NAPOLEON observed that an army marches on its stomach, but even he would have been astonished by financial accounts presented by the German defence force that showed its soldiers were each using 10 rolls of toilet paper a day.
Such superhuman consumption sparked a vigorous political debate in Germany and outraged the Green Party, which has been leading a campaign for a more environmentally conscious, paper-free Germany.
What exactly were the country's soldiers eating? Were peacekeepers in Afghanistan being force-fed dried prunes? Or perhaps soldiers were hiding in lavatories rather than doing their duty?
A comparison with other government ministries seemed to show that soldiers were indeed spending a great deal more time in lavatories than other civil servants. The Defence Ministry was using 800 million rolls a year, but the Interior Ministry, which has a similar number of staff, was working its way through only 620,000.
There were big users elsewhere - the Health Ministry with 2.74 million rolls and Finance, 5.37 million - but nothing compared with the demands of the armed forces.
A team of military accountants was set to work. Computers whirred. Worried phone calls were made to battalion commanders, and an answer was found: the figure was wrong.
Eight hundred million sheets - not rolls - of lavatory paper were used last year. There had, apparently, been a slip of the pen.
That equates to about 5.3million rolls for the ministry's 360,000 uniformed and civilian employees, although precision still eluded the officials. "It is difficult to say exactly how many sheets are in a roll since some are three-ply," an official said. Ministry accountants are working on the basis of a 150-sheet roll. That was not the end of the matter, however.
Former soldiers began to spill some of Germany's more embarrassing military secrets. The true consumption of lavatory paper may not be 800 million rolls, but it was almost certainly higher than the government figures, they claimed.
One blogger recalled that elite mountain troops are given a roll a day as part of the basic equipment, as are troops stationed in Afghanistan.
There is an historic precedent for such consumption. German corporals used to drum into their recruits: "Wohin und wieweit ich marschier, ich geh niemals ohne mein Klopapier" ("Wherever and however I march, I never go without my loo paper").
Personal hygiene, a problem in the World War I trenches, was given a high priority when the Germans mounted the Blitzkrieg of World War II.
But the true reason for the fudging of statistics was revealed by one soldier in an internet chat room. "The grey recycled paper is the best way of cleaning small-calibre weapons - every soldier knows that," he said.