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Category: Food

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Australian Army Catering Corps


Food fighters of 2001

Photo below. Members of AACC on patrol as part of the 1RAR Battalion Group in East Timor serving on Operation Tanager in 2001

left to right Sgt D. Osborn, Sgt I. Fricker, Sgt R. Schafer, Cpl S. Muckray, & Sgt I. Polanski. 

Australian Army Catering Corps – 60th Anniversary

A basic task for all cooks ... peeling potatoes on exercise. An apprentice cook at work during IET training at Puckapunyal

WO Caterer PMG WO2 Brett Williams with some local seafood in Bougainville

AACC members celebrate Christmas in Timor

The Army team that won the 1989 ADF cooking comp


Catering Corps fact menu

War service casualties
There were several members of the AACC who were killed in action during WW2. The only known casualty in my 40 years in the AACC was Pte Conners of 5RAR. He died as a result of wounds received whilst on patrol with that Bn in Vietnam.

The secret ingredient of Army mashed potatoes
There are no lumps in them like Mum’s home cooking.

Most popular dish today.
Crumbed Steak seems to be the most popular dish today. Tastes change from area to area because of the climate. If a body of troops have just finished a deployment the food from the country they spent their time in is usually very popular.

Most unusual complaint by soldiers about Army food
The ice cream is too cold.

Oldest piece of kit still in use
In the catering section of the Bandiana Museum we have all of the equipment we have ever used. The majority of this equipment is still in use. Our Field Cooking stoves (Range Outfit Field Gasoline M59) were used during Vietnam and Borneo deployments and are still in use today.

Biggest deployment of AACC
WW2 followed by Vietnam.

Famous eaters of Army food
Army Cooks and Stewards have prepared and served meals to Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers and just about any celebrity you would care to mention.

Most common myth about AACC
We are still plagued with the myth of Bully Beef. Our cooks and stewards receive excellent training and are awarded full civilian trade recognition.

– Maj John Walpole

As Napoleon once said, an army marches on its stomach – hence the importance of getting tucker to the troops. Maj John Walpole looks back at the history of a corps which has served its fellow soldiers with distinction since 1943

Feeding of soldiers was and still is a unit commander’s responsibility. Historically, unit feeding was dependent upon foraging in the enemy’s territory, the baggage train being as small as possible.

If a commander failed in his task, his company merely melted away. Cause and effect were apparent.

In the early days of the Army cooks were drawn from the ranks of the Regiment/Battalion or other Unit.

Unfortunately the kitchen was used as a dumping ground for the problem soldier, rarely did a soldier of any quality or ability volunteer for this despised trade.

Soldiers fighting in the trenches were given hot meals, when possible, under the cover of darkness. During the day they fended for themselves and ate Bully Beef and biscuits – contrary to all the stories being passed down, they were also provided cheese, jam and bread.

At the outbreak of WW2 the reputation of the unit cook was still at an all time low level. Cookery courses were being run by qualified instructors, however only the worst soldiers of the regiment were offered up for training.

In July 1939, Maj Sir C. Stanton Hicks, Professor of Human Physiology and Pharmacology at Adelaide University was appointed the District Catering Supervisor of the 4th Military District in Adelaide.

He took practical steps to ensure that essential nutrients were included in the ration scales and retained throughout the cooking process to be consumed by the soldier.

He noted that cookery schools were having a very difficult task trying to train sufficient cooks from the unsuitable personnel.

He recognised that to improve the feeding of the Army it was necessary to get good soldiers to be cooks, improve equipment, standard of training and quality of the rations.

Hicks recruited catering managers from the civilian industry and wrote proposals and gained support to have suitably qualified cooks paid a tradesman rate and to be promoted.

Training was improved and instead of soldiers travelling to cookery schools, mobile training was commenced with instructors going to the units.

Ration scales were improved through the introduction of additional commodities selected for their nutritional value.

In 1942 Hicks, now a lieutenant colonel, proposed forming the Australian Army Catering Corps (AACC) which was raised on, March 12, 1943, with him as its first director.

His philosophy for the formation of the corps then, and it remains true today is ‘the primary function of the catering corps is to ensure the most efficient use of rations and, through that, provide the maximum health and stamina to the troops.

Out of this philosophy the corps got its motto ‘We Sustain’. The AACC is a service that provides an extension of the commander’s power to discharge in detail their responsibility for feeding the soldier. AACC personnel are first and foremost members of the unit they are posted to. Catering personnel are detached, not attached.

With the formation of the corps, the shortage of cooks was reduced. At the conclusion of WW2, the AACC strength was 17,600.

After WW2, the biggest task for the AACC was providing catering staff to serve in Japan with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BOCF).

With the outbreak of hostilities in Korea the men from BCOF were the first to go. As they did their time in that theatre they were rotated back through Japan.

Cooks in Korea worked under extreme climatic conditions, it was either very hot or very cold; their kitchens were normally just tents and in the main units were mobile. They operated with the same field cooking equipment used during WW2 with some improvisation because of the lack of solid fuel.

Rations for Australian soldiers were a mixture of American and British, a large percentage being canned. During this period the AACC re-enlisted many cooks who saw service during WW2. 

Another source of manpower for the AACC was former catering corps cooks from the British Army who transferred over.

At the conclusion of the fighting in Korea, Australian soldiers were sent to Malaya. Here in Malaya the Australian soldier developed a taste for curries and some Chinese cuisine.

The early 1960s heralded a new era for the AACC; during this period many new kitchens and messes were being built with modern up-to-date cooking equipment. It was a period where the AACC stopped teaching their basic cooks how to kill and pluck a chickens and gone were the days of shelling wheat bags of fresh peas, deep freezers were issued and so were frozen chickens and quick-frozen peas.

In 1965, all Army stewards were transferred to the AACC. The addition of this trade further enhanced the catering service provided to the Army as now, all catering tasks were performed by AACC personnel. Stewards play an integral role in the AACC.

During the Vietnam War, AACC personnel served with every unit including AATTV. During this conflict, AACC members in addition to their normal catering duties carried out military duties in major operations, such as perimeter patrols. Pte Connors, a member of 5RAR Catering Platoon died as the result of wounds received while on operations.

  • In 1973 RAASC was disbanded. 
  • In 1974 the Director of Catering Army was restored and the 
    • Army School of Catering was formed at Puckapunyal.

In 1977 the new Catering Instruction Building was opened in Tobruk Barracks in Puckapunyal. After all these years the AACC had a home where all catering training was conducted in one location. The 1980s were a period of growth and consolidation for the AACC. Members of the corps enjoyed a great deal of success in advanced catering competition within the civilian catering industry.

In 1987, full civilian recognition was granted to personnel who had completed prescribed courses and had served specified time in the trade. The status of the Army cook had reached a new level, a far cry from the ‘Ration Assassin’ reputation of WW1 and WW2 cooks.

Early in the 1990s new words entered our vocabulary, Commercial Support Program (CSP). The plan was to cut the logistic tail by replacing as many military logistic positions as possible with civilians.

It is all history now – the AACC like other logistic corps suffered severe reductions in numbers from 1700 to 650. Morale of the corps reached it lowest ebb in 1998 when it was decided that all officers in the corps would be transferred to RAAOC.

  • Fortunately this order was rescinded after some strong lobbying by the corps.

In 1996 ALTC was formed. The Army School of Catering at Puckpunyal became part of this unit and was renamed Catering Wing ALTC but it was closed in December 1998. Under the Defence Reform Program (DRP) all catering training was transferred to the newly formed ADF School of Catering, at HMAS Cerberus. All catering practical training was outsourced and is now conducted at the Chisholm TAFE in Victoria.

Deployment to East Timor has been the turning point for the corps. Members have excelled in performing not only their core role of sustaining soldiers of the Army but they also ably assisted their units fulfill a range of other functions.

Because AACC members are dispersed throughout all units in the Australian Army there has been no opportunity until now to recognise the corps for the role it has played within the Army. The granting of the Governor-General’s Banner is a significant opportunity to demonstrate tangible support for the AACC and to reinforce the Army’s decision to retain it as a corps. The banner will stand as an appropriate collective tribute to AACC members, both past and present, and will provide a focus for the corps into the future.


Chaplain J. Butler blesses the Governor-General’s banner, watched by Principal Chap-Army Len Eacott, Principal Chap John Bulter, Chap Morgan Batt and Principal Chap Peter Woodward during AACC’s 60th birthday parade at Gallipoli Barracks, Enoggera. Photos by Pte Simone Heyer, Army newspaper

Two veterans at the Catering Corps parade at Duncan Oval in Enoggera

Banner recognises service

By Pte Simone Heyer
Specialist Units Reporter

You’d expect any function looked after by caterers would be well worth attending and once again, the corps has proven itself above and beyond its call.

AACC recently displayed their combined skills at their Governor-General’s banner parade on March 8. Gallipoli Barracks’ Duncan Oval rose to the occasion with its almost surreal green fields, hosting caterers from units around Australia, their one commonality – the distinctive AACC badge.

There were guests aplenty, including about 100 veterans, Army representatives, as well as Governor-General Peter Hollingworth and his wife.

The Governor-General presented his banner to the Corps SO2 Maj John Walpole, it was then dedicated by padres representing the main faiths of the ADF.

Banners from the Governor-General are presented to support units – training and otherwise, who would not have normally obtained operational colours. After the parade, a feast was put on for all participants and spectators by students from the ADF School of Catering at HMAS Cerberus.

Maj Walphole said the school was tri-service, and all students graduated with a Certificate 2 in Commercial Cooking. The students also prepared a buffet at the ORs dinner dance, held later that evening, and helped in preparation and serving at the VIP buffet.

Rooms for the function were beautifully decked out and the food artfully prepared by bustling caterers and served by stewards who had all worked tirelessly during the day. Ice sculptures were on show including an ornate fish carved by ice sculpting champ WO2 Tony Herrmann.

Maj Walpole said he thought the parade went very well and was pleased by the attendance.


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