HEREVER ONE MOVES in the French army one hears that the supply of fresh meat to
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the troops has been handled in a remarkably business-like manner and with •piarfeet regularity from the first day of war in 1914 until the present. date. Credit for this is largely due to the Paris motorbuses, which have had the exclusive task of carrying butchers' meat to the men in the field.
The service was not improvised with the outbreak of war, for during the two previous annual army manceuvres an entire array had been supplied with meat carried by the city motorbuses. As a result a definite agreement had been made between the War Office and the General Omnibus Co. whereby all Paris motorbuses could immediately be called up for service on a general mobilization being decreed.
'Thus on that fateful afternoon in the summer of 1914, Thus, the official black and white posters were
placed on the walls of Paris, 1000 motorbuses dropped their passengers and hurried to their garages, Within 40 hours the greater portion of these buses were travelling under -their own power to the Front, transformed as meat vehicles. The change consisted of taking out the seats and windots, removing direction boards, and fitting meat racks, wire gauze windows, and a rear 'door. • At this time all the Paris motorbuses were single deckers with engine under the driver's seat, having a substantial and roomy overhanging platform. There were two makes, De Dion Bouton and Schneider, very similar in general design' both having four-cylinder engines, three-speed gearboxes, internal gear drive rear axles, and left-hand steering. The fact that these buses would have to go into the field in case of the remote possibility of a European war appears to have had an influence upon their design. The general construction is more massive than is really necessary for city work, the chassis being heavier, for instance, than those of the London General ; certainly the single-deck has proved more suitable for service in the field than the double decker.
The original thousand motorbuses have been added to considerably, the omnibus company itself assem bling chassis, building and fitting bodies, and supplying to the army meat and troop-carrying vehicles for the last three years. This is one of the reasons why Paris is now, after three years of war, furnished with only about 30 motorbuses. As fast as these buses could be built in the company's shops they were taken. over by the War Department ; not until last year did the shops get sufficiently ahead of army requirements to allow a first line to be opened.
The soundness of -the original design has been proved by the fact that the latest meat-carrying vehicles differ from the pre-war models in details only. Cast steel wheels have replaced the wood variety ; the meat racks have had to be strengthened ; the magneto situation has modified ignition some
what ; and there has been an increased adoption of the D. and M. constant mesh gearbox, which was in use to a limited extent before the war and is found in Britain on the Caledon chassis.
Recently, through the courtesy of the Automobile Service of the French War Department, we had the opportunity of inspecting the meat-carrying buses in active service at the Front.' They were found in a much battered riverside town which only a few months before had been wrested from the invader, but was still under fire from long range guns. Although not the "Front" as the infantryman understands it, the place was far from being healthy, for the Bache took a keen interest in the bridges across the river and as often as possible sent his aeroplanes out with this little town as ft. target. Quite by chance the sector visited was found to be , supplied with the old-original Paris buses which had been in the field uninterruptedly for more than three years, driven by men who had come direct from Paris street& The buses were kept in the open air under the shelter of a row of trees by the riverside. The drivers had selected as their quarters a roadside cottage which only a few months before had been one of the front line positions, and on this account had been strengthened to withstand bombardment. In a concrete cellar some 30 rough straw beds were neatly aligned with a view to the greatest economy of space. From the cellar a, subterranean passage led to an, old enemy dugout which, while not sufficiently salubrious to serve as sleeping quarters, formed an absolutely safe refuge against bombs and shells.
Alter more than three years active service, during which time the vehicles had never been out of the war zone, their mechanical condition was remarkably goad. Obviously they had suffered in appearance from the exposure to all weathers, and paintwork was :not altogether up to body builder's standards. Mechanically, however, the vehicles were first-class.
The engines were as clean as if prepared for a general inspection ; every magneto had been put under a home-made cover of leather or wood fan belts were properly adjusted, there were no oirleakages, and every man had his little paraffin can and cleaning brush. All steering gear and brake connections were kept clean and properly lubricated, thus making it possible to detect any wear or lack of adjustment before it became serious. The excellent mechanical state of the vehicles was due largely to the fact that the drivers were men who had been on the same buses while they were on the Paris streets. Naturally they took a keen personal interest in maintaining them in the best possible condition. Usually these buses work in sections of seven, which is a much smaller number than the sections used for the general motor haulage • of the army. A couple of mechanics, provided with hand tocls only,
are attached-to each section for the work of general maintenance. Unless military conditions rendered it impossible, each vehicle was turned over to the mechanics for examination and adjustment one day per week.
Once a year each bus was sent back to the semimobile repair depot, a few miles in the rear, where it was more thoroughly examined and repaired. The section visited had been operating in this way for three consecutive years, during winch time the buses had never been under cover, for even the semi-mobile repair unit is a moter workshop with its tools mounted on lorries and gpare parts carried on trailers. One seetion of seven meat lorries is capable of carrying all the meat required for a division which may consist of 16,000 to 20,000 men. The normal load of a meat lorry is 1800 kilos., or nearly 36 cwt. As the French meat ration is 500 grammes per man per day, each lorry can carry the two daily meat rations for 3600 men. This, of course, is the theoretical capacity. But while the work is regular, the traffic varies in intensity by reason of men on leave, sickness and military operations. According to the return sheets, which we were allowed to examine in detail, seven meat-carrying buses had been supplying a division of three regiments, or 16,000 men for more than a month. In other words there was one meat lorry for 2300 men, and these seven lorries had carried in the month 218 tons of fresh meat, or about one ton per motor lorry per day. These returns were for a section of the front where almost complete calm prevailed, and where, as a consequence, many men were away on leave. As a comparison the returns were shown us for a group
Of nine lorries which took part in the big French offensive on the Somme. These nine meat lorries sup. plied 75,000 men, which gives a ratio of one lorry for 8330 men, and a daily load of about 3/ tons per lorry per day. The average mileage during this period was 50 per day. This represents a maximum effort, for it must be remembered that the average speed is low by reason of road obstructions, frequent calls, loading,• etc. Fifteen miles a day represents a minimum mileage when the front is quiet and the number of men is below the average.
By the use of special motor vehicles for meat delivery, it is possible to keep animals further to the rear than when delivery has to be made by horse vehicles. The greater flexibility of the motor service makes it possible, also, to allow animals to rest for a. period and thus get into good condition before being slaughtered. The Meat lorries load up direct at the abattoirs with quarters of meat which are cut up by the butcher aboard the lorry and distributed, to the individual companies. All the meat is weighed as it is taken aboard, and the butcher is responsible for its proper distribution. Formerly only home raised fresh meat was used in the French army; lately, however, frozen meat is made use of also. This is taken as far forward as possible aboard special railroad refrigerating cars and distributed from these to the meat lorries.
When small independent units of men have to be fed, special vans with a load capacity of threequarters of a ton are used. The number of these, however, is very small compared with the Paris motor bus type, which has proved aa extremely useful vehicle for the work.