Brill’s Digital Library of World War I


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War Damage

(2,196 words)

Author(s): Thoss, Bruno
War Damage Damages and costs incurred during the war through the destruction of military equipment and weaponry, but also as a consequence of property damage in the regions directly affected by the war. War damage thus refers to the material costs of the war in the narrow sense.…

Troop Strength

(1,120 words)

Author(s): Thoss, Bruno
Troop Strength The initial numbers of soldiers mobilized for immediate wartime service. The peacetime strength of the individual armies before 1914 provided the foundation for troop strength in the war. A cadre of commanders for reserve units and an attachment of reservists for these troop units were included in their mobilization plans. This would make it possible to raise units to wartime strength once the mobilization was begun. The troop strengths planned in the event of war, and the troop str…

Munitions Crisis

(504 words)

Author(s): Thoss, Bruno
Munitions Crisis Serious shortages of munitions experienced by all the warring powers between fall 1914 and spring 1915. Nations had failed to adequately mobilize their industries for war, or to stockpile raw materials needed for the war. Moreover, industrial manpower shortages were soon experienced owing to the growing personnel needs of the military. The result was a serious shortage of munitions supplies by fall 1914. The shortfall of munitions worsened for all armies until there was only enough large-scale ammunition, especially artillery shells, for a few days of fighting. For the Russians the situation was even worse since their armaments industry was very weak. For the French the situation was made more difficult when they lost more than half the heavy industry located in northern France to the Germans in the first weeks of the war. For the German Reich matters were complicated by the Allied sea blockade, which cut off their supply of the Chilean saltpeter needed for powder production. The warring states responded to the shortages by stepping up their economic mobilization, establishing central government control, and tapping the industrial capacity of an expanding number of private concerns for armament manufacture. A War Raw Materials Department (KRA) for the inventory control, storage, and distribution of raw materials of military importance was established within the Prussian War Ministry. The KRA was placed under the leadership of the man who had first conceived of it, Walther Rathenau. The saltpeter needed for powder production would now be replaced by nitrogen fixed from the atmosphere in the Haber-Bosch Process. The combined efforts of military authorities and private industry resulted in conversion to standardized mass production methods. Workers whose skills were indispensable were now exempt from military service. In Austria-Hungary strict control of the arms industry was instituted by the military authorities right from the war’s beginning. By late 1914, raw materials of military importance were rationed following the German model. In France before 1914, government artillery plants and munitions factories had predominated. Their overtaxed capacity from the unanticipated loss of northern France was now alleviated by mobilizing private industry for armament production. In the wake of the military failures on the Western Front and…

Infantry Weaponry/Weapons

(3,025 words)

Author(s): Thoss, Bruno
Infantry Weaponry/Weapons Weapons technology during the First World War was geared mainly to the ground war, drawn from traditional types of infantry and artillery weapons. At the beginning of the war, cavalry was still relatively important, though they no longer had a decisive function in battle. For equipment early in the war, troops relied upon firearms such as rifles…


(539 words)

Author(s): Thoss, Bruno
Railways A means of mass transportation of persons and goods, developed in the 19th century, and adapted for military purposes in the second half of the century. The first extensive and operationally effective implementation of plans for the transportation of major bodies of troops by rail occurred in the wars of 1866 and 1870/1871. From that point on, all general staffs included the railways in their operational plans, and created specialized military units for the construction, safeguarding, an…


(664 words)

Author(s): Thoss, Bruno
Mobilization The conversion of a nation’s military forces to a state of war, callled specifically “military mobilization,” and the adaptation of its government and industry to the demands of the war, known as “military mobilization.” Military mobilization for the World War had been…