of heavy tanks - in field repair shops. They were towed by a Sd.Kfz 8 or a Sd.Kfz 9, which used to be the dedicated towing vehicles for such cranes.

    According to Ruff, this set (Strabokran + Sd.Kfz 8 or 9) was even laid out in the KStN. Only those repair shop coys that were attached to Tiger/Panther units received those cranes. In his book, Ruff provides pretty much the same pictures (I posted), but also a number of less known pictures in the Bundesarchiv (National Archive), possibly taken around the same time:
    There is one picture showing a Tiger's rear end, and you can see 7 or 8 bigger electricity pylons in the bg, and a large bldg on the left, which seems to be a power plant/factory (hence all those poles).
    The crane came with its own power unit (gas. engine that generated the power for the crane's E-engine).
    It's possible that the repair shop crew bypassed the power generator to "leech" electricity from the factory/power plant, in this case.

    Some of the pictures from the archive, where some are also used by Ruff:

    Technically, & with the portable power unit, these portable cranes could replace a Panther's or Tiger's turret anywhere, if the perimeter was flat + secure. 10 men were needed to deploy the crane (in 1 hour).

    There was a 15 t, a 16 t and - according to Ruff - a 20 t version. Ruff found drawings of a 16 t without power unit (manual operation only), but I am not sure if they were actually used in the respective units.
    I would not rule it out, though, since the very late Pz.IV models were delivered with hydraulic turrets (which had to be rotated manually), in an attempt to save resources (and man hrs), so it's possible that those subtypes were built to save fuel + copper in late 1944/early 1945. Another possibility: They were built for areas with insuff. fuel supplies/infrastructure (eg. Kalmyk steppe, North Africa).

    The crane was essential for getting access to the gearbox and the steering gears: The turret had to be removed, in order to access those parts, and the gearbox - as is known - had a high repair susceptibility.

    Tank engines could be replaced with the crane of a tank retriever (Bergepanzer), eg. the Bergepanther/Bergetiger, but every repair shop coy also had a number of Sd.Kfz 9 with Bilstein cranes, which could lift 3 tons.
    A Sd.Kfz 9 during the repair of a Pz.III, around Jan./Febr. 1943:


    2 Sd.Kfz 9's towing a Tiger (in Italy, March 1944):


    If there was no Strabokran available to remove the turret, repair shop crews used 2 Sd.Kfz with Bilstein crane. The pic below is from the archive, too, but this really small version is the only online version I could find - I had to resize it by 300%. The vehicle on the left appears to be a Sd.Kfz 9, the one in front looks like a truck that's equipped with a Bilstein crane as well. Reminder: Each crane could only lift 3 tons. This looks like an emergency repair shop set up in the woods, there are some fuel barrels on the ground, I could imagine that this shop resided somewhat closer to the front, or that the repair shop crew decided to conduct the repair on site (right where the tank broke down).

    I don't have Jentz' Tiger publications at hand atm, but a Tiger turret weighed something between 6 (without turret drive, according to some Russian sources) and 8 tons, so these 2 Bilstein 3 ton cranes operated at their max. limits, definitely:


    Just to get back to Jim's statement, where he describes a centralized repair system (returning dmg'ed tanks to the factory of origin), for a second:

    This US Army pamphlet (from 1954, link below) discusses the German tank maintenance system.
    While it's not comprehensive + not correct in each + every detail (some public. from the 2000s are more detailed/accurate), as a vital part is based on witness accounts from German POWs + (few) surviving German documents, it gives a basic idea of Maybach's strive to improve + extend the tank engines, as the engine power of the first versions in Tiger + Panther tanks appeared to be insufficient, where then the various design or part changes created an all-new spare part variety in late 1943/early 1944 that hampered spare part availability for certain tank engine versions of the Tiger, Panther & Tiger II engine branch:

    The pamphlet accurately describes how the Germans went from the planned centralized repair system to a decentralized systems (when tank dmgs/attrition increased in autumn/winter 1941), + how they made tools available (eg. the Strabokran, the Bilstein cranes, which the pamphlet just paraphrased as "tools") to conduct repairs in the field + in depots, in the intro section, though.

    With the repair regime in place in mid-1941, heavy dmgs could only be repaired in the factory.
    Since the repair of the mounting number of heavily dmg'ed tanks would have slowed tank production, Hitler ordered to establish hubs in Russia.

    According to the pamphlet, Hitler ordered that each Army Group in the Russian theater should get its own "major repair maintenance installation" (page 27), ~ late 1941, so there were 3 large main hubs were created in RU, eventually, which is interesting, as I just knew the Lwow hub, actually (which must've been either the hub for Army Group Center or for Army Group South).

    Hitler mistrusted the military regarding the efficient operation of such facilities (and alleged lack of expertise), so he ordered civilians, means civilian administrators and factory engineers to maintain/run those facilities. The workers were a mix of military and civilian personnel, if I am not mistaken, who were joined by slave workers, eventually. The struggle between the engineers and the military created an unnecessary source of friction/restraint, according to the pamphlet, at least:

    The engineers wanted to deliver perfectly engineered/repaired tanks, the military wanted expedited repairs.
    As this turned out to be a constant source of repair delays, the German Army planned to establish its own main hub branch in 1944 (without civilian participation/interference), but this was never implemented until the end of the war, IIRC.

    The pamphlet also describes the decentralization of spare part production, as well as German mistakes:
    EDIT: Initially, the Germans produced only 1 spare transmission + 1 spare engine for 10 Tiger I tanks in autumn 1942, so that all of these new tanks (the first batch) deployed in Russia were lost or "deadlined" b/c of lack of parts. I can't verify this info (from 1954) atm, but it is known that the first Tiger deployment was rather a disaster, as Hitler rushed them almost right from the prod. line to the EF.

    It also describes the lag in the tank spare part system (esp. in RU + NA: overstrain./clogged railway lines in RU, contested shipping lanes to NA), which lead maintenance coy COs to bribe depot staff + to send "pick-up" details when new parts deliveries arrived at hubs/depots, eventually, to make sure that they'd get to the parts first. Such "organizing" (or run) for badly needed items was depicted in German WWII movies from the 50s (eg. "08/15").
    Cannibalization of tanks (ie: tanks earmarked for factory return) was still pretty common in German + Allied maintenance. But the pamphlet describes how German tanks meant to be returned to the factory were often completely "hollowed out", the cannibal. was so thorough, that even wiring + appliances were removed - the factories then received compl. stripped hulls only, in those cases.

    Still, the hubs, depots and field repair shops jumped in whenever a given tank's dmg didn't exceed a certain lvl.

    The French tank factory in Gien, France (~112 km south of Paris), would have allowed the Allies to conduct factory-level repairs on their Armor, in theory - btw, but I think it could only be secured in late August, after Paris was liberated, + I assume that the Germans demolished the site before withdrawing from the area, or that the Allies bombed it.
    #30 GoodGuy, Jun 18, 2020
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2020
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