The most important factor for the supply of all types of material resources, incl. ammunition was transport. The inland waterways of Russia could not receive serious significance as "military communications" of the belligerent armies. The poverty of the Russian theater on the highways made it impossible to create a normal transport network out of automobile divisions, which would make it possible to provide effective assistance to the railways. Thus, railways were almost the only mode of transport serving all types of replenishment and supply of the Russian army in the war of 1914-1917.
The Russian railways did an excellent job of mobilizing the army and concentrating it on the theater of operations. Not only thousands of military echelons and teams arrived at their destination on time, but during the period of concentration at the request of the Stavka and front headquarters in connection with the beginning of the enemy offensive, some units were transported much earlier than the designated points, the transportation of others was accelerated. Siberian troops arrived at the fronts in 3-4 days. These movements were carried out without delay and in some cases had a serious impact on the course of hostilities. The work of the railways only for the concentration of troops was expressed in the transportation of more than 3,500 trains.
Of the transportation of the first category, the most cumbersome were transportation to supply the army with food, fodder and items of clothing allowance. The cumbersomeness of these transports increased significantly due to the technical backwardness of the Russian army.
The troop transports of the Russian army were entirely based on horse-drawn traction. This required the transportation of forage to the front to provide hundreds of thousands of horses with horse transports with feed, as well as the transportation of these horse transports when moving large military formations. Each army corps, in addition to the convoys required by the state, was assigned at least five horse transports. In its composition, each attached transport had more than 200 carts. To transport the transports of the corps, at least 10 trains were required.
The same technical backwardness includes the lack of refrigerators that would make it possible to supply troops with frozen meat. The transportation of live cattle forced to use only 10% of the lifting force of the wagons. As a result, a huge number of cars were sent to the front.
In the fall of 1914, when the number of troops corresponded to the calculations of peacetime, the main highways, on which the main load fell, could easily cope with supply shipments. Some difficulty arose only in Galicia. The retreating enemy destroyed railway tracks and structures on them and hijacked their rolling stock. The solution to this problem was entrusted to the railway troops. Their hard work rebuilt the destroyed structures, and the engineers found a simple way to quickly adapt the Russian 1,524 mm (5-foot) rolling stock to the movement on the European 1435 mm railways. Now the Russian railway gauge is 1520 mm.
For the winter campaign of 1914-1915. the large offensive operations of the Russian armies died down. By this time, certain directions of supply had been established, and the work of the railways proceeded relatively calmly. The only shipments that sometimes disrupted the established schedule were the urgent delivery of artillery supplies to the troops, in which an extreme shortage began to be felt. Nevertheless, the situation seemed to be more stable, and during the winter the leading stores (warehouses and bases) of the front were replenished with various types of provisions.
Evacuation transportation from August 1914 until the spring of 1915 began with the removal, during mobilization, to the rear of everything that was deemed necessary to ensure against capture by the enemy in case of retreat. The following items were subject to export: state values, personnel and affairs of government agencies, property useful in military terms, residents who wanted to leave, etc. Under the cover of the cavalry, these evacuations were quite successful, without requiring much stress on the railways.
It turned out to be much more difficult in the initial period of the war to transport the wounded to the rear. Unpreparedness for the enormous scale that the battles immediately assumed led to the fact that in the first months of the war in the evacuation of the wounded there were cases of great disorder. A huge number of wounded people accumulated at the stations, according to eyewitnesses, sometimes up to 18 thousand. They found themselves without proper medical attention. They were often placed on straw in rain and snow, in unsanitary conditions. By the beginning of 1915, with the accumulation of experience, these shortcomings were eliminated, and the evacuation of the wounded began to proceed in an orderly manner.
During the summer campaign of 1915, Germany's main efforts were transferred to the Russian theater of military operations. Under pressure from significantly superior enemy forces, Russian troops were forced to begin a retreat into the interior of Russia, which lasted four months. This gigantic retreat began in Galicia and, gradually spreading northward, encompassed our entire front. Thus, the entire Russian Poland, Lithuania, a significant part of Belarus and most of Galicia remained in the hands of the enemy.
During the period of retreat, the railways took the most active part in military operations. In addition to operational transportations, a large number of evacuation transportations were carried out associated with the retreat of troops. The rolling stock was increased to 12,000 wagons. Military institutions and warehouses were subject to export from Galicia
During the evacuation of the regions that were part of the Russian Empire, it was necessary to take out not only a huge amount of various military equipment, but also to evacuate inhabited and industrial areas with a significant number of large centers. The evacuation of one such city as Warsaw, with its hospitals, factories, railway workshops, with its numerous administrative offices, as well as many thousands of residents who were eager to leave at all costs, was a very serious task. The evacuation began almost simultaneously with the retreat of the troops. Evacuation orders from the highest military authorities and the disturbed peace of mind of the executors made the work of the railways very difficult. As information spread about the retreat at the stations, deeper and deeper in the rear, there was a hasty loading and dispatch of state and private property.
Trains traveling from the head sections outside the calculations, under the influence of military necessity, pushed the trains of the passing stations deep into the depths and gradually disrupted traffic. The number of trains sent significantly exceeded the capacity of the lines, and traffic jams began to form at the stations. Trains approaching from the front stopped along the way, sometimes forming continuous lines of carriages tens of miles long. The evacuation was especially hard on the railways north of Polesie. It took extreme tension and a long time to free the lines from excess rolling stock and establish the correct movement.
Evacuation transportations of this period significantly hampered the delivery of supplies and staffing. After the retreat of the Russian armies ended, the work of the railways was difficult for a long time. It took a considerable period of time until the position of the troops in the new positions strengthened, until the army rear services were established, and until the railway lines were freed from the flow of evacuation cargo.
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