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Army Ordnance Corps: Arming the Indian Army for centuries!

The Army Ordnance Corps or AOC is an active unit of responsible corps of the Indian Army who helps the Armed Forces, especially the Indian Army with material and logistical support during both war and peace. The history of the AOC takes us back to the 18th century. One of the oldest formations of the Indian Army; Army Ordnance Corps is celebrating their 244th anniversary today and we greet all the ranks and veterans of AOC on this very special day. Let’s go back from where it all started!

“An army marches on its stomach” is a famous saying by French Emperor Napoleon. And undoubtedly it is the ordnance which fills strength into that stomach. Normally an AOC man can bestow everything from a warrior’s clothing to his weapons, from a needle to a tank, from a bullet to strategic missiles and all armaments except fuel, fodder and medicines. Moreover, the inventory management involves provisioning, procurement, receipt, accounting, storage, issue, transportation and disposal of all probable issues.

The logistic department of AOC involves the mechanics of maintaining an efficient and effective fighting army by making available all kinds of stores to all units of the army in the right quantity, at the right time, at the right place and obviously at right costs.

Sua Tela Tonati, which means ‘To the thunderer – His Arms or To the Soldier – His fighting needs’, was the motto of AOC from the 15th century. Now it is changed to ‘Shastra Se Shakti’ which means ‘Strength through Arms’ since 1978.

The history of this ordnance traces back to the establishment of three Presidencies of the East India Company in the 15th century and they are Bengal, Bombay and Madras. The early ordnance stores in the Indian sub-continent were constructed by the British East India Company for their logistical needs. With the military expansion of the company, the requirements of military troops increased which in turn wanted the support of an ordnance department. By accepting the report of the Commander-in-Chief of the Bengal Army, Lieutenant General Sir John Clavering, the Board of Ordnance was established on April 8, 1775, in Fort William, Calcutta. It is considered to be the first step towards the recognition of the Army Ordnance Corps or AOC. At that time the board was put under the control of the Bengal Presidency.

This board existed till 1855, after which it was reorganized as Army Ordnance Department and Corps for officers and personnel after getting transferred to the Secretary of State of War. In 1918, King George V granted it the prefix ‘Royal’ for laudable efforts during the First World War. Next, in 1922, it became ‘Indian Army Ordnance Corps’ by adding the prefix ‘Indian’. Now, this is known as ‘Army Ordnance Corps’ after the prefix ‘Indian’ was dropped in 1950.

An AOC man is not only a mere ordnance keeper, but they are also brave hearts who never fails to protect the country in front of any adverse situations. One of the best examples is the fatal conflict against the ravaging Japanese forces at Kangla Tongbi on the Imphal Kohima road near Manipur in March 1944. A handful of ordnance soldiers belonging to 221 Advance Ordnance Depot led by Major Boyd, repulsed the attacks for three consecutive days. This epic battle is considered among the bravest and boldest wars of any gallant soldiers. It is a tradition still followed by all newly commissioned youths in AOC to visit the memorial at Kangla Tongbi before joining the corps. And this year, it is the 70th anniversary of this ‘Battle of Imphal’.

The Corps began a modernization drive of its facilities to cope with its ever-increasing logistics management, efficient material handling needs and creation of storage facilities, since 2001. Central Ordnance Depot at Kanpur is now complete and the work on other CODs and depots in a good manner elsewhere is presently underway. The AOC is undoubtedly the pioneers who assisted in automation in the Indian Army. 

Now the current phrase aims to implement an ERP solution that will provide on-line, multi-user inventory management system to 29 AOC installation including all CODs, thus a chain of regional depots, ordnance units and depots of each type. It is also interfacing with intermediate formation HQs. The system will also consist a ‘Management Information System’ (MIS) and ‘Decision Support System’ (DSS) for Army HQs and related section of MoD in order to plan and control ordnance inventory functioning. This implementation will be the greatest step towards total asset visibility, near paperless transaction and faster response to all operational requirements. The final phase is expected to port and customize the developed software to balance AOC installations at all levels.

Not only that, AOC supplies intimate ordnance logistic support to the Eastern Command both during war and peace. They have defied the testing times and have provided total material needs for the units during different campaigns in this sector.

Reorganizing itself by raising various departments, creating infrastructure, providing uninterrupted logistic support to the units those are inaccessible far-flung areas; Army Ordnance Corps constantly keeps pace with hardworking and responsible challenges of national security by their own dynamic strategies. They have been and will always support the Indian Army in all sort of situations.

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