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An Iron Cross Document, awards and description of the truckers of the 5th Army behind the Verdun front can be found HERE

An Iron Cross Document to Lt. Adolf Paul Puschek, with a description of conditions under which the truckers on the western front can be found HERE

Introduction

Motor vehicles were used only in limited numbers in the German Army due to great shortages of fuel. The artillery was to a large extent still horse drawn, as were the supply columns.  

The idea that automobiles could be used in warfare first became apparent to the Germans when they saw how rapidly the French Army rushed 10,000 men into the Marne battle, using commandeered taxis and buses.  

The Germans were never able to use the motor vehicle to any great extent. Whereas the Western Allies were able to use over 200,000 motorised vehicles, the Germans had to reserve their fuel for the Air Force, and the U-Boots needed all the synthetic oil that industry could produce. Engines running on alcohol, potato spirits and wood fires were not reliable and from 1915-16 no tires were available. While motorised vehicles were still used in limited amounts by the Mountain Troops and as ambulances, most German trucks found themselves put into mothballs for the duration of the war.

The Kraftfahrtruppen of the later war period would supply the drivers and crew for the small German tank force as well as the crews for the mobile air defence trucks, which mounted 6.5, 7.7 or 8.8 cm guns to be used for antiaircraft, balloon or tank fire. These vehicles were availible in minimal amounts.  

The evolution of the "Kraftfahrtruppen" is discussed in this chapter. Confusing German terms are scattered through the text and I will attempt to clear some of them up in the brief dictionary at the bottom of the page. If the collector has any specific questions, please ask on the forum as there are a number of people who would be all to happy to help.  

Organisation of the Kraftfahrtruppen

At the Etappeninspektion of each A.O.K. there was a Kommandeur der Kraftfahrtruppen with an Etappen-Kraftwagen-Park. Depending on their needs the individual Armees had varying amounts of Etappen-Kraftwagen-Kolonnen.  

The 1st and 2nd Armee had 18 Kolonnen (Columns), the 3rd Armee had 9, the 4th and 5th had 5, the 6th had 8, the 7th had 3 and the 8th had none. (Probably allocated according to how much distance they would have to cover when carrying out the Schlieffen plan in 1914). The Landwehrkorps had 2.  

Each of the 11 Cavalry divisions had a Kavellerie-Kraftwagen-Kolonne and the active Jaeger batallions had a total of 16 Kraftwagen-Kolonnen for troop transport.

For the very heavy artillery there were 3 Dampfpflug-Lokomotiv-Parks (Steamtractor depots) and 2 Benzoltraktoren-Kolonnen.

Motorcycles were used at higher level staffs and columns by messengers. Many automobiles were captured on the western front during the advances of 1914 provided enough vehicles for each Armeekorps to form a motorised column to transport fresh meat as well as columns to transport the wounded.  

By November 1914 Post-Kraftwagen-Kolonnen were formed to carry the mail.   Kraftradfahrer-Abteilungen (Motorcycle) were formed in the Etappen areas for securing the rear in occupied areas.  

In March 1915 the General Quartiermeister issued orders with the goal of standardising the Kraftfahr units. Kraftwagen-Uberwachungsstellen were formed to control the use of automobiles.  

The Reserve-Korps were also able to receive a Fleisch-Kraftwagen-Kolonne (Fresh meat transport columns) as the Active Armee-Korps had received in September 1914.  

With a few exceptions the Cavalry and Jaeger lost their columns at this time, the columns were transferred to the Etappe.  

An amalgamation of vehicles attached to the medical services. Each Etappenarzt (Doctor responsible for a rear area of an Army) was given an Etappen-Sanitaets-Kraftwagen-Abteilung (Et. Sanka). The Allgemeinen-Deutschen-Automobilkorps were put at the disposition of the Etappen-San.-Kw.-Abteilung. They continued to transport the Freiwilligen Krankenpfleger but also transported the wounded when ordered to do so by the Etappenarzt.  

The Kraftradfahrer-Abteilungen were put under the direct command of the Etappen-Inspekteure. Official Post-Kraftwagen-Parks of eight vehicles were established.  

All extra vehicles that were not officially on strength of a specific unit had to be relinquished and were collected in Etappen-Kraftwagen-Parks.  

Each Etappen Inspekteur had under his command a Kommandeur der Kraftfahrtruppen who was responsible for the Et.Kw.Kolonnen, the Et.Kw.Park, the fuel stations, the Et. Sanka, the Post-Kw.Park, the Kraftradfahrer-Abt. and the Kavellerie or Jaeger Kw. Kolonnen which had been taken over by the Etappe.



Left: A driver from the Festungs Pionier Park of the occupation Govt in Warsaw.




Evolution 1915


In Autumn of 1915 the General Quartiermeister disbanded the Fleisch-Kraftwagen-Kolonnen attached to each Korps and instead created a Korps-Kraftwagen-Kolonne for each Generalkommando, these were used for general transport tasks.  

At the same time Divisions who were not part of a Korps received a Divisions-Kraftwagen-Kolonne. Towards the end of 1915 ten of the heaviest artillery batteries were motorised. In 1916 a Fussartillerie-Park was established for each Armee. These were created for the Fussartillery Bataillons who were not horse drawn and consisted of nine trucks. Each Armee also recieved a Fussartillerie-Munitions-Kolonne to transport Munition for the heavy batteries.  



Evolution 1916


The 1916 Hindenburg reshuffle brought major changes to the Kraftfahr service.  

It was decided that the Kraftfahr service could be used more effectively if placed under the control of the Armee-Oberkommandoes who could use them as needed in the Etappe or at the front. The 23 Kommandeure der Kraftfahrtruppen at the various Etappen-Inspektionen were reassigned to the A.O.K.s as Kommandeure der Kraftfahrtruppen to their respective A.O.K. (Akokraft).The Kraftwagen-Staffeln, up till now under Etappen command, now came under the Armee command and were centrally numbered. In June 1917 they were renamed Armee-Kraftwagen-Staffeln.

At this point in time the Postkraftwagen-Parks were disbanded and were swallowed by the Armee-Kraftwagen-Staffeln who then supplied vehicles to the field postal services when they needed them.  

Each Staffel had 3 Abteilungen each with 10 light, 10 medium and 30 heavy vehicles. They also had 6-10 steam plows for farming behind the front. The vehicles of the Staffeln were used for transport between the operational area and the Etappe.  

The Etappen-Kraftwagen-Parks were renamed Armee-Kraftwagen-Parks and were centrally numbered. Their task was to supply personnel, vehicles, parts and fuel for the Staffeln, as well as doing vehicle maintenance.They also provided both fixed and mobile fuel stations.  

Also removed from Etappen command were the Etappen Sanka who became Sanitaets-Kraftwagen-Abteilungen at Armee level and the Fussartillerie-Kraftzug-Parks which became Armee-Fussartillerie-Kraftzug-Parks and were increased from 7 to 10.  

With the dissolving of the 58 Korps-Kraftwagen-Kolonnen each division received a Divisions-Kraftwagen-Kolonne, which had until then only existed in independent divisions.  

A total of 236 Divisions-Kraftwagen-Kolonnen came into existence; centrally numbered between 530-800 (not all numbers were assigned).  

A Heeresreserve did not exist at the beginning of 1917 but in 1917 the Heeresleitung realised that a reserve was needed to rush troops to hot spots on the front, or for rapid movement of munitions and supplies. This was connected with Ludendorf's new methods of flexible defence and the German plans for future offensive action. To build the Heeres-Reserve the still existing 9 Jaeger, 52 Kavallerie, 102 Etappen and 33 Fussartillerie-Munition-Kraftwagen-Kolonnen were reformed into Armee-Kraftwagen-Kolonnen. A total of 319 were formed and numbered between 1-384 (not all numbers were used).  

Raupen-Kolonnen (tracked vehicles) were formed to transport munitions over difficult terrain, they were numbered 1111 to 1122.  

In May 1917 the Kraftradfahrer-Abteilungen were numbered 1-20. In April 1918 two Feldrekrutendepots der Kraftfahrtruppen were formed. The question of a mobile artillery reserve came to the fore as the war progressed. This led to 6 Feld.Art.Regts and 5 Fuss.Art.Batl. receiving their own Kraftwagen-Staffeln. In August 1918 50 Hauptleute (Captains) were stationed at various points on the western front. These were static positions, the officers remaining in place even when the units in the area changed, their job was to coordinate the use of motor vehicles on behalf of the Kraftfahr Kommandeure.  

Das Kaiserliche Freiwillige Automobilekorps The members of the Korps were civilians under contract, who in times of war would, with their private automobiles and a mechanic, form a transport unit for the higher staffs. The Owner/Driver wore the club uniform wih Leutnant rank epaulettes, the mechanic had Unteroffizier tresses.

 
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