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Ammunition wagon team struggling through a lunar landscape of the First World War
Providing for armies has long been a problem, and many kings and nobles of history have been financially crippled in the attempt. In the early part of the fifteenth century taxes were raised for a royal ordinance issued for the procurement and keeping of 'warlike stores'. The Office of Ordnance, formed in 1414 and named after this ordinance, was superseded in 1683 by the Board of Ordnance, which supplied arms and ammunition to the army and navy, built barracks and dockyards, and provided all stores to the services. A commissariat was formed to counter the problem of soldiers living off the land by dealing with their pay, victuals, forage and quartering. The Barrack Department of the eighteenth century administered and furnished living quarters. In 1794 the Commissary General recommended that the inefficient baggage trains, with their hired wagoners, animals and sutlers, be replaced with a wagon train manned by soldiers under the discipline of their officers. The Royal Waggoners served throughout the Napoleonic Wars but succumbed to the long peace of the 1830s. The inadequacies of many army services were brought sharply into public focus through reports from the Crimean War, and in 1855 a Land Transport Corps (LTC) was instituted to alleviate the soldiers' suffering. The Board of Ordnance was dissolved in the same year.
A royal visit to 20 Squadron Royal Corps of Transport, keepers of the Queen's baggage train. (Institution of the RASC and RCT)
After the Crimean War a permanent road transport regiment was created to support the army at home, on campaign and in barren lands. This Military Train absorbed the LTC, ranked as a cavalry regiment, and gained three battle honours in India and China. At this time transport, supply and stores were run by departments (officers) and worked by corps (other ranks). The Engineers, Artillery, and the Commissariat and Transport Corps relied on horse-drawn wagons, but the Royal Engineers were developing other forms of moving troops and materiel, notably by railways and canals. Their mechanical transport section was handed over to the Army Service Corps in 1902 in the shape of steam traction, and horse transport began its long phasing-out process.
In 1870 the Military Train was joined by the Stores Corps and Commissariat Corps to become a supply and transport organisation, but ten years on the stores companies were detached to pursue a separate career, providing vital supplies and armaments for an army that expanded with each great war.
The two global wars made unbelievable demands on the corps and saw the birth of the Pioneer Corps and the Army Catering Corps. The support of these five corps was as indispensable to the army then as the Loggies' are now.
RLC headquarters and training centre are at the Princess Royal Barracks at Deepcut in Surrey, the former base of the RAOC. The TA depot and training centre is at the Prince William of Gloucester Barracks in Grantham. The School of Catering is located at Aldershot, the ancestral home of the RASC/RCT. The School of Transport is at Leconfield in East Yorkshire and the School of Petroleum is in Dorset.
Pioneers securing trackway for wheeled-vehicle access to a beach; 17 Port and Maritime Regiment RLC off-loading various vehicles and equipment from a Royal Fleet auxiliary ship, using landing craft and motorised rafts. (MoD)
Blue caps and berets are graced with the crowned star of the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) and the Royal Corps of Transport (RCT). On the star's laurel wreath lie two crossed axes from the badge of the Royal Pioneer Corps, and a Garter belt that encloses the shield of the Board of Ordnance, from the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC). Across the lower point of the star is a scroll with the Army Catering Corps' 1973 motto, We Sustain.
Service dress is worn with the cap by officers, the beret by other ranks and the RCT yellow/blue lanyard by all.
The blue overalls and trousers worn with No. 1 dress, mess dress and full dress are fashioned with the double scarlet seam stripe once seen in the RAOC. Otherwise these orders of dress are entirely blue, the uniform colour of both the ASC and the AOC before the general use of khaki in the early twentieth century.
Army Catering Corps chef, c. 1985