For centuries, the British soldier had to contend with being paid badly and late. The responsibility had fallen to individual regiments. Regimental colonels, for whom their regiment was virtually a personal estate, engaged clerks and agents to handle regimental pay and finance. Some were inevitably more efficient than others. During the famous retreat to Corunna, under Major General Sir John Moore, the casks of dollars that held the regimental pay were thrown over a precipice in order to tempt the advancing French soldiers to go after the pay rather than after the British Army.
This haphazard and chaotic system would be replaced from 1878 with a dedicated Pay Department being established by the War Office. Officers with suitable financial and clerical skills were to be employed to ensure the regular payment upon agreed and universal pay rates. This department was renamed the Army Pay Corps from 1893. It was not until 1920 that it earned a ’Royal’ prefix due to its service in the Great War.