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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Labour Corps


David B
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Looking at todays "Remembering them"brings to mind the question. How was the labour corps used?

What were the conditions were they recruited under and were they subject to military discipline like any other

serviceman, or were they under a contract. And presumably they were used on or near the front line doing

labouring jobs i.e. digging trenches, erecting fortifications etc.

David

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My GF was conscripted into the Seaforths in a labour battalion. That was to become part of the Labour Corps when it was formed. They did all the work required behind the lines from making and repairing roads and railways to laying pipes, building camps and so on. Originally soldiers, they were not expected to fight but he at least had undergone some training. They were often within artillery range and of course always within bombing range.

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David

The Labour Corps was an Army Corps - they were soldiers.

Can I suggest you have a look at my website www.labourcorps.co.uk

Regards

Ivor

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A grand site and quite invaluable for the collector/student of this aspect of the war.

Often undervalued as a collecting theme, I always keep my eyes open for the Lincolnshire LC medals.

It is coming along nicely, Ivor.

Dick

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Dick and Ivor,

thanks for an insight, I was wondering where the Australian Pioneers fitted in as they were more of the fit young tradesman who also did a fair

bit of front line fighting when required. Example my uncle who joined up as an infantryman was promptly shovelled off to a Pioneer battalion. He was a large

fit 6 ft farmer and finished up gassed twice, wounded 4 times and with a DCM to round out the war. I believe that these Pioneers were mainly used in construction

as well as digging trenches etc.

David

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Hello David

Pioneers were definitely fully-fledged infantrymen, not Labour Corps, although they often carried out duties in the front-line areas which the Labour Corps covered further back.

Each Division had one pioneer battalion, which was not part of any infantry brigade but perfectly capable of giving a good account of itself under attack, as many were to prove during the Germans' 1918 Spring offensive.

Ron

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Agreed Ron, I have been trying to get fixed in my mind the relationship between the Labour Corps and the Pioneers and where they did their work. Also as it

appears that a good number of Labour Corps men came from other countries as well. Were they, for instance, recruited from Singapore/Hong Kong and were they

Commonwealth citizens or was it a matter of take what you could get/volunteer. I would also imagine there would have been some language difficulties as well.

David

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David

As Ron says Pioneer Battalions were primarily fighting soldiers who would undertake building/repair work at the front. As an example they were used to repair and reinforce captured trenches after a successful attack.

The British Labour Corps and the Canadian Works Companies were used primarily in the area behind the front lines and on the Lines of Communication. Although in the last 100 days some Labour Corps Companies worked in advance of the infantry units. For mostof their time they were unarmed and were not seen as a fightinh unit.

The foreign labour units generally worked in the back areas or on the Lines of Communications. I say generally as some of those who were serving soldiers, like the Cape Coloured Labour Battalion, and some of the Indian Labour Corps were used close to the trenches.

Some of the Chinese, Indians, Egyptians and South African Native Labour Corps Officers came with them from their recruitment area and spoke native languages, although instructions to natives were often given by native interpreters. In the case of the Chinese if an instruction was given by a British Officer then their native foreman (ganger) lost face with his men.

Ivor

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Ivor,

A clear and concise explanation if ever I have seen one. Thanks, I now understand the differences.

David

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