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The History of the RAOC

The RAOC can trace its origins back to the 13th Century.

The Royal Army Ordnance Corps was that part of the British Army responsible for equipping units and supplying everything the Army needed in peace and war until 1993 when it became one of the Corps forming a major part of the new Royal Logistic Corps (RLC).  The long and complex history of RAOC stretches back to at least 1299 when the Keeper of the Kings Wardrobe in the Tower of London was given responsibility for Warlike Equipment and Military Expenditure. This pre-dates the foundation of the British Army as a standing force in 1660 but throughout the centuries an over-riding consideration has been the need for control over procurement, storage and the issue of weapons, ammunition and fortifications.


From 1415 the Master of Ordnance was established and until the mid-19th Century, he had responsibility for supplying British artillery, engineers, field hospitals, military supplies and much more besides. This was transferred to the Master and the Board of Ordnance created in 1518 and in 1544 under reforms by Henry VIII the office of the Master of the Ordnance was re- titled Master-General of the Ordnance.

After creation of the British Army in 1660 the role of the Board of Ordnance remained unchanged although in 1683 the Board of Ordnance was reconstituted as a Civil Department of State for the supply of all Naval and Military weapons and ammunition. Then in 1792, in response to the demands of the French Revolutionary Wars, a Field Train Department was created as part of the Board of Ordnance Establishment to support fighting troops in theatres of war.

Nevertheless, the Board of Ordnance was unprepared to support expeditionary operations when the Crimean War broke out in 1853. Consequently, in 1855, a Senior Ordnance Storekeeper was appointed and sent to the Crimea with responsibility for all supplies.  

In 1857 in recognition of the failure to adequately support the Army throughout the Crimean campaign, a series of major reorganisations led to the functions of the Board of Ordnance being brought under the Commander in Chief. Concurrently the Military Stores Clerks Corps was formed in 1865 and based principally at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, and the Royal Ordnance Depot at Weedon.  Further reorganisations between 1870 and 1881 sought to better align authority, accountability and responsibility for supply and transport functions and from 1888, the Army’s Quarter Master General became responsible to the Commander in Chief for what is now termed logistic support including the inspection and repair of stores and equipment.

These reforms eventually led to the creation of the all-officer Ordnance Stores Department (OSD) in 1875 and from 1881 they were supported by soldiers in a new Ordnance Store Corps (OSC). Subsequently titled the Army Ordnance Department (AOD) and Army Ordnance Corps (AOC) respectively. Between 1899 and 1902 the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa further shaped the responsibilities, organization and processes of Ordnance Services at home and abroad.

In 1914 at the start of the First World War the AOD and AOC deployed 1,400 officers and men to France to support the British Expeditionary Force. By the end of the war they numbered well over 40,000 and had supported the British and Empire forces in every theatre of operations. In 1918 the officers and soldiers of AOD and AOC were brought together into a new Corps and granted the title ‘Royal’ in recognition of their war time service thus becoming the Royal Army Ordnance Corps with King George V as Colonel in Chief.  The end of the War plunged the new RAOC into the huge task of recovering, inspecting, and disposing of massive quantities of stores and equipment. The 1920s and 30s saw a decline in the strength of the British Army yet although there was a commensurate reduction in the size of the RAOC, the responsibilities of the Corps expanded to include the repair of vehicles and equipment in response to the mechanisation of the Army.

The Second World War led to an unprecedented expansion of the work of the RAOC as vast depots sprang up at home and abroad to accommodate the huge stockpiles of ammunition, stores, and equipment and new field force units were created to support the much enlarged Army deployed around the world in every theatre of War.  In 1942 the repair and recovery of Army equipment was transferred to a new organisation, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) which was formed around the former workshop branch of the RAOC.

At the end of the War the RAOC was charged with sorting out, repairing, reconstituting and disposing of the huge stockpile of weapons, stores, ammunition, and equipment which had been necessary to support the war effort. Some of this work continued into the 1970s. Elsewhere, the RAOC manned garrisons throughout the Army and supported the Army’s operations in Korea, Malaya, the Middle East and Africa and a major commitment was supporting the British Army of the Rhine in Germany with field force units and from a vast static depot network. In 1953 HM Queen Elizabeth II succeeded her father, King George VI, as the RAOC’s Colonel in Chief.

In 1965 the RAOC assumed responsibility for the storage and supply of petroleum, rations and a host of other services, largely from the RASC, thus becoming in every sense the “Supply Corps” for the Army.  The 1960’s saw the Corps continuing to support operations around the World from Borneo and the Malayan Peninsula to Cyprus and South Arabia whilst, concurrently, supporting the planned withdrawal from east of Suez.

The outbreak of “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland in 1969 saw the RAOC with lead responsibility for counter-terrorist bomb disposal operations throughout the Province in addition to providing routine supply support. Subsequent operations in the Falkland Islands, Iraq and elsewhere also fully tested members of the Corps in its many roles whilst concurrently playing a major part in the drawdown from BAOR and restructuring of the Home Base. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 led to the first Gulf War, the last major deployment of the RAOC as a separate Corps. On the 4th April 1993 the Royal Army Ordnance Corps was disbanded and became part of the Royal Logistic Corps.

The Royal Logistic Corps

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The Royal Logistic Corps

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