Sunday, February 28, 2016

German Soldier with His Horse and Plucked Chicken

This German soldier is preparing to move further after a rest, 1941. With him one of the millions of horses who did their "duty" for Wehrmacht in World War II. The soldier is holding a plucked chicken and his k98 rifle is slung on his shoulder. On his back is the backpack, including the blanket called "affe" (monkey). Each infantryman in the German Army was familiar with the platoon horse; this beast went everywhere with the platoon, pulling the platoon cart into which packs were loaded together with any extra items that soldiers could manage to load. Often the carts in the West had carried the booty of the conqueror, for example: French wines, Dutch cheeses, Belgian chocolates. In the East, however, the wagons carried the bare essentials, for there was little loot to be had, and warm clothing soon became more important than any fine wine. The German Army went into Russia with over 700,000 horses, yet only a few thousand tanks. In every company eight horse-drawn wagons were needed for movement, plus a further company wagon at regimental level to carry extra (heavy) company equipment. These eight wagons were used as follows: three one-horse wagons to carry the machine guns and mortars for the three heavy platoons of the company; two four-horse wagons: one for ammunition, one for the field kitchen (later reduced to a two-horse wagon); and two two-horse wagons for back packs, and one two-horse wagon for rations. This meant that a number of men (21 in all, including NCOs in charge) spent the majority of their time looking after horses and driving wagons. The wagons themselves were of good design, but the concept, in a so-called mobile army, was archaic. The other problems that arose for the German Army in Russia were the vulnerability of the horses to the intense cold, and the need for constantsupplies of fodder for the animals when the army itself was desperate for ammunition, clothing and other supplies. Furthermore the horses were very easily injured.
Training for horse handlers was less intense than that for cavalrymen, but involved acquiring a basic ability to ride, the care of the horse in the field, and dietary training to ensure that the animals were fed and cared for and so were able to pull their loads.

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