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02 August 2008

Army Logistics - A Short History
Morales, A.L. 2000. A Handbook on the Canadian Forces Logistics Branch. Canada National Defence, Logbranch Secretariat.


* 3 methods of acquiring supplies on the move:
(a) baggage train which travels with the army;
(b) local supplies which are "purchased (or taxed) from the population near or along the army's route of march";
(c) stockpiles of supplies which are pre-positioned "at fixed bases along the route of march [... and are] brought forward by wagon to the army as required, or alternatively the soldiers [... could] pick the supplies up as they marched by these fixed bases."


* "The combination of local supply of food and forage, and of self-containment for weapons and services, appears often in ancient history as the logistical basis for operations by forces of moderate size. [...]

* During the mid 14th century, there were two broad strategies that an invading army might adopt, namely raiding strategies lasting some 50 days and persisting strategies in which the intent was to permanently occupy the territories the invader passed through and generally lasting 6 months or more. The supply methods appropriate to each were clearly different.

* There were always a large number of non-combatants who accompanied a medieval army especially during persisting invasions. But even on a raid, as much as 50% of the army was non-combatant - carpenters, blacksmiths, tailors, armorers, fletchers, cooks, bakers, whores and the like. The non-combatants in a persisting force might be double that. Hence the supply problem for an army of 10,000 combatants might be as much as 20,000 people.

* A combatant at that time normally subsisted for a day on 0.106 gallons of wine, 107 grams of meat and 1.04 kilograms of bread. The caloric value of this ration was about 3950 calories.

* By the middle of the 14th century, many invasion armies were entirely mounted. A force of 10,000 combatants might have 20,000 horses and it is estimated that each horse would consume 25 kilograms of green fodder in one day and hence collectively they would consume 500 tons of green fodder (or 200 tons of dry fodder) in a day.

* And so the magnitude of the supply and transportation problem in the 14th century was clear! For an Army of 10,000 combatants, the supply problem was the care and feeding of up to 20,000 people and 20,000 horses plus the stores of ammunition and other non-perishable items. Needless to say, this problem persisted into the 15th and 16th centuries

* It is worthy of note that at this time in the early 1800s, the soldier's daily ration was one and a half pounds of bread or one pound of biscuit, one pound of meat and a ration of wine or spirits. The number of pack-mules required to carry these rations for a Wellington's army of 53,000 men was close to 9,000."

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