Army Catering Corps
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|Army Catering Corps|
Badge of the Army Catering Corps
|Role||Catering for troops|
|Garrison/HQ||St. Omer Barracks, Aldershot|
|March||Sugar and Spice|
The Army Catering Corps did not exist as a separate Corps in the Army until 1 January 1965 when it was granted the status of an independent Corps in its own right, under the direction of the Quartermaster General. Until then the Catering Corps had been under the control of the Royal Army Service Corps since its formation on 22 March 1941 under Army Order 35 of 1941.
Prior to that, regiments had their own cooks, some of whom were trained in one of the two cookery schools which existed in Aldershot, Hampshire, and Poona, India. Trade pay was introduced in 1936, but equipment was poor and in many units' meals were collected in bulk from the kitchen for consumption in barrack rooms. In the late 1930s the War Office became aware of the difference in standards of catering in the other two services and the Army Council was tasked with addressing the problem.
In late 1936, with tensions rising in Europe, it was felt necessary to increase the size of the forces and Leslie Hore-Belisha was appointed Secretary of State for War. One of the first things he did was to appoint Major-General Beck to investigate the question of cooking and food service and to examine the existing methods of providing, training and a career structure for cooks. His report was not accepted, on financial grounds. The Secretary of State appointed Sir Isidore Salmon as Honorary Catering Adviser for the Army, with the remit of looking into Army messing standards. By June 1938 he had produced a very detailed report giving all of the measures needed to make improvements. Mr RAA Byford was then appointed as Chief Inspector of Army Catering with the rank of colonel and there quickly followed the appointment of civilian catering advisers in each of the Home Commands and the building of a new school of catering in St Omer Barracks, Aldershot.
It was not until 27 July 1940 however, that the Quartermaster General once more raised the question of forming an Army Catering Corps. This was not unanimously supported and the then Permanent Under Secretary of State said that he felt that catering was a civilian function and those employed in it should not be of military rank.
Nevertheless, the Army Catering Corps was formed on 22 March 1941. During the Second World War the Corps became highly successful in maintaining morale and many civilian catering experts were called up to manage army catering and the training of cooks. On 29 May 1943, under Army Order 819 of 1943, the Corps became an all tradesman Corps. On 5 October 1945 the Army Council took the decision to retain the ACC as an integral part of the post war Army. The Corps then went from strength to strength. The first junior entrants were formed up on 19 February 1947 and were the fore-runners of the immensely popular and successful apprenticeship scheme, which became the back-bone of the now increasingly professional Army Catering Corps.
After the war and up to the early 1960s, many of the cooks were National Servicemen drafted in and allocated to jobs. They were generally poorly motivated, and there was little continuity, craft progression, or incentive for them to remain in the Army as regular soldiers. It was then that the British Army was re-organised into an all-regular force and this made a tremendous difference. It was recognised that catering and cooking was the business of experts and that all aspects of the profession had to be directed by selected and properly trained staff.
The training of not only chefs, but officers, warrant officers and non-commissioned officers in the supervision of catering in barracks and in the field became increasingly successful. Members of the ACC had for the first time a properly managed career structure and posting plan, which ensured that they developed the proper range of skills for progress through the ranks.
The Army Catering Corps enjoyed a long association with the local authority in Aldershot and on 19 May 1971, was granted the Freedom of the Borough of Aldershot, allowing it the privilege of marching through the town ‘with bands playing, drums beating and bayonets fixed’. Again, on 19 May 1980 the Corps received Freedom of the Borough of Rushmoor, which culminated in the presentation of the Freedom Scroll in a solid silver casket, in a ceremony held at the Rushmoor Arena.
By the early 1980s, the Corps was a highly respected and integral part of every unit in the British Army. Its soldiers were fit, professional, and highly motivated, and pioneers of catering management training. It is quite often forgotten that ACC cooks served with the Household Division, SAS and the Parachute Regiment. The ACC also trained and employed Gurkha cooks, non-commissioned officers, warrant officers and officers, in British cuisine and kitchen management, as well as Gurkha cookery.
In 1991 the Corps was feted across the world as caterers and their units proudly shared, the celebration of the Corps’ 50th Anniversary. Soon after this historic milestone in the Corps’ history, pressure began to mount for the Armed Forces to reduce in size because of the perceived reduction in the threat to world peace. After considerable and wide-ranging studies one of the major decisions taken was to make 1,000 ACC officers and all ranks redundant and to amalgamate several of the service-providing Corps under one cap badge. As a result, The Royal Logistic Corps was born on 5 April 1993 and the Army Catering Corps was amalgamated into it with the Postal and Courier Service of the Royal Engineers, the Royal Corps of Transport, The Royal Army Ordnance Corps and the Royal Pioneer Corps.
The Army Catering Corps has therefore had a relatively short history, but the training and employment of cooks in the Army is still managed by professional military caterers. The Army School of Catering became a tri-service training establishment in 2006 and soldiers passing through the new Defence Food Services School at Worthy Down near Winchester, leave with National Vocational Qualifications and can build their portfolios over the whole of their career.
RLC Chefs are still serving with distinction in British regiments in all theatres of operation, just as their predecessors did. Importantly, the Corps members past and present, still gather annually in different parts of the country to share thoughts, words and deeds, through the Army Catering Corps Association and its satellites.
The Royal Logistic Corps Cap badge incorporates one element of each of the forming Corp’s badges, including the motto of the Army Catering Corps "We Sustain".
The Army Service Corps’ Heritage comes full circle
The Army Service Corps was formed in December 1888. In 1918 the ASC received the "Royal" prefix for its service in the First World War and became the Royal Army Service Corps. The RASC was divided into Transport and Supply Branches, with the Supply trades including butchers, bakers and supply issuers. They all trained at Aldershot.
The "Cook" trade was placed under the control of the Army Catering Corps on the Corps' creation in March 1941. The ACC was formed as a subsidiary element of the Supply Branch of the Royal Army Service Corps.
In 1965 the Army Catering Corps was granted the status of an independent Corps. At the same time all the remaining RASC Supply Branch functions were transferred to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. The Transport Branch of the RASC was merged with the Transportation and Movement Control Service of the Royal Engineers to form the Royal Corps of Transport.
On 5 April 1993, following the Options for Change review, the Army Catering Corps united with the Royal Corps of Transport, the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, the Royal Pioneer Corps, and the Postal and Courier Service of the Royal Engineers, to form the Royal Logistic Corps.
In 2009 pressure on the size of the Armed forces and the increasing use of contractors in support services continued to put pressure on military manpower and the latest Defence Review resulted in the loss of c1,000 RLC chefs, making the number of Regular Army caterers in the RLC around c1,100. Operations and Exercises are now supported by Reservist Chefs from 167 Catering Support Regiment RLC based in Grantham, when added to the Reservist Chefs across the 100 or so Reserve Regiments of the Army Reserve, there are around 1,200 Reservist British Army Chefs who support Operations and Exercises across the UK and rest of the world.
Many British soldiers humorously claim that the catering course is the 'hardest military training in the world'; as nobody has yet passed the course and the army is yet to receive a satisfactory meal.