Last updated: 22 February 2016
The Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) was the unit responsible for keeping the British Army supplied with all its provisions barring weaponry, military equipment and ammunition, which were under the remit of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps.
Army transport in the British Army’s first century was provided by civil contractors and the first uniformed unit to attempt these duties was the Royal Waggoners. The attempt proved unsuccessful and the Waggoners was disbanded in 1795, less than a year after its formation.
With the French Revolutionary Wars continuing, a second attempt was not long in coming, arriving in 1799 with the Royal Waggon Corps, later renamed the Royal Waggon Train. This proved longer lived, being downsized after the end of the Napoleonic Wars but only fully disbanded in 1833.
It took the poor supply chains of the early stages of the Crimean War (1854-56), and the ensuing public outrage, for another army supply unit to be set up in 1855, this time known as the Land Transport Corps then the Military Train.
Army supply overall, however, was still in the hands of a unit of uniformed civilians known as the Commissariat, which was in 1869 merged with the Military Train’s officers to form the Control Department. This made the Military Train a unit solely made up of other ranks commanded by officers from the Control Department and in 1870 the Military Train was renamed the Army Service Corps.
In 1875 the Control Department split into the Commissariat and Transport Department (CTD) and the Ordnance Store Department (OSD), with the latter forming the predecessor to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. In 1880 the CTD was renamed the Commissariat and Transport Staff (CTS) and the other ranks’ Army Service Corps renamed the Commissariat and Transport Corps (CTC).
In 1888, the CTS, the CTC and the War Department Fleet merged to form a second Army Service Corps, bringing officers and other ranks back together into one unit. That unit went on to absorb some of the Royal Engineers’ transport duties and to be given the honour of the ‘Royal’ prefix in recognition of its major work in supplying troops during the First World War.