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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
veterans at the Catering Corps parade at Duncan Oval in
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
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.