Army Service Corps forms an important component of the administrative services of Indian Army
and is the oldest of all services. From a modest beginning during the days of the British East India Company
, it has steadily extended the scope of its activities until now when it operates on land, water and air. Army Service Corps has participated in a large number of campaigns fought over three continents and over all types of terrain from dry deserts to snowy mountains, jungles and arid high altitude areas.
Origin of Army Service Corps
Army Service Corps began its life as administrative components of the armies of the East India Company in 1760 in the three Presidencies of Bengal, Madras and Bombay, known as the Commissariat. Depending upon the needs of these armies, the size of the commissariat fluctuated and the nature of its activities underwent many changes. The regular commissariat departments of the army were set up in 1810 in the Presidencies of Bengal and Madras and in 1811 in Bombay (now Mumbai). These departments provided the army with its requirements of food, transport and horses, largely depending upon contractors. Over the years, several changes were made in the control of the department as well as in its methods of operation. Control was exercised by the military board in some presidencies and Commissary Generals in others. In fact, the earliest appointment of Commissary General was in 1760, but the post was abolished in 1773. In 1867, during the post-Persian war period a Land Transport Corps was raised.
History of Army Service Corps
A direct descendant of the old commissariat system Army Service Corps was expanded in 1882 to include the Transport Corps. It was later re-designated as the Supply and Transport Corps. Before the outbreak of the 1914-18 war its functions, with regard to supply, consisted of purchase and distribution of rations for British troops and for Indian troops in certain localities only, grain and fodder for army animals that were the property of the government, fuel for cooking and heating purposes for British troops, bedding and certain articles of clothing for troops and hospitals, line-gear for transport animals and supply of cooking utensils, lamps and basins for barracks and hospitals. It must be remembered that Indian troops were not fed by the army and such provisioning was done for British troops only.
During the 1914-18 war the functions and scope of the Corps were enlarged as it took over the duties of supply of rations to Indian troops and forage for all animals of Indian cavalry. With the introduction of mechanical transport it was also made responsible for the purchase, storage and distribution of petrol and lubricants. Distribution in respect of supply of clothing and other necessaries was transferred to the Ordnance Corps. It also consisted of a Deputy Director of Stocks and Controller of Contracts. The former appointment was abolished in 1923. In 1923 the corps was re-designated the Indian Army Service Corps (IASC). The Transport Department had 22 transport companies for the various divisions and brigades and nine mule transport companies besides bullocks and camels. Mechanical transport which was introduced during the war consisted of different types of vehicles. Second World War saw great expansion of the Corps. It introduced many changes in the organisation of the Corps, which increased its strength and widened its area of activities. The Corps personnel were completely militarised and transport fully mechanised.
Duties of Army Service Corps
Army Service Corps is primarily responsible for provisioning, procurement and distribution of supplies, transport, fuel oils and lubricants, hygiene chemicals and miscellaneous items to Army, Air Force and where required to Navy and other Para Military forces. The operation of mechanical transport except first line transport and the provision and operation of animal transport is also one of the major responsibilities of the Army Service Corps. The provisioning and training of clerks and catering staff for whole army are also the responsibilities of Army Service Corps. The Corps is now responsible for the supervision of the catering arrangements, postal services and the provision of clerks for staff appointments.
Army Service Corps is a versatile unit designed for the role with wide parameters for multifarious activities of immediate concern to the troops.