Postcards of the Army Service Corps 1902-1918: Coming of Age
Coming of Age presents the early history of the Army Service Corps of the British Army by means of a unique collection of some 540 images, mainly contemporary postcards. The conduct of war changed dramatically in the late Victorian era, after the debacle in the Crimean War and humiliating setbacks in the Boer War. Commanders realized the vital importance of logistics in any campaign.
The formation of the ASC marked a significant milestone in the modernisation of the Army and it was fortunate that by the outbreak of The Great War the Corps was well established in the Order of Battle. The development and introduction of mechanical transport was to play a vital role throughout the 1914 - 1918 war and the ASC was pivotal to this. The images displayed in this superb book represent life in the ASC at a crucial period of its history.
They show the personal side of soldiering as opposed to the more formal official perspective. All have been collected and captioned by the author who is the foremost expert on the Corps history. The result is a stunning array of images that capture military life as it was over 100 years ago.
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This book reveals the nature of the Army Service Corps through the medium of 552 captioned pictures - 494 black-and-white and 38 in colour. The author, Michael Young, has a wide knowledge of Corps history, having served for 33 years in the Royal Army Service Corps and its successor, the Royal Corps of Transport, edited the Corps Journal and served as Curator of the RASC and RCT Museum.
The Army Service Corps - affectionately known as Ally Sloper's Cavalry/Army Slavey Corps - comprised Motor Transport (MT) and Horsed Transport (HT); blacksmiths, farriers, saddlers; bakers, butchers, cooks; tailors, tyre-fitters, and many more. And on the Home Front, women were drivers or worked on farms in the Forage Corps. The skills bundled into the ASC kept the army running smoothly, and all are illustrated in this book. In 1918, the Corps was granted the title Royal, in recognition of the invaluable work performed by all its personnel.
The book starts with an overview of the corps that evolved into the ASC from its beginnings in 1794 and provides a useful glossary for the non-military reader. The main body is then divided into seven chapters, arranged chronologically. Towards the end, there is a section of 58 Footnotes, cross-referenced from the postcards, and a five-page Index.
The few minor typographical errors are forgivable, because Michael Young has produced a superb book that brings to life this diverse group of soldiers whose contribution has been largely ignored in the history of WW1. As the grandchild of an ASC man I never knew, and whose record does not survive, I can now see what he would have been doing in the Motor Transport section. Telling history through postcards works. So, if you are researching an Army Service Corps soldier, I would urge you to start with this book.
Friends of The National Archives