Abstract: "Money was of no consideration": French Railway Companies and Sustaining Troops on the Battlefields during the Great War

Natalia Starostina


This article is a part of a larger project investigating the social and cultural initiatives of French railway companies in modern France. The Great War brought many changes in the functioning of French railways, which had to handle the movement of large numbers of people. Military historians have pointed to railways as "the main culprits" in the war's duration—four years and three months. The war put the French railway companies in a difficult situation and almost bankrupted the wealthiest French railway network, the réseau du Nord. The military complained about the attitudes of the railway companies, feeling that, in the case of war, "money was of no consideration," whereas the French railway companies were naturally concerned with financial efficiency. At the same time, it is important to highlight the contributions of the French railway companies in sustaining the troops. During the Great War, each day the French army required 2,000 head of cattle, 600 tons of frozen meat, 1,000 pigs, 2,500 sheep, and 15 million liters of wine. The French railways became, in the words of a military historian, the "genuine cords between the army and the motherland that made possible the functioning of armies."

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