Equal to the Task vol 1 RAASC

Part 4 Corps Infrastructure

Chapter 17 Esprit de Corps

Sinews of War
Supplies and Transport Staffs
Air Delivery
Army Postal Service
Ancillary Services
Forage and POL
Remount Service
Staff Clerks
AASC Workshops
Unit Lineage

Map 3 World Wide Theatres and Areas of
Operations 1790-1972

Endmap 1 Australia

Endmap 2 Eastern Mediterranean

Endmap 3 South East Asia

Endmap 4 Papua New Guinea

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Forward supply depot of 6th Division
Makow August 1945

The nature of operations and the terrain in New Guinea required the establishment of forward depots from which light transport and carriers delivered to fighting units.

This depot, run by elements of 2/5 Sup Dep Coy and 2/3 GT Coy in the Toricelli Mountains held and issued food, fuel, ammunition and also purified water.

It was resupplied by track from the coast, the water being won locally by Engineers. Inland depots around Maprik were supplied initially by air drop until establishment of an airstrip, after which the more efficient air landing was used.

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Lieutenant General Sir John Northcott KCMG KCVO CB

DST, M&Q                    1926-31
GOC 1 Armd Div          1941
CGS                             1942-45
C in C BCOF                 1945-46
Governor of NSW        1946-57

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Future Director of Supplies and Transport inspecting troops
Lae, August 1945

Even forward areas were not without their moments of formal military occasions. Brig P.S. McGrath OBE DSO, Deputy Director of Supplies and Transport 1st Amy inspects a guard of 74 Tpt Pl from 151 GT Coy.

McGrath became the first postwar DST.

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2/8 Field Ambulance
Tobruk September 1941

Ambulances of the AASC transport section of the unit are being unloaded at the underground dressing station. Others are dispersed in the area to counter air attack.

A small but significant and specialised task of AASC, initially the transport section for field ambulances was provided from the divisional companies. This was changed in World War 2 to a special transport section within the field ambulance.

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Freeing a jeep and trailer
Kaiapit November 1943

A different transport scene awaited units in New Guinea. During the Markham-Ramu campaign jeeps were flown in by Dakota transport aircraft, and operated forward to fighting units from supply dumps established at the airhead.

The battle with mud was a constant one, as even lightweight vehicles bogged easily. It was found that 2½ and 3 ton all-wheel drive trucks could cope just as well, and these were introduced into areas where they could be got in.

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Expedient transport link
Bougainville September 1945

As an imaginative way of solving a difficult link in the supply route previously bridged by native carriers, a funicular railway was built to connect vehicle-capable tracks on either side of Barges Hill on the Numa Numa Trail.

With the load limit of one ton, jeeps were stripped, dragged up the rail, and then reassembled. Cargo was then sent up to the jeeps for forward delivery.

A jeep of 158 GT Coy is being withdrawn just after the end of the war.

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Getting the mail through

By donkey in the mountains of Syria 1941.

Royal Australian Corps of Transport Museum

Getting the mail through

By light aircraft in the swamps of Bougainville 1945.

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Issuing supplies in the field
Tobruk September 1941

The technique of breaking bulk into unit lots in static depots was replaced in the
field by a circle of dispersed commodity stacks from each of which unit vehicles
drew according to their load lists.

This system minimised time in the bulk breaking point and so also air and artillery threats, as well minimising manpower use in not making up unit lots in advance.

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Bulk fuel installation
Tobruk 1941

Further use of captured Italian technology, the automated fuel distribution system was taken over and pressed into use.

After handling gasoline in flimsy 4 gallon drums which had to be shipped in wooden cases to reduce leakers even to just serious proportions, 6 Div Pet Coy found the bulk tanks, pumps and drum filling system a welcome adjunct to their operations.

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Horses for China
Sydney 1900

Deployment by the Colonies of a mixed naval and military force to the Boxer Rebellion in China necessitated a supply of horses. As the basic supplier of horses in the Indo-Pacific area, Australia naturally supplied a quota of horses to this affray.

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Clerks at HQ 1st Army
Lae May 1945

The explosion of headquarters during World War 2 produced an explosion in the number of clerks required to service them.

While clerks for most units were raised within their respective corps structures, higher headquarters had no corps affiliation and a sponsor corps was required – AASC.

Increasing numbers of women were introduced to this service to free men for active service, some 500 eventually serving overseas - here Cpl J. Harris and Sgt J. Garrett with WO2 P.B. Cotterill.

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Unit workshop
High Range 1966

While real productivity in repairs requires optimum accommodation, tools and parts supply, field repairs to taskworthy condition ensured that unit equipment was kept at acceptable levels provided the machinery could keep up with the supported vehicles.

From the first motorised units in 1914 workshop, servicing and repair parts and recovery vehicles were provided for transport unit workshops.

The truck shown is a Diamond T Holmes-rig twin boom recovery vehicle.

Pte E. Gow 4th Transport Squadron



Cooking in the field
Sinai 1916

Cooks of 3 LH Fd Amb preparing a meal during the battle of Romani: the trench system was traditional until the emergence of mobile field kitchens from the Wiles factory. The main advances made during World War 1 were in distribution, particularly in the Western Front winters where hot meals were one of the few amenities and necessities for those in the forward areas.

Insulated containers were developed to be carried by mules and fatigue parties into the trenches.

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Cooking training
Melbourne June 1942

By the 1940s equipment for small unit cooking had changed but little. Students at the
Victorian L of C School of Cooking still learnt field cooking with techniques their fathers and grandfathers had used.

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Wiles Cooker

There was nothing new in the principle of the Wiles Cooker. A two wheeled version later christened the 'baby Wiles' had been produced in quantity in World War 1 and used in camps throughout Australia. The larger four wheeled kitchen simply allowed higher volume and covered working conditions, but it was not ordered in any quantity until after 7 December 1941.

It was to remain an effective solution in the post-1945 army, never fully displaced by the US pattern gasoline company cookers introduced in the 1960s.

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Chapter 17


Organisation and Functions


Sinews of War

Armies live on their stomachs, move on their fuel, and fight with their munitions – a truism thousands of years old. Further, when they move from a base of supply, special arrangements are required to ensure that the combat elements are not denied freedom of action by having to provide and carry their own supplies and reserves. Long term and costly operational experience in the British Army, and indeed other armies, demonstrated that the delivery of these sinews of war, without which armies cannot survive and fight, is achieved most effectively where the suppliers and movers form part of the one team 1. On this the Army Service Corps principle was formed.

The earliest colonial military supplies and transport organisations in Australia were raised as an incremental step from, and as an agent of, the Commissariat Departments of the colonies, themselves successors to the imperial Treasury’s and later the War Office’s Commissariat. Their function was to provide economical support for training camps – they were in fact no more than garrison details. Their organisation reflected this, comprising simply tradesmen and their supervisors, who were organised into as many working teams as were required to serve separate camp locations. So the Victorian Commissariat and Transport Corps was expanded in 1890 to three sections to support three dispersed camps, and the NSW ASC third company was raised primarily to support training areas outside Sydney 2. A further conceptual step was made in New South Wales in 1894 with the introduction of war establishments but the reality of the camp support levels remained. There was also a regression to separation of supplies from transport with the formation of separate companies in 1899, as the uniformity fetish overcame the lessons of war 3.

These lessons of war were available at first hand to few Australian officers. The Soudan and Boer Wars had involved many, but at the combat or garrison level; it is only when officers function at higher command and staff levels that they become involved in the complexities and practicalities of supporting forces and so have the opportunity to gain an appreciation of the requirements and techniques of that support. Within the Australian defence environment this appreciation therefore largely resided with war-experienced British Army officers who were on secondment to, or visitors invited to report on, the Australian Forces. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Australian organisation and nomenclatures followed closely the British lead. There was hardly an alternative in the English-speaking world, especially in the supplies and transport area, Australian colonial and Commonwealth forces forming the next ASCs after those of the British Army; the United States Army in 1912 had reached the stage achieved in the UK in 1875, and its training in France in 1918 was facilitated by the infusion of Australian and British advisers 4.

The first AASC field organisations therefore were based on Hutton’s experiences in African wars, most latterly the Boer War, where supply columns supported mobile fighting columns. As he elected the brigade group as the most appropriate fighting formation for Australian home defence, AASC First Line field units became light horse or infantry brigade supply columns of company size, on the establishments shown in Table 10. The Second Line elements of ammunition columns and of reserve supply and transport columns were thought of but deferred 5; they were never to reach even the planning stage as they were overtaken by other changes in Australia and the UK. The Imperial Defence Conference in 1909 gained Australia’s acceptance of standardisation: that the ‘War Establishment of the Home Regular Army should be accepted as the basis on which the organisation of units of Dominion Forces should, as closely as possible, be modelled’ 6. This posed no immediate problem, the supply columns having already been dutifully renamed transport and supply columns two years before following the British lead, and the intent to think about Second Line when the time was right was masked by the still incomplete First Line plan.

The organisational step which foreshadowed a real change was the British recognition that the system which worked on the veldt of South Africa against a dispersed enemy could not cope with the scale and density of a European battlefield. Regimental unit transport was brigaded and added into a horse transport divisional train, a mechanical transport supply column was formed to replenish the divisional train from railhead, and a mechanical transport ammunition park similarly established to replenish an artillery-manned divisional ammunition column. Each division would have its five depot units of supply at replenishment points for the divisional transport, with field butchery and bakery units at the railhead, and a reserve horse transport column as an emergency reserve 7. This of course was as far from the Australian home defence requirement as the South African model was close to it, but it became the background target. Although it has been stated that the AASC quickly reorganised on this basis 8, it was in fact never implemented in Australia, as the Kitchener training organisation redistributed the Army in quite a different way in brigade training areas, each with a nominally allotted AASC company as shown in Table 11. It might never have been implemented if World War 1 had not called seven Australian divisions into the battlefields of the Middle East and France.

The AIF organisation was specifically tailored to mesh in with the British organisation. In consequence the AASC component was built on the 1912 pattern. 1st Division’s AASC had the full standard units described above: the divisional train which comprised a headquarters and four composite supply and transport companies, three for support of the three brigades and the fourth or headquarters company for support of divisional headquarters and divisional troops, and its motorised supply and ammunition units; however 2nd Division was minus the mechanical transport units. The build up in 1916 of three extra divisions in Egypt and Australia to make five for service in France aimed at the same level, except for the reserve columns which were no longer standard in the static conditions of the Western Front; in fact the motorised component was not completed until 1917, British units filling the gap. However by mid-1916 the British standard had replaced the five depot units of supply by a more economical supply company per corps of three divisions, and also had gone for economy of scale in fewer bakeries and butcheries in the static conditions. This was not followed by the Australian divisions as they wished to retain their own national and formation support alliances in a battlefield where formations regularly changed their positions in and out of the line, and had grouped the depot units, butcheries and bakeries under command of the divisional trains, even though they were lines of communication units and often located remote from the divisions.

The major change which they did follow was the progressive pooling of the corps mechanical transport away from the commodity to a composite grouping, to reflect the wide range of tasks required rather than the simplistic supplies-ammunition classifications; this was finally consolidated in early spring 1918 to provide effective and economical use and a general reserve against failure of the railway system, recognising at last the ‘general transport’ concept 9. The mass of motorised ammunition sub-parks and supply columns shown in Table 2 was reformed into a headquarters mechanical transport column with six companies, one for each division and one for corps troops. Support of the mounted divisions in the Middle East was less ambitious and complex, eventually settling on horse transport divisional trains and single depot units of supply for each, supported by the camel, motor transport and base structure provided by the British Egyptian Expeditionary Force 10. Establishments of the divisional trains became considerably more complex than the early brigade columns and companies, and consequently only an outline only of the manning and transport tables is summarised in Table 12.

Reorganisation after World War 1 carried the AIF divisional train across to the Militia, supplanting the still extant Kitchener area companies which had continued to be sustained by the Universal Training scheme. But retained from the Hutton-Kitchener era was the idea of doing something about the corps and army troops element later, only when need and resource availability made such a course easy, and did not interfere with the priority of satisfying the desire for a full book of infantry and mounted divisions. At least Hutton recognised the uselessness of an army without adequate supply and transport support, but his plan to work up to it was shelved by his successors; for Kitchener, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that his main eye was on generating a large number of mounted and infantry brigades, fed by a general conscription system, ready to be integrated into British divisions overseas in a future conflict. The post-war Senior AIF Officers Committee which generated the 1921 reorganisation knew better from their experience in the Western Front and Middle East, but simply let their hearts lead them to retaining the mirror of their beloved AIF divisions ahead of a balanced-force order of battle 11. The Kitchener end product of 36 AMF AASC companies became 27 AASC companies, on the Western Front organisations shown in Table 12.

This structure was overtaken in 1928 by a British change. The RASC was by then well into motorisation and had altered its establishments to match the greater carrying capacity and increased mobility of its army. It also made the mistake of reverting to the commodity system of pre- and early World War 1 which had been proven to be so costly under fluctuating commodity demand rates, had been progressively consolidated, then finally discarded in 1918. After a transition period the AASC followed this backsliding with the divisional train and its four composite companies replaced by a headquarters ASC, one divisional supply company and one divisional horse transport company, the latter converted in name to mechanical transport company in 1934; the only corps or lines of communication units raised were depot supply sections for divisional support, but after two years they were absorbed into the divisional supply companies. The supply company was a supplies unit of four sections incorporated from the previous four small mixed companies of the divisional train, but with no transport; the transport company similarly incorporated the transport sections of the train companies, the separation of functions being justified on the specious basis of the transport company being able more easily to hive off the unraised divisional baggage company, and also facilitating mechanical transport training 12.

Another flow-on to the AASC in 1938 from the restructuring of a now fully motorised RASC brought a further regression to commodity organisation, divisions having a supply column, ammunition company and petrol company, each in themselves combined supply-transport units but facing the perennial drawback of inflexibility. Australia dispensed with the petrol company as there were few trucks to call on liquid fuel, the supply column handling forage but having a nominal petrol section, reality biting only after the outbreak of World War 2 when both Militia and AIF divisions were progressively motorised. Then also the reality of the need for corps units saw the raising of ammunition and petrol parks for the divisions proceeding overseas, and for those at home, one of each for each military district/command. The lesson of World War I had been discarded entirely for 1912 doctrine on the basis of the latter being applicable to mobile warfare, the former for static, however it requires no genius to recognise that what matters is the tasking of units rather than their title.

By 1941 a little further experience and the open-ended demands of mobile warfare brought a reversion to all-purpose units, informally at first in the AIF divisions in the Middle East and Malaya then formally, with the same operational benefits and enormous savings which had been achieved in 1918. The RASC, and the AASC after it, returned to a composite structure in which column headquarters commanded two to five companies, and companies commanded two to five platoons – transport, supplies and workshop 13. The nature and size of the task determined the number, mix and employment, so there was no scope for ammunition units being idle when ammunition expenditure was low, similarly for fuel supply. This system was so successful that it remained until the disbandment of RAASC over 30 years later, and even then was carried over to the successor arrangements.

Operations in the South West Pacific were considerably different from those in the Western Desert, the mobility considerations giving way in an area of extremely poor communications to an emphasis on establishing maintenance and reserve stocks and using any feasible means of moving them to the users. The character of the bricks thus changed to supply depot platoons to handle all three commodity stocks, transport platoons equipped with the type or mixture of vehicles suitable for local conditions, and air maintenance platoons for air delivery tasks. Although the divisional AASC was stabilised on the company and platoon structure in Table 12, their actual deployment and employment and also that of the supporting lines of communication and base sub-area units were varied according to the operational grouping, geography and logistics system in each separate area. In some areas, movement was totally coastwise by landing craft and amphibian, in others air predominated, but usually a mix of stages in which most types of transport including, in the final legs, jeeps and native carriers 14.

The post-war Army’s redirection to a potential Middle East Theatre meant reversion to ground mobility and the ‘stocks on wheels’ system of resupply necessary to deliver rations, POL and ammunition around a fluid and high intensity, therefore high consumption battlefield. Automatic resupply of ammunition required over 100 trucks for the division, and with 30 for fuel, 20 odd for food, and others for general tasks and troop lifts, the Divisional Column – now the name for a big battalion of nearly a thousand men rather than for the early platoon and later company-sized Supply Columns – operated 270 task vehicles 15.

A switch to Tropical Establishments in 1957 was largely nominal, but three years later a definite switch to a South East Asian scenario resulted in a return to the supply platoon-light transport structure and techniques of the later World War 2 campaigns. Then a further step leant on the same war’s experience of air supply not only as an alternative or supplement to the divisional system, but also introduced it as the backbone of divisional RAASC operations, substituting it for the bulk of the ground transport. This relied on a scenario of two thirds of the resupply effort being by air, a result in part of the availability of Hercules and Caribou transport aircraft and the prospect of utility helicopters 16. While this concept of operations fitted the subsequent activity of the task force employed in Vietnam, its relevance to larger forces remained untested and, after the end of the Vietnam deployment with greater attention being focussed on the Australian mainland, a reversion to the open warfare organisations once more commenced, and was in progress at the time of disbandment of RAASC.

A constant factor in all these changes was that of retaining the brick system as the only rational way of ensuring that an effective but still economical grouping of supplies and transport units was allotted to any level of support. The other and more permanent factor was that of the indivisibility of the supply and the transport functions. The AASC and RAASC gained little kudos for driving trucks. Their well deserved reputation arose from delivering the sinews of war where and when needed, and this after all was what the Army established the Corps for, knowing from long experience that only by making the one organisation responsible to both provide and deliver the daily necessities of battle can some reasonable assurance be achieved. While it is possible in static low level situations to get away with separate supply and delivery systems, in major mobile operations only the marriage of both can ensure success. The RAASC amply demonstrated this, and it still remains an indisputable lesson which its successors, and the army as a fighting entity, would ignore at their peril.

Supplies and Transport Staffs

Headquarters of sorts existed in the Victorian and NSW ASCs, but these were command elements rather than supplies and transport staffs, the functions of which resided in their Commissariat Departments. In his 1903 proposals to the Commonwealth Government on the structure of the Defence Force, Hutton acknowledged in relation to a supply and transport staff that ‘the reductions of officers in the Head-Quarters Staff necessitate the postponement of the organisation of that indispensable Department’. The next year, decrying lack of progress in organising the AASC, which meant that ‘until this deficiency has been overcome the Military Forces of the Commonwealth are useless for operations in the field’, he claimed that the lack of staff made it impossible to deal with the problem realistically. These were not empty words – Hutton had been obliged to accept a Head-Quarters for the Military Forces of eight members instead of the 13 recommended by the Imperial Defence Committee, losing in the process the Deputy Quartermaster General who was to take responsibility for supply and transport matters. Assistant Adjutant General Lieut-Col M.W. Bayly then took responsibility for transport, and the Assistant Quartermaster General Lieut-Col W.T. Bridges for supply 17.

This inauspicious staff split of the supply and transport function in 1903 was voluntary – not even a copy of the British Army division in 1904 into Director of Transport and Remounts and Director of Supply and Clothing. Fortunately it was also short lived, which the UK one was not. Coinciding with Hutton’s departure, the appointment of General Officer Commanding was supplanted by his recommended corporate Military Board in which Deputy Adjutant General Col J.C. Hoad assumed responsibility for the additional matters of remounts, transport and the ASC. When the Board was expanded in 1909 to include a Quartermaster General, Col J.G. Legge, those responsibilities passed to him. Even then, the lack of specialised staff hamstrung the ability to cope with the volume of work. Kitchener’s report the following year called for ‘a proper staff to relieve trivia going to the Military Board18.

By 1912 a British ASC officer had been seconded to the QMG’s Staff as Director of Supply and Transport and a Director of Remounts appointed 19, with plans for Assistant Directors of Transport and Supply in each of the other Military Districts. These positions were only partly filled by early 1914. From his report on the Australian Military Forces of that date, General Sir Ian Hamilton was not impressed at the effect of the overall response to Kitchener’s recommendation, commenting that:

The centralisation in the Defence Department exceeds anything I have experienced during more than 40 years service ...

with the root problems

... on financial grounds ... the present mass of petty questions, which in a well ordered business would be dealt with locally, are now referred from districts to Head-Quarters ... leading to an ... increasing unwillingness on the part of officers to act on their own responsibility ...

District Commanders, staff officers and unit commanders were unanimous in deploring the steady increase in correspondence, and the equally steady decrease in any result from that correspondence.

Golden words 20 which have had, have, and will have currency as long as the bureaucrat, and more reprehensibly the military bureaucrat, hold ascendancy over real soldiers who have the genuine ability to both command and manage. The problem was temporarily solved for the Australian Forces shortly after Hamilton’s visit by the overwhelming demands of World War 1 which did not reduce the workload, but presented Defence Head-Quarters with some real problems that ensured decentralisation to the executive levels.

The Directorate of Supply and Transport was responsible from its inception for a broad range of responsibilities which it kept until World War 2 expansion brought the hiving off of the Movements and Quartering functions. Until then it carried barracks and offices, barrack services, quartering and billeting, movement by road, rail and sea transport, railways, the Automobile Corps, food and cooking, forage fuel and light: apart from the still-to-be-invented rail and motor transport function, this had not changed since Commissary Andrew Miller stepped ashore in January 1788. To this was added during the course of World War 1 the Controller of Garrison Institutes to organise canteens in AIF training camps, and the Director of Automobile (later Motor) Transport responsible for the increasing numbers of motor vehicles and drivers finding their way into the home military system.  The occupancy of Capt J.T. Marsh as Director was curtailed by allowing him to join the AIF. This left a vacuum, filled by Lt H.E. Heydt as acting director, remaining until his retirement at the end of 1922 left the position vacant.

The intention in 1921 was to form a Directorate of Supply and Transport, which would contain two elements – the Director of Supply and Transport and Director of Remount, and their staffs. There was, however, an impediment: well before Kitchener, others including Bevan Edwards, Schaw, French and Hutton had pressed for a military college to produce well educated Permanent officers, finally put into effect in 1911 with the concept and effect of the Royal Military College becoming the sole source of Staff Corps officers, which meant all Permanent officers. RMC’s early output was effectively subsumed into the AIF, so the result was not addressed until the post-World War 1 stocktaking. In 1920 Inspector General Sir Harry Chauvel pointed out that there was no Staff Corps officer with the background to become the Director of Supply and Transport; the only option was to seek an appropriate exchange officer from the British Army, and for the future ensure that Royal Military College graduates were allotted to AASC 21. A solution was apparently found when a Staff Corps officer agreed to take on this function and was sent to the Staff College at Camberley, followed by a six month course at the ASC School Aldershot; but on return in 1922 Lt-Col J.H. Peck CMG DSO was diverted into a general staff position in QMG Branch. He subsequently occupied the position, revamped for economy as Staff Officer Supplies and Transport, Movement and Quartering, briefly in 1925 followed by a further interregnum in that post by Capt R.T.A. McDonald. A second candidate Maj J. Northcott returned from similar training in 1926, was appointed Staff Officer, then Director, retaining the usual staff responsibilities for Movement and Quartering. Fortunately Northcott was there for a serious and stabilising period, remaining until 1931; a further candidate undertaking the overseas training routine of Staff College and ASC courses, Capt F.L. Coldwell-Smith MC did not take up the position but became chief instructor of the ASC and Q Administration School 22.

Some progress was made on the decentralised front. Assistant Directors of Supply and Transport in military districts were filled during World War 1 and began to be filled on a full time basis from 1921, with their staffs also assisting as district instructional staff. This was extended in 1927 with establishment cover for Militia supplies and mechanical transport staff officers (DADS, DADT(MT)) on the District Base Headquarters; the positions were regularly filled in some districts, particularly if there was no ADST posted. In the field force, divisional head-quarters continued to have no supplies and transport staff, this function being left to divisional train head-quarters, then its 1928 successor the HQ ASC 23. This double function of staff and command was also often used in higher and geographic headquarters, providing an effective decentralised means of implementation of service support which is entirely appropriate for both tactical deployment in operations and control of operation and training. It has continued to survive the test of time and operational experience.

The 1930s continued in a similar vein of high quality officers as Director. It is not strictly accurate to label them as AASC as there were no Permanent AASC officers other than quartermasters, who were given honorary rank. As Staff Corps officers they had no corps allocation and came from a variety of backgrounds, some forming an ongoing link with AASC, others moving on to other fields. The stint as DST did their careers no harm – Northcott becoming Chief of the General Staff, Commander in Chief of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan and ending his service as Lt Gen Sir John Northcott KCVO KCVO CB, Governor of New South Wales; the next as Maj Gen W.A.B. Steele CBE, Commander 3rd Armoured Division; his successor as Maj Gen J.M.A. Durrant CMG DSO, GOC Western Command; and the next as Maj Gen B.M. Morris DSO, Commander of New Guinea Force then ANGAU. In 1939 Col R.T.A. McDonald returned to another stint which lasted, with a short break, through World War 2, being promoted to brigadier in 1942 24.

Early in the war the growth in the Quartering and Movement functions resulted in their being hived off as separate directorates within QMG Branch, though the rationale of separating the Movements function and awarding movement control, water transport and postal service to Engineers is quite obscure, making for a division which had to be repaired at a later date. DST had begun its own dramatic growth period, separate sections being created for supplies, POL and transport, progressively developing into a range of specialist sub-sections to handle food commodities, contracts, food and depot accounts inspection, vehicle hiring and impressment, workshops, training and personnel management 25. The Directorate was responsible for planning, procurement and management of food, fuel and transport of an Army and Air Force of up to 600,000 plus 18,500 prisoners of war, 54,000 Civil Constructional Corps workers, an array of other quasi-military aides and substantial American forces 26. It was the equivalent of running a mammoth business enterprise which today would command a telephone number salary and princely benefits: the Director received one which, even adjusted to today’s value, would be spurned by many of today’s tradesmen. As well as his directorate, there was a wide net of Supplies and Transport staffs on the military district, command, line of communication, base sub-area, army, corps, division and sometimes brigade headquarters, each with specific responsibilities for and to its area or command 27. Their responsibilities included planning and forecasting future needs on which DST relied, and in managing the resources and units allotted to their organisation. While they had a technical responsibility to DST through the chain of command, they had two others – one the plain one to their own commanders, the other the ever present one to the soldiers whose well being was always the primary target of successful supplies and transport support.

The run down of the Army at the end of the war brought an accompanying reduction of all supplies and transport staffs, though not to the erratic pre-war levels. The decision to maintain a Regular army meant that there would be a continuing demand for support above the annual camp requirements of the Citizen Forces, so base supply depots and transport units were retained for this purpose and ST staffs remained on the Command headquarters; the senior ST staff officer was also generally allotted command of the RAASC units in the Command until an Army-wide manpower-consuming mania for intermediate and area headquarters in the 1960s provided the opportunity for these units to be placed in the hands of non-RAASC commanders who cared little enough for training and the service to be provided by the units allotted, but were well prepared to exploit their resources for extraneous duties and to reinforce their own staff. DST’s structure was weighted towards personnel management of the Regular element of the Corps and to supplies management, the latter including a Central Provisioning Office to attempt economical buys of foodstuffs and an ill favoured attempt at depot computerisation; both were discarded by RAAOC when responsibility was transferred to it. Transport staff became a backwater, but in the 1960s a long overdue attack was made on the modernisation of vehicles, materials and fuel handling, and aerial delivery equipment. A comparative outline of the phases of development of DST is shown in Table 13.


Early organisations of the AASC and its predecessors were generally confined to the mixed supply and transport role, either in garrison or field support applications, although No 1 Coy NSW ASC became a transport unit from 1899 until the Commonwealth establishments of 1902 reverted it into a composite brigade column which, under the titles of supply column, transport and supply column, brigade company, brigade train company or divisional train company, remained a core unit in both AMF and AIF until 1928. Major transport tasks, being periodic, were generally effected by contract, then military resources picking up those jobs within their limited capacity. In the Western Front of World War 1 so-called supply columns and ammunition parks were in reality motor transport units allotted specific commodity carrying roles but employed in a variety of additional general transport tasks, a constant one being support of engineer construction. These were finally consolidated into a mechanical transport column of six companies: the five divisional companies had a headquarters and five 16-vehicle sections, the sixth corps troops company having only two sections 28.

The demise of these units on disbandment of the AIF reduced the AASC to the composite divisional horse transport companies. While an increasing leavening of motor transport for specialised purposes was inevitable in an increasingly mechanised community, this was numerically quite minor. By the time a decision was taken to motorise the AASC in 1933 there was still only a handful of motor vehicles on its strength, and by 1939 about 100, mostly for district transport pools, with three per division for familiarisation purposes. Meanwhile the RASC had replaced all but one horse transport unit by 1938 29. The transport units which did exist in Australia were a mechanical transport company in each of Sydney and Melbourne, and a section in each of the other capitals 30. They were equipped with mixed types of motor vehicles to meet local demands for personnel and cargo movement for base administrative needs, but hiring still accounted for any major trooplifts or cargo tasks.

World War 2 brought the 2nd AIF which, in addition to its divisional AASCs with their ammunition, supply and petrol companies, also required for 1st Australian Corps in the Middle East a corps petrol and an ammunition park, corps troops supply, ammunition and petrol companies, plus reserve mechanical transport companies. It became increasingly apparent that the flexibility required of a mobile battlefield meant that composite-task companies were necessary so with the reorganisation of divisional units to the brick system in 1942, the corps units were also restructured into general transport companies – the lesson of 1918 relearnt. These companies comprised a company headquarters, two to five transport platoons each of 30 vehicles, relief driver increments and workshops, equipped with the types of vehicles appropriate to their task 31. They once again provided organised pools of transport which could be tailored and tasked for prevailing requirements, without the inflexibilities and unevenness of employment inherent in the dedicated commodity system outside the second line role. There was also the bonus, in the mixed imperial forces in the Middle East, for units and sub-units from different sources to be grouped in a way most appropriate to the local situation.

Remaining in Australia were the growing number of Militia divisions, other garrison forces, headquarters, training and logistics units organised to protect the home base. In addition to the divisions’ AASC commodity units, there was not only their quota of corps troops units, but also the base units, provided for the troops overseas from British sources but now having to be raised for the home base – District MT Depots, Reserve MT Coys and Auxiliary HT Coys. Here also in 1942 motor transport was consolidated and converted in the brick system to GT Coys with their transport platoons and workshops, and equipped with light, medium or heavy vehicles as appropriate, ranging from 30 cwt lorries through 7 ton semi-trailers and 10 ton diesel trucks and trailers, to tank transporters 32. The shift of operations and divisions to the north of Australia resulted in a reduction in transport requirements in the south and, for the limited road system in New Guinea and the Islands, a switch to a mixture of 2½ and 3 ton trucks, ¼ ton jeeps with ½ ton trailers, and DUKW amphibians 33. To augment these, pack transport companies were raised, but lack of local forage limited their use to small detachments for a short period until an improving availability of DC-3 aircraft presented a superior alternative. Outside the base areas the frequent fragmentation of transport effort meant smaller detachments so it became expedient in late 1944 to give each transport platoon its individual establishment and identifying number to facilitate semi-independent operation.

After World War 2, as had happened a quarter of a century earlier, the wide range of transport reverted to the current general service vehicle, and the heavy fleet and units associated with them disappeared. While the postwar Army turned its focus back to the Middle East, and the more conventional open warfare mobility needs involving extensive general transport tasks, units were based on the 3 ton truck, ignoring the experience during World War 2 of the beneficial use of captured Italian trucks and trailers, and that of semi-trailers and Mack 10 ton truck and trailer combinations on The Track. Also ignored was the post-war switch to semi-trailers in commercial trucking in Australia: it was a re-run of the 1920s and 30s where not only was the World War 1 experience in France and the Middle East set aside, but also that of the motorisation of the civil community while the Army stuck stubbornly to the horse.

So it was for the post World War period – it was not until 1970 that a 20 ton semitrailer reappeared to provide the RAASC and the Army with an effective lift capacity. The reasons for this are mixed: the end of the war saw a reversion to local training where a 2½ or 3 ton truck was the most utilitarian vehicle; there was a large stock of these available; there were no long haul tasks needed or envisaged locally; and anyway small payloads made for many trucks, many units and a greater Corps structure. The brick system remained as the basis of organisation, companies being named now MT rather than GT, though for over a decade the transport platoons lost their identity and more importantly flexibility for independent employment. But by 1960 a strategic reversion to forward defence in South East Asia turned organisation back to the tropical structure of World War 2 and light vehicles. This went further in 1965 to an air support concept where road transport was substantially replaced by air transport, although the practice of this organisation in Vietnam was necessarily a substantial medium truck fleet, and in the later period of peak efficiency, the use of heavy cargo and tanker vehicles.

The basic unit building block of transport varied in both terminology and size. The word column first encountered in South Africa meant literally that – it could be any sort of mobile fighting or support group. The early AASC brigade and divisional supply columns, transport and supply columns and AASC companies each contained a transport section of about 20 wagons, equivalent to the later transport platoons. The World War 1 corps units designated as divisional and corps troops columns, parks and sub-parks each contained several transport sections of platoon size, while the final MT companies contained sections of 16 lorries. From 1930 column applied to divisional supply columns which had sections the size of the previous brigade and divisional columns and companies; and from 1938 the same applied to petrol and ammunition companies. In the 1942 brick reorganisation the term section was finally replaced by the basic building block platoon, which operated 30 task vehicles until 1960, then 20, the latter figure applying previously also to such specialist carriers as amphibians and transporters; sections then became sub-elements of platoons, and in the other direction columns became battalion equivalents containing several companies. While complex and not overendowed with logic, these variations in names and the organisational outlines shown in Table 12 and Table 14 need to be kept in mind to retain an understanding of the place and capacity of units at various periods.

Two principles were established early – that there should be spare vehicles to replace unserviceable task vehicles and so keep operating strength up, and that there should be extra drivers to keep up the potential work rate of the vehicles. The spare vehicles were generally set at about 10 percent of task vehicles; provision of extra drivers varied, from 1942 to 1960 being held in relief driver increment sub-units, but before and after that being simply additional unit drivers with the vehicle, generally to ensure two drivers per vehicle which allowed extended hours of operation, maintenance, defence in location and on the move, and unavoidable domestic chores 34.

An additional principle was the desirability of allotting drivers to specific vehicles to maintain a beneficial link of responsibility, pride and knowledge of the equipment, though this had limits of practicability, and in some circumstances inhibited operating efficiency. However these principles applied mainly to field units, base ones generally operating on the basis of a pool of mixed vehicle types and drivers allotted according to daily tasks. Operating procedures were based on a very regimented system of drills, march discipline and control which might be less efficient than more intensive operating systems, but were often necessary to maximise movement space on crowded routes subject to air and ground interdiction. But concepts of high load carriers, crew slipping, free running, centralised route control and maintenance, which were appropriate to extended lines of communication, had gained negligible practical adherence up to the end of the RAASC era although written into operating manuals for many years before.

Air Delivery

Tentative steps on minor deliveries by air were made in World War 1. A British attempt was made to supply its surrounded garrison at Kut-al-Amara in Mesopotamia by air in 1916, and ammunition was parachuted to 4th Division during the battle for Hamel in 1918 with an innovative dropping system invented by Australian aviator Lt L.J. Wackett 35, but little thought was given to air supply as a means of supporting forces in difficult terrain until World War 2. Two factors which fed on each other brought a quantum leap in air logistics – the development of airborne forces which promoted the techniques, and the development of transport aircraft which provided payload and performance that made air dropping and landing fairly economical and effective. These resources then provided options which made feasible and desirable air supply of forces in isolated and inaccessible situations. Pack and porter transport had been the backstop in World War 1, was used in Greece, Syria, Papua and New Guinea in World War 2, but the advent of a far better workhorse in the form of the 2,250 kg payload DC-3 Dakota aircraft provided a far more flexible, efficient and speedy option in the roadless expanses of the tropical theatres, and progressively displaced them.

After some initial ad hoc packing in supplies and Ordnance depots at Port Moresby in mid-1942, two air transport supply platoons followed by an air maintenance company began to refine techniques of loading, unloading and dropping. Although free dropping was very suitable for some supplies, it was damaging to technical stores and dangerous for fused ammunition, so parachute dropping was introduced when parachutes became available. The advances over the Owen Stanley range to Gona, along the north coast and mountains from Wau to Lae and Saidor, and through the Markham and Ramu Valleys to Madang leant heavily on air supply, requiring formation of four additional air maintenance companies to pack, load, dispatch and unload air cargo and air drop supplies and stores, while supply depot platoons did the task in less intensive air supply areas. Air maintenance also became an ongoing option in later campaigns in New Guinea and the Islands, and a usual one for priority cargo 36.

(slideshow) Air Delivery Progression

Following World War 2 the US Army continued to develop its air delivery techniques to support its two airborne divisions, but techniques in the RASC and RAASC were static. The DC-3 remained the workhorse of the RAAF through the 1950s and so placed an absolute limit on the size and types of loads, until Army in desperation passed part of its budget to the Air Force to allow the purchase of twelve high payload rear-loading C-130A Hercules transports which began operating in 1959. The quantum jump in capability for heavy drop offered by this aircraft was slow to be used, as the RAAF was rarely willing to concede that Army had any special rights or priorities for any aircraft, regardless that the procurement justification may have been for Army support. A joint Air Movement Trials and Development Unit set up to produce loading and restraint standards for air cargo had made so little progress by 1966 that demonstration heavy drops were still made using old US Army vehicles and weapons whose standard rigging for air drop had been available when the aircraft had been bought: while air landing capacity was greatly enhanced, the air dropping operational capability was still at the level which the ‘biscuit bomber’ had provided, yet the 1960s logistic support doctrine of the Australian Army required the ability to air drop its engineer plant, heavy weapons and vehicles. This inertia was compounded by the lack of interest, direction and supervision from the RAAF and Army staffs. The first year of developing air supply from scratch in 1942-43 organised by Maj D. Esplin, with virtually no equipment, produced a standard for the Australian forces which was hardly bettered during that later seven year period with its comparatively open-ended resources.

The air support doctrine on which the Army and RAASC of the mid 1960s was structured envisaged operations from airhead bases with over half of a division’s maintenance to be by air, initially air dropped and then air landed on airfields built with engineer plant which was parachuted in. The organisation of the divisional RAASC therefore swung to supply platoons and reflect the half road transport, half air transport concept. An air dispatch company was provided to load, unload, pack and dispatch stores and supplies with two air dispatch control sections for control of the divisional and forward airheads. To support the division, a Headquarters Army Air Supply Organisation and air supply control sections were to control air supply companies operating at rear airfields 37. Those units actually raised, both in the Regular and Citizen Force, are summarised in Table 15.

In parallel the equipment procurement programme was diverted to producing a range of operational and support items which could be lifted by Hercules and the newly introduced rear-loading Caribou replacement for the Dakota. The impetus which this programme provided plus a progressive approach at AMTDU under Maj L.A. Power meant that the earlier hiatus in development of air delivery techniques was largely overtaken, and a credible capability achieved, although advent of the utility and cargo helicopter to a large extent overtook the use of fixed wing aircraft in forward areas. The other effect of the helicopter felt by divisional air delivery units was that they were sufficiently easy to load, either internally or as slung loads, for non-specialist soldiers from supported units to pack and load their own stores and, being unwilling to let intermediaries handle their consignments, they tended to cut the RAASC air dispatchers out of the action. These in turn found alternative work in recovering lashing, loading and slinging equipment which the supported units used so lavishly and discarded or used for other purposes so carelessly, and in difficult special loadings 38. In the end, air delivery became recognised for what it had been from the beginning: not a panacea but an invaluable adjunct for delivery of priority or urgent loads, and where conventional surface transport was impracticable, an efficient substitute of limited but acceptable capacity, just as it had been thirty years earlier.

Army Postal Service

An Army Postal Service was established in the AIF in World War 1 to provide mail and telegraphic services to link the forces with the civil postal and telegraphic services. It was formed at Melbourne in September 1914 from AIF volunteers under the command of Ssgt A.W. Ross, organised into field post offices for Head-Quarters 1st Division, 1st Light Horse and 1st, 2nd and 3rd Infantry Brigades, plus one in 1st Divisional Train to service divisional troops. Arrangements were made with the Postmaster General’s Department to sort mails into unit lots. These field post offices set up in Egypt after arrival, and not only delivered mail but also transacted normal business of money orders, parcel post and registered mail. When it became apparent that the AIF would be committed to operations in the Middle East a base post office was set up in Cairo, and then a second at the port in Alexandria; the now Lieut Ross became Assistant Director of Army Postal Services AIF 39.

Problems in handling mails for the force at Gallipoli had two effects – overwhelming of the AIF post office capacity with a consequent drop in service, particularly in reforwarding the mail of casualties, and the consequent restructuring which put it on a sound footing for later operation in Palestine, England and the Western Front. A Director, Capt C. Fisher, together with supplementary staff enlisted from the civil postal service in Australia, arrived in October 1915 whereon volunteers were called from all units for those with postal experience. This restructuring included formation of the Australian Postal Corps on 10 March 1916, and transfer of the Base Post Office to Calais, a second one being later established in London. As well as the field post offices located in each of the corps and divisional head-quarters, brigades and divisional trains, as the nature of service provided was inevitably linked to the means of movement, postal detachments were included in the establishments of the Sea Transport Service, Railhead Supply Detachment and the corps Divisional Supply Columns (later MT Coys), where they were able to operate in concert with the normal daily maintenance movement from front to rear and back 40. In addition to free delivery and postage of mail, an Expeditionary Forces Message telegram system was established which enabled soldiers and relatives to exchange messages of three standard-phrases from a list of common phrases; this system was still in use in Vietnam half a century later, however by then some of the phrases had a quite quaint ring to them 41.

The end of the AIF meant the demise of the Australian Postal Corps and postal service. In the 1921 reorganisation of the Army no provision was made for field, base or line of communication units, and it was not until World War 2 that necessity once more demanded an overseas field postal service. The Postal Service was a Quartermaster General Staff responsibility, and in the United Kingdom had been allotted to the Royal Engineers to operate for no obvious reason. Mobilisation planning in Australia in 1938 proposed re-establishment of a postal service within AASC, but this tentative move was pre-empted by the outbreak of war, when it was mindlessly passed on to RAE as a legacy from the British precedent 42. For the expeditionary force this new Army Postal Service formed a Headquarters Postal Unit for the AIF to organise and train postal units, sending off in the first convoy 1 AIF Base Postal Unit and 6 Div Postal Unit which handled the initial work in the Middle East. These were augmented as 1st Corps built up in Palestine with 1 Corps Postal Unit, 1 L of C Postal Unit, and in 1941 2 L of C Postal Unit to service units in Egypt.

In Australia, the General Post Offices set up special military sorting rooms to handle mail to and from the Middle East, the home army operating through Postmaster General operated military post offices at the camps and barracks as had happened in World War I. However the extended callouts of the Militia in late 1941 and their full time duty in 1942 produced a workload which led to military Base Post Offices being formed in each of the L of C areas, the Army Postal Service becoming a separate directorate in Army Headquarters. From here there was a massive proliferation of divisional, corps and base units as the Army spread throughout remote areas of Australia and into New Guinea, the Islands and the Occupation Force in Japan.

The postal service operated during World War 1 as a separate corps, and in World War 2 and BCOF as an Engineer service, but after the latter it gained no priority in RAE’s peace structure and disappeared, overseas contingents relying on the British Forces Postal Service for this support. In Australia the Regular Army continued to receive concession rates for postage and telegrams within Australia and overseas, and the Postmaster General’s Department established special military post offices on Army bases. Engineers still clung to the responsibility for postal services without real interest in allotting resources to provide for an active service, and so it disappeared in reality until it was transferred to RAASC on 1 January 1966 43 to get an urgent response to the needs of the force being deployed to Vietnam, correcting an anomaly which might have been rectified much earlier if logic rather than Engineer imperial considerations had prevailed. 1 Communication Zone Postal Unit was raised the same year and a military-manned post office opened at the new Townsville base from 1968 to provide a training ground for postal officers and clerks to feed both the commitment in Vietnam and later in ANZUK Force in Singapore, where a component of ANZUK Postal Communications and Courier Unit was provided 44. The RAASC establishments are showin in Table 15.


Supply organisations existed from the earliest military settlement in Australia and through the colonial period in the form of the Commissariat whose functions and functioning have been outlined in Chapter 1. The colonial military organisations were raised as composite supply and transport units and remained so until 1899 when 2 Coy NSW ASC was raised as a supply unit, leaving 1 Coy temporarily as a transport unit. This was short lived, reverting to the composite model in the 1902 Commonwealth establishments. Until the raising of the first AIF, separate supplies units were not contemplated, brigades operating on contracts from nearby civilian sources of supply, which was within the capacity of the composite brigade AASC companies. In the background, from Hutton’s 1903 plan, and through the 1909 acceptance of the British Army organisational model, lay the need and obligation to provide for supply columns and ammunition parks, but the relative ease of field support for training in Australia allowed and encouraged emphasis to remain solely on combat units and their close support 45.

Advent of the AIF brought the reality of raising the specialist units. However the divisional supply column, ammunition park and reserve park were basically transport units with supply and ammunition sections, which bridged the gap between railhead and the divisional train, transferring loads to dumps at replenishment or other points; the divisional and artillery brigade ammunition columns and siege park were artillery units whose role was to collect ammunition from the ammunition parks at replenishment points and deliver it to the gun wagon lines and to infantry units. Artillery custody was on the spurious grounds that the artillery drivers could be used to replace casualties in the gun positions – such a diversion would simply reduce ammunition deliveries and so reduce firepower in another way. In the motorisation period immediately after the war ammunition delivery units were reallotted to RASC, followed later by the AASC.

As the British Army provided the base and advanced depots in the Middle East and France, the only pure supply unit was the unwieldy-titled 14-man depot unit of supply, which generally manned the replenishment points where rations and forage received from the supply column were issued to the divisional train companies for forward distribution. Extempore supply units were also created on Gallipoli from 1, 2 and NZ and A Div Trains, when the transport was left in Egypt, and the supply elements formed combination reserve and detailed issue depots, holding increasing stocks until lines of communication unit 11 Coy established a reserve supply depot, when they reverted to the bulk break function. The other supply-related units were the Sea Transport Service and Railhead Supply Detachment which had control of sea movement at Southampton and trans-shipment points at Etaples then Harfleur, and at the Corps railhead respectively. In the South West Pacific operations, Navy provided supply support to the Army component of the ANMEF, with ADS&T 2MD arranging contracts for provision of supplies to Navy 46.

At home during the war the AASC Militia companies provided supply support to the brigades, and AIF home service members and reinforcements manned the supply depots for the AIF training camps, some supplementary assistance coming from Militia doing extra duty. The end of World War 1 brought an end to specialised supply units and a reversion to the pre-war and wartime AMF system of area AASC composite companies drawing from contractors. This system persisted through the postwar decades. An attempt to establish Militia base supply units as a depot supply section for each division lasted only two years to 1930 when they were absorbed into the newly formed divisional supply companies which, not being composite, routinely had to provide sections, together with sections from divisional transport companies, to form the composite detachments necessary to support Militia camps. The beginnings of rebuilding brought Permanent supply sections in 2nd and 3rd District Bases in 1935, followed by Militia units deviously called supply personnel companies in each capital in 1938 to serve permanent units and Militia training camps, and to be the basis for mobilisation support. After the outbreak of war, these supply personnel companies were replicated to support the expanded divisions and base activities at home, and AIF ones raised from the divisions overseas, where they became the core of the resupply system for operations in the Middle East, the sections of the companies providing forward supply depots which leapfrogged behind forward moves, issuing to the divisional companies 47.

A significant change into the 1942 brick system saw a new and simplified range of basic units and specialist company headquarters, and the breaking up of such mammoth-capacity units as supply personnel companies, field butcheries and bakeries, each of which could service over 100,000 troops – appropriate to the AIF corps which was concentrated in the Middle East at the end of 1941, but irrelevant to the dispersed requirements in Australia and to the north. These specialist platoons and company headquarters are represented in Table 16; the companies might be allotted as an advanced supply depot in a base sub-area, or if required placed under a HQ CAASC, BSD or SRD. It was a flexible and economical system equally well adapted to the needs of operations in the South West Pacific and the home base, and became the continuing model for the postwar Army. Although apparently overdetailed at first sight when applied to an order of battle as is illustrated in Chapter 15 in the Island Campaigns, it managed to provide an effective mix of specialist support by simply regrouping ‘bricks’ without having to create special new establishments for each phase of an operation and obviating the lack of experience and teamwork inherent in such changes. While there were changes to establishment details and titles as shown in Table 16, the system remained.

Ancillary Services

Until World War 2 the absence of lines of communication units threw the responsibility for bakery and butchery quite unfairly on the brigade columns and later companies. The Inspector General was adamant that these skills be learnt to free brigade exercises and the supporting companies from the thrall of contractors, and some effort was spent on this, but it was expecting too much of part time soldiers to be proficient in this as well as their mainline technical and tactical tasks. The deficiency in the AIF was met by enlisting bakers and butchers in the units sent from Australia to provide the field bakeries and butcheries – 13, 19, and the misnamed 27 and 28 Coys, and by selecting such tradesmen from other corps and units when cloning extra ones and finding reinforcements overseas. This way each division had its own butchery and bakery until the postwar reorganisation dismissed lines of communication units once again, ensuring that World War 2 opened on the same note as its predecessor. Again, the fairly ready source of civilian tradesmen and delayed commitment to hostilities allowed retrieval of the situation, but once operations swung to the Pacific and the prop of British infrastructure was lost, additional types of units became necessary. A dearth of cold storage in Northern Australia, New Guinea and the Islands meant that refrigeration in quantity had to be provided, so cold storage operating platoons raised. The butcheries in the Northern Territory used local cattle, but in Torres Strait, New Guinea, the Islands and Japan it was necessary to supply live sheep, which were shipped regularly to each operating area’s base. However the universal demand for bread led to a much wider proliferation of bakery units which were located in all base areas overseas, and in isolated and not so isolated areas throughout Australia, with a peak of 44 field bakery platoons committed in 1944 48.

Map 14: Resources Unit Locations

In addition there was attraction in winning local foodstuffs to avoid the bill of transporting perishable commodities over long distances and long term storage of stocks in adverse conditions. This led to the formation of farming and marine supply units in the operational and other areas. Organised farming in the Northern Territory started in 1940, growing to HQ 1 Farm Group with under command 1 and 2 Farm Coys and 1 Experimental Farm Pl; 1 Farm Coy operated at Adelaide River, the Experimental unit at Katherine, and 2 Farm Coy at Katherine, Mount Isa and along The Track to service the staging posts. The continuing use of the Atherton Tablelands for divisions refitting and retraining between periods in operations resulted in 5 Farm Coy establishing production at Kulara and Kairi. And to the north, the unit farming projects begun by 4th and 11th Divisions in the Cape York-Torres Strait area at Cowell Creek were to be taken over by 7 Farm Coy but the rundown of Torres Force pre-empted this. A dairy-based activity established at Goulburn in 1944 to serve the local hospital and training units need hardly have been military.

In New Guinea original production was effected in 1942 by ANGAU district officers supervising production from native gardens. This was supplemented then replaced by establishment of 3 and 6 Farm Coys, first at Laloki in 1943, then spreading with the advance to Wau, Bulolo, Nadzab-Lae and Erap River. Ongoing dispersion of operations resulted in the need for more but smaller farming ventures, so in 1944 the two companies were reorganised into eight independent platoons, controlled by a captain on DDST 1 Army’s staff, and located at Aitape, Jacquinot Bay, Madang, Lae, Wau, Erap River and Torokina. A farms staff officer on DST staff, Capt N.J. Kjar, formerly of the Tasmanian Department of Agriculture, was responsible for coordinating the efforts of the units and providing material and technical support. Total production was 6,176 tons of fruit and vegetables plus small but locally significant quantities of poultry, eggs, pigs, honey, peanuts, coffee, milk and cream 49. Whether this limited output justified the input is very debatable.

Harvesting the sea was also attempted with the establishment of marine food supply platoons progressively at Thursday Island, Port Moresby, Yule Island, Samarai, Lae, Torokina and Jacquinot Bay. The project was plagued by slow delivery of suitable boats, both fishing and refrigerated, and it failed to make anything near the hoped for contribution, each platoon averaging less than half a ton per week, so giving a per capita output which would make any respectable amateur fisherman give it up. Consequently the scheme failed to add much to the comfort of soldiers at large, mainly providing a supplement to the diet of hospital staffs and patients; the resources could well have been directed elsewhere 50.

Salvage first became a problem in the intense usage rates of the Western Front in 1916, the recovery of reusable ammunition components, clothing, equipment and various containers representing an essential contribution to cutting costs and use of scarce materials. Divisional salvage companies were formed, unaffiliated with any corps, to collect these items, AASC motor transport backloading it to railhead for delivery to British salvage depots. The end of the war removed this need, reverting as before to passing salvageable and returnable items through the normal supply system but it raised its head again in World War II with the inherent shortages, competition for raw materials and the high consumption of a million in the Armed Services. DST was given the responsibility in 1940, and a salvage depot was raised in each military district, originally called after the MD, then given the MD number, and after the change to lines of communication area, given numerical numbers as companies. Some salvage responsibilities were also taken on by AASC units in the Middle East, particularly in the Syrian campaign where a special divisional unit was formed. This essential if inglorious service was transferred to Ordnance in 1942 51.

Other services which had their origins in peace rather than war were Barracks Services and Quartering. This had begun with the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 when Commissary Andrew Miller and his successors carried responsibility for accommodation in the Colonies. They passed the buildings over to the Ordnance Storekeeper in 1836, and barracks services to the Ordnance Department in 1850. The Colonial Forces in New South Wales found it expedient in 1896, following the British model, to include a Barracks Services element in the Permanent ASC for the servicing of military buildings, this responsibility carrying over into the Commonwealth Forces in NSW. When duties were divided in the expanded Army Head-Quarters of 1912, DST collected the responsibility not only for that fairly limited role but also for Quartering: the provision and maintenance of all accommodation – barracks, offices, hospitals etc, other than Ordnance depots.

This became a serious matter in the expansion of World War 1 where standing camps and hospitals had to be set up and maintained for AIF training and reception, becoming an ongoing liability for the ADS&Ts until after return of the AIF. The responsibility continued through the postwar period, the magnitude of the function being now well enough accepted for it to be included in the title of the directorate, becoming Directorate of Supplies and Transport, Movement and Quartering. The Movements part of the post-war Directorate’s title had also existed in fact since the First Fleet as the Commissaries were charged with land and sea movement. Movements and Railway transport were also added to DST’s duties from 1912, the whole again becoming a substantial part of S&T responsibilities through and after World War 1. These traditional responsibilities from Australia’s inception remained with DST until the World War 2 expansion, when such a mega-directorate would have been unworkable, so Movements and Quartering were established as separate directorates directly under the Quartermaster General 52.

Forage and POL

The automobile generation has been accustomed to think of fuel consumption as a new and additional demand on Army logistics systems. In an effort to explain the effect of animals on the system, a recent commentator on the Boer War said ‘Roberts’s grand army swallowed horses as a modern army swallows petrol’ 53. In this he quite missed the point: horsed armies swallowed horses as a modern army swallows vehicles and aircraft; horsed armies swallowed forage as a modern army swallows petrol. The fuel for the internal combustion engine’s predecessor, forage for the animals, was a burden rivalling that of gasoline. At over 10 kg per animal per day 54, a 3 ton wagon required for its team about the same weight of forage as the fuel for a 3 ton truck; it was only the thirst of armoured vehicles and the mobile warfare which they spawned which added to Army’s mechanised demands. And as post-sail navies have not significantly changed the quantity of fuel consumption, the only real change has been for aviation fuel and armoured vehicles, and that indeed has been a dramatic one, particularly with the endless pursuit of power and thirst of the turbine engine.

Provision of forage rested initially with the supply and the transport and supply columns, then the AASC companies, both Militia and AIF up to 1939. Forage, which encompassed hay, grains and supplements, was procured from contractors in Australia, and from British ASC forage depots overseas. It was therefore essentially a distribution problem, and a fairly well versed one as long as the Australian scene had a high horse transport component. Liquid fuels for aviation and motorised units in World War 1 were supplied from ASC petrol depots, and in Australia the minor motor transport requirements up to 1939 came from civil sources. But propelled into the massive demands of instant mechanisation from 1939, the AASC had to raise a complete range of petroleum storage and distribution units ranging from the divisional petrol companies through corps petrol parks to bulk issue petroleum depots for base areas and bulk petroleum storage companies to operate tank farms in remote areas 55. These required special skills, procedures and work practices not widely available in the community or in any surplus capacity in the commercial petroleum industry, so a heavy training programme with assistance from the oil industry was required.

Liquid fuel distribution was primarily through the medium of the ‘flimsy’ (kerosene tin), then the terneplate four gallon drum, and in ‘bulk’ the 44 gallon drum fed by welded and bolted steel bulk tanks in advanced bases where there was no civilian storage. This situation had not changed until the introduction of flexible tanks in the mid-1960s other than the post-war adoption of the 20 litre jerrican – both a blessing in that it was far superior to the 4 gallon drum, but an eventual albatross as it was the Dakota of the fuel distribution world. It was such a sterling performer that it shut out bulk refuelling in the British and Australian Armies long after effective alternatives were available. A senior ex-RAASC officer in RACT, who had been OC of 5 Coy in Vietnam where bulk refuelling was used widely and effectively, expressed his unswerving loyalty to the jerrican a decade later in saying that ‘bulk refuelling is a load of old garbage’. Blimps were real.

The postwar petroleum organisation saw a rationalisation of the extensive array of petroleum units which, because of their uniqueness and immobility, had largely avoided the brick system and been tailored for each location. A standard petroleum platoon capable of operating packed (now defined as 44 gallon containers or lower) or bulk handling operations was provided for, with accompanying specialist petroleum equipment platoons to hold and maintain project equipment. With the advent of flexible tanks those latter tasks were absorbed into the petroleum platoons, and to match this increased mobility of deployment and the increased sensitivity of turbine and diesel engines, a mobile petroleum laboratory was raised for on the spot field testing. However, even though fuel supply was such a substantial part of the divisional RAASC responsibility, adherence to the jerrican distribution system meant that no POL element was included in the divisional companies: handling and issues were effected by supply platoons and the drivers of trucks. The petroleum empire, slender as it was, was expected to operate behind the division. The operational reality in Vietnam was that a petroleum platoon detachment was located in the Task Force area, held bulk stocks in 50,000 litre pillow tanks and flexible 2,000 litre drums, refuelling vehicles and helicopters directly from them 56. But the lesson was not retained.

Remount Service

Although a remount depot had been raised in the NSW Forces in 1896, this function lapsed after Federation. It was not until 1910 that the cogent factors of cost and quality won the argument for reconstituting a remount service and AASC was tasked to establish it. Remount depots, controlled by a Director of Remounts initially under the Director of Supply and Transport Army Head-Quarters, were established in each state capital. Thenceforth all Army and other Federal department horses were channelled through remount sections, to user units and organisations. Depots were established at Enoggera, Holsworthy, Maribyrnong and Anglesea Barracks by 1911, and at Glenthorne and Guildford in 1912, with the number of horses building up from a first year total of 200, to over a thousand. The Depots were staffed by a Remount Section which accounted for most of the Permanent AASC 57.

Table 17 Remount Units and Depots 1911-46

While the government horse situation in Australia remained static during World War 1, there was a dramatic increase in the overseas demand. Australia had had a steady market in the Indian Army from the 1840s, and was a supplier of horses for South Africa during the second Boer War. Now the demand for an initial 5,000 horses for the AIF and heavy following orders from the Middle East and India created demands far beyond the capacity of the small Remount Service. There was a determination from the outset to avoid the situation of the Boer War – a standing joke in Australian country areas on the ease with which useless stock was palmed off on buyers. A purchasing board was formed, including the Director of Remounts, Maj W.S. Robertson, which set standards and arranged purchases and shipment. The initial flurry to get the first contingent away meant that standards and prices were less satisfactory than that desired, but afterwards the system was established on a sound basis, delivering overseas in all 121,234 horses 58.

In the Middle East the commander of the AIF intermediate base in Alexandria Col V.C.M. Selheim requested authority from the British Base Commander to establish a remount depot. This was agreed and staff authorised, but the separate depot system did not eventuate. Staff for a British remount department arrived in early 1915 so the Australian element worked within that organisation. Two Australian remount units of over 1,600 men were recruited at home, the officers overage or unfit for the AIF, the men some overage but partly a collection of rough-riders who had held back from enlistment because of their aversion to the drill and discipline of a normal unit. However the British preference was for more economical and amenable local employees: in March 1916 the Australian units were reduced to one section of four squadrons, six months later to a depot of two squadrons commanded by Col D. McLeish CMG VD with Maj A.B. (Banjo) Paterson as a squadron commander; those of the surplus who were eligible were absorbed into other units, the remainder returning to Australia. Remounts in UK and the Western Front were provided through the British system 59.

Horses for the Army sustained two ongoing debates – one a general argument on the quality of the Waler, the other specific to the Remount Service on the proper ratio of staff to horses. The argument on the diminishing quality of horses, begun by Hutton in 1894 60, waxed as South African veterans claimed that the 20th Century Waler stock was waning in quality. The Indian Army did not think so, nor did the Light Horse during World War 1. The argument reopened after the war, led by Inspector General and ex-Desert Mounted Corps commander Chauvel. He bemoaned the fall off in quality and predicted the demise of the saddle and artillery horse, although he allowed that draught horses were still in good supply. A major seat of the problem seems to have been that the prophets of doom were looking at the immediate environs of the cities, as they acknowledged that the country mounted soldiers, who provided their own horses on payment, seemed to have no problem in appearing in camp with adequate mounts.

The Remount Depot difficulties were more to be found in the funds shortage which, during the 1920s, forced them to retain horses well past their normal working life, 25 percent being aged 16-21 by 1927. The results of this gloomy perspective were not to hasten down the road of motorisation as were both the civilian community and European armies, but to attempt to restore the stock. First suggested by Inspector General George Kirkpatrick in 1913 before motor vehicles became a prospective universal option, it was implemented at Chauvel’s prompting in 1920 by establishment of studs in remount depots, stallions being available to civilian breeders at low fees. They were established at Enoggera, Holsworthy and Maribyrnong, and alleged to be successful, but in reality were a sop to the old horse-soldier: his 1927 Report had the annual servicing rate was an insignificant 133 61.

The other bone of contention on driver-to-remount ratio began with initial levels of 1:12, but Kirkpatrick maintained it should be 1:8 to allow proper training and exercise of horses. Chauvel’s target was 1:12 against a prevailing 1:17 plus one farrier per 55 horses. These adverse ratios were exacerbated by the extra responsibilities laid on the Remount Section – assisting units in horse husbandry and training in the first few days of camps and courses, conducting riding schools and training drivers for permanent units, and in addition looking to the interior economy of the studs and fodder production in the farms which were part of their depots 62.

[slideshow] Remounts for the Army

As horse transport remained the backbone of the AMF transport system up to World War 2, and part of garrison transport through that war, remount depots continued as an integral part of the Army’s transport system until horse transport was phased out from 1944. After the original six state remount depots were established in 1911-12, other depots and sub depots were hived off to meet changing needs, from an average strength of around 200 staff and 1,000 horses in the 1920s and 1930s, to a peak of 7,600 animals in 1940 back to 6,600 in 1944. Two factors dictated this in an era of irreversible replacement of the horse by motor transport: firstly, although a decision was taken to motorise all infantry divisions in June 1940, another was made a year later to retain horse transport in low priority areas to conserve scarce gasoline and rubber; secondly there was a mixture of sensible and senseless decisions to raise pack transport units. By 1944, the need for the latter had disappeared, and the rundown in use of horse transport thereafter saw the phasing down of the remount squadrons, as they had become, until they disappeared in mid 1946 63.

Staff Clerks

The term staff clerks has changed its meaning over years, just as the term clerk has changed in the public service. The original meaning applied at the level recently associated with two groups of public servants – clerical officers who fill administrative staff officer postings on static headquarters and clerical assistants who similarly fill NCO level positions; in more recent usage it has been applied to non commissioned military clerks who fill non-corps postings on headquarters of any kind, and this was the meaning applied when AASC took responsibility for them prior to World War 2. Recognition of the need for quasi-military staff officers and assistants on headquarters in positions previously filled by public service clerks had led to the formation of the NSW Corps of Military Staff Clerks on 1 January 1896 where military ranks granted to the civilian public servants inducted into the Corps were 64:

Chief Clerk Honorary Second Lieutenant
Superintending Clerk Warrant Officer
Clerk 1st Class Quartermaster Sergeant
Clerk 2nd Class Colour Sergeant
Clerk 3rd Class Sergeant

Whilst the necessity for a corps may have been questionable, the move broke, for the moment, the habit of having public service clerks in administrative positions in Military Force head-quarters. This move was short lived. The Corps, which had continued on after Federation during the interregnum, was omitted from the 1902 establishments, however, the Staff Clerks continued on, holding honorary officer and non commissioned ranks. They were few in number, but absolutely essential to flesh out the few military officers allowed on head-quarters, being by 1904 the Secretary to the Military Board, Superintendent of Contracts, Officer in Charge of Armament, branch administrative officers in Defence Head-Quarters, and the administrative officer in each military district headquarters 65. Some staff clerks had reverted to public service positions, but with the remaining few the rub was that they worked in similar occupations to public service clerks, with quite different conditions. In the post-Federation period, public servants had the possibility of promotion throughout the various expanding Commonwealth departments, while the military clerks were constricted to a very small and narrow pyramid in a contracting Defence arena. Negotiations centred on the closed shop entry conditions to the public service, which did not apply in the opposite direction. The situation was resolved in 1906, for the time being at least, by bringing the military staff clerks under the Public Service Act for promotion and transfer 66.

The Kitchener compulsory military service expansion brought the earlier clerical economies to a crisis point, as the newly formed training brigades for 1912 struggled with the mountain of administration in handling 161,000 inductees, and processing 34,000 cadet defaulters in the first five years. Staff clerks gradually seeped downwards to meet these needs, and by 1920 the non commissioned grades totalled 148. These clerks had reverted to Defence Act employment as reasonable career paths had opened, and something of a reversal took place as public service clerks, stymied for promotion in now stagnant Federal departments, resigned to take up appointments in military establishments at higher pay levels. The net effect brought some adverse reaction and such anomalies as the Senior Ordnance Officer of 2 MD being a Public Service clerk, and having military clerks working for him but answerable for discipline to the Assistant Adjutant General 67. Later military officers who had the reverse of public service clerks working for them but also answerable to the Command Secretary would understand the problem but have little enough sympathy for his problem.

Resolution of this lay simply in having public service clerks and clerical assistants fill the positions on military headquarters, this occurring in 1923. This had been resisted in an attempt to keep some military control of these important integral operators of the administrative system, so the compromise was reached that public servants manned Army Headquarters and AASC clerks the military districts, the latter totalling 151 at the beginning of World War 2. But then intervention of the World War 2 penchant for having anyone who had anything to do with the Army don a uniform put off the inevitable civilianisation of much of the routine structure of Command Headquarters until demobilisation left no credible alternative, so those clerks also were then substantially civilianised, leaving RAASC staff clerks manning subordinate non-corps headquarters. RAASC then had to provide three streams of clerks: the specialised technical ones for its supplies operations, and two overlapping ones – administrative clerks for its own units and those for general headquarters, though this latter was to some degree ameliorated by other corps wishing to find promotion for their own senior clerks. While RAASC had always been happy enough to provide a home for the staff clerks, its disbandment provided a quandary, as RACT certainly had no more affiliation with clerks than any other corps. Signals was considered, but the final decision was to transfer them to RAAOC 68.

AASC Workshops

As long as supply and transport units were garrison organisations operating with hired equipment in proximity to towns, there was no compelling requirement to have an integral repair facility. This changed with the advent of field establishments where a high degree of self sufficiency was essential to sustaining operations. The artificer trades included in establishments of the brigade supply columns in Table 10 were not of great variety, in keeping with the limited scope of repair work required – wagon and harness repair and shoeing. In the light horse column, the artificers formed about a tenth of the unit, in the infantry column, nearly a quarter; as the former was part of a mounted formation, each of the units had its own artificers, but in the infantry brigade it was more economical to centralise the much fewer number required in the one unit, so the column provided a service to all units other than the artillery. This practice resurfaced in another way in World War 1, the supply columns and ammunition parks providing a convenient means of supporting higher headquarters in the field.

These small groups of tradesmen were the forerunner of the AASC unit workshops which grew into sub-units as mechanisation progressed. The beginnings of this mechanisation were the 1914 ammunition park and the supply column raised as corps troops units to accompany the 1st Division to the war in Europe. With 200 vehicles to maintain, ‘mobile workshops’ were included in the form of lorries mounted with workshop machinery powered from the engine, and a complement of tradesmen. The final 80-task vehicle mechanical transport company workshop of 1918 comprised a captain, three staff sergeant foremen and 32 tradesmen – 18 fitters and turners, six blacksmiths, six wheelers and two electricians 69. Field repair philosophy from the beginning was one which continues to this day – the replacement of components and assemblies which were then repaired in base depots and recycled, a system adopted from the London General Omnibus Company by the British ASC in 1911 70. Within the AMF in Australia, AASC companies had less recognisable workshop elements. As shown in Table 11, the smaller numbers of artificers and for the infantry support companies, reversal of the central repair policy, resulted in a much less structured artificer element with a lower level of supervision. There was consequently a regression in the development of proper workshops, substituting some resident tradesmen scattered throughout units.

A mobilisation conference in 1936 proposed AASC Heavy Repair Workshops and Base MT Stores Depots after the World War 1 British model, but the function was finally passed to Base Ordnance Workshops. However the impressment scheme for motor transport and purchase of new vehicles, including Vehicle Collection Centres and Vehicle Reception Depots with their functions of preparing and repairing civilian vehicles for issue, remained with the AASC. Also left were the repair function in District MT units, internal workshop elements which became workshop sections in the columns and companies of the 1938 reorganisation, and workshop platoons under the brick system from 1942. They remained one of the essential components in a transport company’s structure, enabling field replacement of vehicle components and assemblies within a unit to keep up its operating strength from day to day, and allowing attendance at startup times of mechanics to rectify the usual immediate faults and further keep up availability.

Formation of the Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in 1943 brought the beginning of a progressive takeover of repair responsibilities from other corps’ workshops. This began with base workshops from Ordnance and culminated in the absorption of AASC company workshops in 1947, the last to survive being 168 GT Wksp in Japan in 1949 71. While there was a basic rationale in this rationalisation of functional and trade responsibilities, as occurs too often the new custodian became too immured in its own objects and efficiency rather than those of the supported user. In 1956 unit workshops were replaced by light aid detachments which were not organised or permitted to carry out the normal field repair replacement of assemblies, a severe blow to maintaining vehicle availability, and fortunately a structure which was not tested in war. Saner counsels eventually prevailed and this excursus in overcentralisation was reversed in 1960 with the establishment of RAEME workshops for companies, and later a divisional ST workshop which had sections for detachment to the companies when required; the practicalities of separate divisional company operations ensured that the divisional workshop was also quickly reverted to separate company ones 72. This inescapable link between technical unit and its maintenance facility, which had enabled effective operation in the past, was from thereon retained.


Cooking in the imperial army in Australia was extremely primitive. The staple bread was purchased from civilian sources, and meat and potatoes were prepared by the simple expedient of detailing soldiers to boil them in pots, the liquid being used as soup. The colonial forces usually made some improvement on this as the art of bush cooking was fairly well known by countrymen, and acceptable standards were achievable by unit members without the need to conduct formal training. In Queensland training camps were serviced by contractors serving prepared meals, but this was terminated by Commandant G.A. French in 1884 as ‘a system of day nursing which I hope will not again be reverted to’ 73, in order to teach units to be self-sufficient. Cooking equipment was sparse, the usual technique being cooking over trench fires in dixies, and baking in the fire or earth ovens, with the output usually tolerable enough for camps lasting for a few days. The small Permanent forces had cooks on their establishments.

Formal recognition of cooking had to await the establishment of the Directorate of Supply and Transport in 1912, which assumed responsibility for ‘Cookery Schools, and soldiers’ messing’ but had no particular resources or authority to do anything about it. This came to a head in World War 1 when the extended stay of AIF recruits in camps training and awaiting embarkation required the establishment of home service AIF cooks, allowing a meagre corporal cook per kitchen, with one soldier from the ranks to assist on fortnightly rotation and others attached for brief periods to train as kitchen hands to ensure each draft had some element of kitchen skills in it. A position for a sergeant cook, expected to have a civil Institute of Cookery certificate, was allotted for each camp to supervise catering and train AIF cooks for units and reinforcement drafts; the units overseas operated on the output of this system plus additional training at British schools. The system of training overseas was further reinforced in August 1917 by the appointment of Lt P.G.H. Summers as Instructor of Cookery to the AIF. An innovation at home which had to await a much later reincarnation was 4 MD’s introduction of the cafeteria system, which was spread to other states, but the end of the AIF camps saw a reversion to food queues and their attendant problems 74.

The lessons learnt with the AIF gained a more formal place for the cook and catering in the postwar Army, as unit cooks became a fixture in unit establishment tables. Initially the RAN was given the task of training cooks for all three services in 1922, and through 1924-25 all divisional warrant officer caterers qualified at the Flinders Naval Depot cookery courses, all passing with distinction. But the obvious differences in the field cooking environment meant that Army had to return to its own path, the first formal cooking course being held in 1926 and a second the following year.

These occasional courses were formalised in establishment of a Cooking and Catering Wing of the ASC and Q Administrative School at the Sturt Street Depot Melbourne in 1928 with WO2 T.H. Peddle, top graduate of the first Flinders course as instructor. This laid the foundations for development from the shearer’s cook level to more uniform catering standards, though this was to be a long and arduous path. Militia unit camps were rationed on Commuted Ration Allowance, that is the unit quartermaster ordered foodstuffs from grocery stores from a cash allowance, and unit cooks produced what they could on what was often convenience buying; this was altered slightly in 2 and 3 MDs after the establishment of Permanent supply sections, orders being placed on them. With the outbreak of World War 2 the Supplies and Transport staffs had to draw up menus to match the notional ration scale, then purchase and issue commodities against them 75.

Improved levels of cooking training were swamped by the expansion to a wartime peak of a 700,000 man army, the only solution to which was to appoint a Controller of Army Catering in 1942 in the shape of Professor Stanton Hicks, a nutritionist at Adelaide University who had been the catering adviser in 4 MD, and was now charged with establishing the Australian Army Catering Corps; coincidently he was able to establish nutritionally balanced ration scales for different areas and activities 76. The further story belongs to that Corps’ history, but this was not the end of AASC’s association with catering, as the level of rank of catering staff and their inexperience in staff matters needed patronage, which took the form of the Director of Catering (which position reverted to a staff officer on DST’s staff for a decade post war) remaining in DST and the command catering advisers remaining under the sponsorship of the local Supplies and Transport staffs. The catering training establishments also remained part of the RAASC School and trade training centres. There was also in this a measure of self interest for RAASC, as the standard of presentation of food tended to reflect one way or the other on the supplies service, even though this was beyond its direct control. This was a symbiotic arrangement which, if somewhat galling to the Catering Corps, nevertheless provided a much underrated, misused and under-resourced Corps with a level of support, advice and protection without which its road would have been much rockier than it was.

Unit Lineage

The number of changes to unit titles and the apparent whimsy in nomenclature and numerics, together with the unthinking allocations of the same numbers and titles to different units, obscures the lineage of most AASC units over anything but a short period. This is exacerbated if an attempt is made to connect unit succession to the movement of groups of soldiers between reorganised or retitled units. A simple example is that of 1 Coy, when the complications of simultaneous AIF and Militia units, of simultaneous numerical numbering between divisions and between reserve and divisional units, the change of numerical title to functional title and back, and the splitting into separate transport and supply units of different numbers 76 make for a paper chase, the value and validity of which is not readily apparent for a general history, and also has little utility in establishing unit lineages.

In consequence no attempt can be made here to follow such labyrinthine changes. Unit lineages are shown, as far as records allow, as a correlation of equivalent titles and numbers to indicate when and where these units existed. The subtleties, and indeed often speculation and licence, of postulating actual progression from unit to unit are left to the province of the unit historian, again as a matter if general interest rather than of determining lineage. The units shown in Appendix 4 and Appendix 5 represent the simple fact of a unit’s existence; in many cases, the continuation of a line of unit titles was by accident or probability, in others by a careful effort to retain a tradition of a unit with a long or distinguished pedigree. Even so, the task of tracing ill-recorded titles which appeared briefly for weeks or months is sufficiently difficult to leave a wide margin for error and omission. An article by DST in the Australian Army Journal in June 1950 acknowledges in understatement that ‘the RAASC has become noted for its frequent organisational changes’.

Earnest as research may be to avoid error, the fact that some units recorded came to light largely by accident indicates that others did not. A further factor has been the limitations of space which have required an oversimplified system of unit titles, for example 1 Coy has been used, omitting its changes of prefixes No .. and ... Aust ..., and of suffixes AASC, RAASC, (inf div tpt), (MT) etc, not to mention such other vagaries as 1st ASC. The overall aim of establishing a numerical lineage has been sustained even if some of the detail has been excluded. In this way current and future units can have some line of descent which reaches back beyond the last name change.

Unit historians should always seize the opportunity to trace ancestry back to the earliest possible date. No one is going to provide a certificate of connection, so it is up to a unit to claim its origins, supporting this with hard, factual and relevant evidence rather than wishful thinking. It is important that units have this background, otherwise what do they tell their new members – that the unit was formed a few years ago and has been in camp or exercise in the local training area? Or is it better to present them with a unit whose ancestry goes back nearly a hundred years, has its Roll of Honour and record of operational awards, all things which go to their belonging to a distinguished unit with standards that its members have to look up to and live up to.

It is an unvarnished fact that the RAASC won a higher total of DSOs, MCs, DCMs, MMs, operational OBEs and MBEs and mids than either the RAAC or Royal Australian Regiment, and had a considerably longer tradition. This is not put forward as a claim of somehow being better, for corps, units and individuals must ultimately be judged by their own performance, not that of their predecessors. Nor can they claim status by denigrating other corps etc. The status which comes with RAASC’s record is to belong to a distinguished family which is as good as any. The RACT has the opportunity to inherit and build on this tradition by claiming this lineage and all it means. For a Corps yet to be tested in war in its current title this is an invaluable asset, not just to gain a colour patch as some aspire to, but for the meaning behind that symbol – units to be proud to belong to in any company.



1. See Chapter 1 The British Experience and references.

2. See Chapter 7 Note 11 and Chapter 8 Note 6; V&P NSW LA 1892-3 vol 7 Report of Royal Commission, p30.

3. V&P NSW LA 1897 vol VII French Report, p8.

4. Risch E. Quartermaster Corps of the Army. A History of the Corps 1775-1939 p564-5; Monash J. The Australian Victories in France in 1918 p243-4; AWM 26 551/14.

5. CPP 1903 vol II Scheme of Organisation, p19.

6. CPP 1909 vol 2 Imperial Defence Conference, p34.

7. Beadon RASC p53-5.

8. Beadon RASC p76-7 reproduced in Fairclough H. Equal to the Task p7.

9. AWM 26 292/8 of 9 March 1918; Beadon RASC p138.

10. Badcock Egyptian Expeditionary Force Appendix II.

11. AA B137 Military Board Instruction XG1 Preliminary Instructions for Reorganisation 13 October 1920.

12. AA MP729/6 37/401/79 of 21 August 1937; this specious nonsense was therein dismissed by CGS Lavarack, who opted to recombine the two.

13. AA MP729/6 37/401/1176 Reorganisation of AASC; AWM 54 703/5/4 ORBAT, p27-32.

14. See Chapter 15, Notes 39 and following.

15. See Table 13.

16. Training Information Bulletin No 8.

17. CPP 1903 vol II Scheme of Organisation, p19; 1904 vol II Hutton Report, p19-20; AWM 3 207/1/20 CR 04/62 Military Board Members.

18. CPP 1904 vol II Memorandum by the Minister of Defence on the Administration and Control of the Military Forces, p2; 1909 vol II Defence Progress, p6; 1910 vol II Kitchener Report, p18.

19. MO 269/1912.

20. CPP 1914 vol II Hamilton Report, p13, 25-6.

21. MO 104/13 Report upon the Department of Defence1914-1917 Part 1, p241,245; CPP 1920-1 vol IV Chauvel Report, para 94-5.

22. CPP 1922 vol II Chauvel Report, p17; Army List 1925-33.

23. Army List 1921-40.

24. Army List 1931-45; Who's Who 1959.

25. Fairclough, p44.

26. Dexter, p15-16; Butlin S.J. & Schedvin C.B. War Economy 1942-45, p146; Hasluck, p422.

27. See Appendix 5.

28. See Chapter 2; AWM 26 292/8 of 9 March 1918.

29. Crew RASC p164.

30. AA MP729/6 37/401/79 QMG Minute of 10 Feb 1938 Appendix Z.

31. AA MP729/6 37/401/1176 SM.13104 of 14 July 1942; AA MP727/1 GP 2/103 SM.6233 of 25 March 1943 Appendix A.

32. AA MP729/6 37/401/1176 SM.13104 of 14 July 1942; AWM 54 703/5/4.

33. AA MP729/6 37/401/2015 LHQ SM.22903 of 22 September 1943 Appendixes A, B; SM.3210 of February 1943 Appendix D.

34. AWM 25 721/3.

35. Isaacs K. 'Wings Over Mesopotamia' Defence Force Journal Jan-Feb 1977, p55; Millar R. Kut p233-5; Smith Australian Campaigns p128; Bean vol VII 308-9; Wackett Aircraft Pioneer p72-4.

36. AA MP742/1 264/1/789 of 8 June 1943, 5 February 1944; see also war diaries in Notes to Chapter 15.

37. The Division in Battle Pamphlet No 10 Air 1966; Administration in the Field Non Divisional 1966; Training Information Bulletin No 8.

38. See Chapter 16.

39. AWM 224 MSS 538 History of the AIF Postal Service, p1-3, 8.

40. AWM 224 MSS 538 History APS, p15, 18.

41. HQ AFV Standing Orders Part 3 Chapter 9 Annex B.

42. AA MP508/1 240/701/234 Harry to Neylan of 14 April 1938.

43. Colles P. The Postal History of the Australian Army During World War 2, p5, 7, 17-19, 81-83, 93f', 150f.

44. RAASC Digest 1967, p21;1968, p19; 1969, p39.

45. See Chapter 2.

46. AWM 26 60/34, 55/17; Beadon RASC, p56, 81; Report upon the Department of Defence 1914-1917 Part 1, p74; Scott, p197.

47. Report on DOD, p276; CPP 1929-31 vol II Chauvel Report, p521; AA MP729/6 37/401/79 of 21 August 1937; AWM 54 199/2/5 Maintenance Organisation; AWM 52 10/2/21 October 1942-April 1943, p1; Table 5.

48. CPP 1911 vol II Kirkpatrick Report, p15; 1913 vol II Kirkpatrick Report, p20; Report on DOD, p 74; AWM 54 431/13/6 DST Report para 115; Bean vol III, p55; Fairclough, p78-9; AWM 224 MSS 210 p 20.

49. AWM 54 337/7/12 Part 1.

50. AA MP729/6 42/401/741 Report on Operations AASC 4 Div, p6, 7; AWM 52 10/2/20 January-April 1945 Report on Operations AASC 5 Div, p13; Fairclough, p80; AWM 52 10/29/1, 10/29/2, 10/29/3.

51. Xxxxx

52. See Appendix 6.

53. Pakenham The War in South Africa p381.

54. MO 273/09.

55. See Appendix 5.

56. Fairclough, p102-4; Ball M.J. 'Petroleum Platoon Operations in South Vietnam' RAASC Digest 1969, 1970.

57. V&P NSW LC 1896 vol IV p1; CPP 1911 vol II Kirkpatrick Report, p24; 1911 vol II Kirkpatrick Report, p17.

58. CPP 1914-17 vol II Synopsis of a Report on the Business Branches of the Department of Defence, p10; Scott, p543.

59. AWM 224 MSS 471 Australian Remount Depot; Paterson Happy Dispatches, p174-5; AWM 54 29138 of 9 August.

60. Hutton E.T.H. 'Horse Breeding for Military Remounts' The Agricultural Gazette October 1894, p715.

61. CPP 1920-1 vol IV Chauvel Report, para108-10; 1922 vol II Chauvel Report, p18; 1923-4 vol IV Chauvel Report, p23; 1925 vol II Chauvel Report, p22; 1926-8 vol II Chauvel Report May 27, p21; May 1928, p21.

62. CPP 1913 vol II Kirkpatrick Report, p20; 1923-4 vol IV Chauvel Report, p22;1925 vol II Chauvel Report, p22; 1926-8 vol II Chauvel Report May 27, p21.

63. AWM 52 16/1/1.

64. NSW Military Forces General Order No 11/1896.

65. Army List 1904.

66. CPP 1906 vol II Finn Report, p4.

67. Barrett J. Falling In p212; CPP 1920-21 vol IV Estimates of Expenditure 1921-22, p l5; CPP 1914-17 vol II Business Branch Report, pI4; CPP 1917-19 vol II Navy and Defence Administration Royal Commission – First Progress Report, p7.

68. PMF Establishments for 1939-40 Table 8B; AA MP367 593/4/687; Hassett Report, p101-2.

69. AWM 224 MSS 210; AWM 25 721/32 Appendix 8.

70. Beadon RASC, p40.

71. AA MP729/6 34/401/53 of 2 December 1936; see Tables 13 and 15.

70. Pentropic Division in Battle Administration; Division in Battle Administration.

72. V&P Qld LA 1884 French Report, p659.

73. MO 104/13; Report upon the Department of Defence 1914-17 Part 1, p278; AIF Orders August 1917; CPP 1917-19 vol II Navy and Defence Administration Royal Commission, p9.

74. CPP 1922 vol II Department of Defence Estimates 1922-23, p4;1926-8 vol II Chauvel Report May 1927, p19; MO 69/1924, 498/1924, 87/1925, 501/1926; Australian Army Order 358/1928; AA AP39/3 73A-1-6 War History - S&T Services 4 MD, p2; AA A5954 255/3 ST Conference, p7.

75. Stanton Hicks C. Who Called the Cook a Bastard p59, 147-50.

76. For a small part of that trail see 'From Gallipoli to Vietnam' RAASC Digest 1967, p68-70, however the inaccuracies, false assumptions and deviations in that trail should be noted as an example of the traps and errors which arise from allowing wishful thinking to intrude on proper and dispassionate research and logical, consistent sequences and conclusions.