The Army Service Corps was a division of the British army that was formed in 1888 and served until 1965, and its origins can be traced to the late 1700s. It handled a variety of responsibilities that helped the other branches of the military function. Those responsibilities included transportation needs via land, water and air as well as providing food and general supplies. The organisation had its biggest impact on the armed forces during its service in World War I. Ultimately, the corps was folded into the Royal Logistics Corps.
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Traditionally, army transport for the British military was handled by civilians. However, this changed in 1794 with the formation of the Corps of Waggoners. That organisation went through a number of changes over the years, eventually being disbanded in 1833. During the Crimean War, the military found the need for another transportation division. The Land Transport Corps was established in 1855, later changing its name to the Military Train.
In 1869, it had become apparent that some sort of redesign of the branch was necessary. This was prompted slightly by the fact that supply duties were still the responsibility of uniformed civilians. This organisation was known as the Commissariat, which was rolled into the Military Train and renamed the Control Department. In 1870, this division was retitled the Army Service Corps. However, the full organisation of the branch continued to be modified until 1888.
Throughout its history, the Army Service Corp was paramount in making the British military function. It provided soldiers with food, ammunition, transportation and general equipment. The amount of materials needed to supply an army the size of the British armed forces was immense. The branch at its peak numbered 10,547 officers and 315,334 enlisted men. Over the years, it included in its ranks representatives from nearly every British colony. The most notable of these were thousands from India, China and Egypt.
The guidelines for members of the Army Service Corps were highly strict for the era. Recruits needed to be at least 5-feet, 2-inches tall. The maximum age was 30 years, although certain provisions were made for men up to 35. Enlistment was for six years, and then members could serve an additional six years as reserves. The servicemen were trained and housed at Aldershot in Hampshire. The highest rank possible was colonel.
World War I
The most prominent period of the Army Service Corps was during World War I. According to WWI researcher Chris Baker, when war broke out, only 120,000 troops were stationed in Europe. By the time war ended, the unit was responsible for over 3 million soldiers and a half million horses. On a monthly basis, the Army Service Corps supplied 67.5 million pounds of meat, 90 million pounds of bread and 13 million gallons of gasoline.
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