Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Labour & Pioneer Battalions

Recommended Posts

Hi All:

I'm looking for information on British, Australian and US labour & pioneer battalions that were attached to the Canadian Railway Troops (1st through 14th CRT Battalions). Does anyone have a full or partial list of these battalions? How about suggestions for books or web sites that might provide some clues? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks. :lol:


Link to post
Share on other sites


Have you checked the War Diaries of the Canadian Railway Troops?

Their PRO classifications are WO 95/4064 to WO 95/4071 and WO 95/4410.

Other than this I am not aware of either a full or partial list. If there is one I will be fascinated to see it.

One of the problems is that units were often attached for a short period of time as needed. The matter is further hampered by the fact that many of these attached units did not keep War Diaries.

Have you seen Jackson's "The 127th Battalion CEF: 2nd Battalion Canadian Railway Troops"? He has an appendix of, in his words, some of the units attached to them as Labour. It is in order of attachment but without dates.

If you managed to find out anything on Labour Corps units I would be interested to know about it or the source.

Good luck


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Garth,

I searched through the 3 CD's of The US Army in World War I and could only find references to the 11th & 12th US engineers Railway working with the 14th CRT.

The labor units get very brief write ups really only dates served.



Link to post
Share on other sites
Have you checked the War Diaries of the Canadian Railway Troops?

Have you seen Jackson's "The 127th Battalion CEF: 2nd Battalion Canadian Railway Troops"?  He has an appendix of, in his words, some of the units attached to them as Labour.  It is in order of attachment but without dates.

Hi Ivor:

I haven't checked the CRT war diaries yet. I'm making arrangements with the in-house library where I work to have the NAC sent a couple diaries (on fiche) each month starting in October. This will make an interesting fall/winter/spring project. <_<

I've got a copy of Jackson's book on the 2nd Bn. CRT and I've put the information in the appendix on a spreadsheet. Hopefully I'll be able to add the month, duration of attachment and duties performed to the spreadsheet when I get the 2nd CRT's diaries from the NAC.

Thanks for listing the Pro classifications. I've noted them in my CRT file and hope to be able to put them to use in the future. However, I think it's going to be a couple of years before my wife and I make it back to England. :( Thanks again for your help.


Link to post
Share on other sites
I searched through the 3 CD's of The US Army in World War I and could only find references to the 11th & 12th US engineers Railway working with the 14th CRT.

Hi Neil:

If there's any information on the 11th and 12th contained on the CD's, even if it's just dates, would you please post it. Thanks for taking the time to check your sources. :)


Link to post
Share on other sites


Once again I am evious of Canadian - being able to get war diaries sent on microfiche!

In the UK I cannot even get microfiche copies of WW1 newspapers through inter-library loan let alone War Diaries!!!

At some time in the future I plan to try to put dates to when the Labour Corps units were attached to 2nd Bn CRT. Will send it to you when I do it.


Link to post
Share on other sites
At some time in the future I plan to try to put dates to when the Labour Corps units were attached to 2nd Bn CRT.  Will send it to you when I do it.

Hi Ivor:

Thanks for the offer. I'll reciprocate by sending you the information I come up with from my CRT research. You would think with the number of railway troops that Canada had on the continent there would be a definitive book on their contribution to the war effort. :huh:


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Neil:

I forgot to mention in my reply post to you, Jackson's book on the 2nd CRT Bn. (page 186) lists "Engineering Battalion, 30th Division, U.S. Army" being attacheched to them in 1918.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Garth,

The 105th Engineer Regiment served with the 30th "Old Hickory" Division whcih was composed of NAtional Gurad troops from North & South Carolina and Tennessee.

I don't have a scanner so I have to copy & paste sorry:


No. G- 14/300 December 3. 1918.

1. Two and one-half companies of the American 1 lth Engineers (Railway) under Colonel

Hoffman, having an effective strength of 8 officers and 365 0. R.. were employed by me,

during the recent operations, on broad-gauge construction.

2. At 7 a. m.. on November 30.4 officers and 280 men of this regiment were employed

at the GOUZEAUCOURT yard in railway construction.

3. At 7: 15 a. m., the hostile barrage came down onto GGUZEAUCOURT.

About 230 a. m.. Major Burbank, who was in command. ordered a general retirement.

This was effected in the face of artillery and machine-gun fire at the cost of a number of


A certain number of men who had taken refuge in dugouts, were cut off by the German

infantry. Some of these managed to effect their escape and at once joined up with British

units and fought with them throughout the day.

About 7 a. m.. FINS, where the remainder of the men were, began to be heavily shelled.

The order was given for the men still remaining in the camp (about 85) to scatter in

the fields.

4. The whole party was then assembled under their officers and fell in. Arms and

200 rounds of ammunition were served out to each man.

By noon, 7 officers and 265 men were present for duty.

5. The 0. C. Regiment reported to the Headquarters 26th Division, at SOREL offering

the services of his detachment for duty wherever most required. and asked for orders.

He was ordered to assemble his force as a reserve.

At 3 p. m., the party was employed in digging trenches close behind our line. By

6 p. m.. these trenches were finished to a depth of 4 feet.

6. I desire to draw attention to the initiative shown by Colonel Hotian, and to

express my thanks to the 1 lth Engineers (Railway) for the assistance they rendered to this

army at a critical period in the day’s operations.



General commanding Third Army.

142-11.4: Memorandum

Trcursportation Accomplishments

No. A. Q. 20/8/17. BRITISH III CORPS,

Headquarters, Third Army

I desire to bring to your notice the good work recently carried out under the orders

of the Asst. Director of Light Railways, III South, in the III Corps area in connection

with the 60-cm. railway system. On receipt of orders to prepare for an offensive. it was

necessary to carry out an extended program of construction work if full value was to be

obtained from the then existing system. This work was duly carried out up to scheduled

time. During the period of construction work, a traffic scheme was placed before

Transportation, which enabled me to feed the equivalent of 3 divisions from FINS railhead

without the use of motor or horse transport. This scheme was accepted, and the operation

department have worked it with punctuality and dispatch: the immediate result has been

that the cavalry divisions have had free access north and south through FINS at all hours.

The delivery of large quantities of ammunition to the equivalent of 8 divisional

artilleries and 36 heavy and siege batteries was successfully carried through, and it was

only necessary to use a minimum of lorries, thus saving much wear and tear of roads.

Much of the construction and traffic work was carried out in such close proximity to

the enemy that severe restrictions had to be enforced regarding the use of telephones, and

this added largely to the traffic problem.


Lieutenant General,

commanding III corps.


142-33.6: Report


Preliminary Report of Operations


IntheFIeIcLDecemherl, 1917.

From: C. 0.. 11th Engrs.. Ry.

To: Commander-in-Chief. A. E. F. (through Brig. Gen. W. C. Lang&t).

1. B, F, and one-half E Companies, 1 lth Engineers, total effective strength on

Nov. 30 - 8 officers and 365 men, camped at Fins. have been employed on the construction

of broad-gauge railway to Marcoing. which was completed on November 28. On the morning

of Nov. 30.4 omcers and 280 men of these companies left camp at 6:30 for work on the

Gouzeaucourt Yard arriving there at 7 h. and started work, together with parties of the

4th Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops, the entire work being under Major Burbank of that

command and Captain C. R Hulsart. C. 0.. Co. B. 1 lth Engrs.. I?y.. the senior officer of

our troops present. As this was a quiet and well protected section, troops of both commands

were without arms.

2. Heavy shelling of ground to the east of Gouzeaucourt had started before our troops

arrived and about 7: 15 h. barrage was moved onto Gouzeaucourt. About 7:30 h., Major

Burbank ordered a general retirement which was effected with some diificulty under artillery,

machine-gun, and aeroplane fire. A number of casualties occurred at this time of whom

eight wounded were brought in. An unknown number of men who had taken refuge in dugouts

were cut off by the German infantry, which occupied Gouzeaucourt soon after and were either

killed or taken prisoner. Some few of them succeeded in joining British combatant units

and fought with them during the day. Two of those taken prisoner succeeded in escaping

and eventually returned to camp. In the course of the retirement there was some scattering.

but most of the men returned to the rendezvous at the camp.

3. Meanwhile at about 7 o’clock active shelling of the area around Fins began and

after two shells had dropped in the camp itself without casualties, the men remaining there

(about 85) were ordered to scatter in the fields to the right. A number of these men were

caught in the tide of retiring British Transport and were picked up by British military

police and by our own camp guards at La Chapelette and returned to Fins.

4. As fast as the men returned to camp they were assembled under arms with 200

rounds of ammunition per man. When I arrived in camp about noon 7 officers and 265 men

were present for duty. At this time there were unaccounted for eighty men. In absence of

instructions from the A. R C. E. [Chief Engineers]. I reported in person to Headquarters

20th Division (Gen. Hyslop) at Sorel. and was instructed to assemble in reserve in the

fields between A and C. At 3 o’clock instructions were received to dig holding trenches

at points D and E.

Tools were secured and the men moved forward, starting work at 4 p. m. At 6 p. m.

trenches were finished to depth of four feet, sufficient for entire command and orders

were received from the 20th Division to withdraw men to camp to hold them in readiness to

man these trenches. At midnight, eleven men had returned from the front and 36 men had

been rounded up in the rear and sent back to camp. making the total wounded and missing 33.

On December 1, this was reduced to 28 by return of five men from the front.

5. At 5 p. m.. detail of seven men was furnished by request of A. R C. E. to repair

break in track at F and further detail of twelve men to assist in transferring ammunition

at 0.



Colonel. Engineers, N. A.

AG, GHQ. AEF: File 7692-A: Letter




Final Report of Action cat Gouzeaucowt


December 8. I 9 17.

C. 0.. 1 lth Engineers, Ry.

Commander-in-Chief, A E. F.. France (through Brig. Gen. Langfitt).


Supplementing my report of November 30 the following additional details of action

at Gouzeaucourt are submitted * * *

2. The men were unarmed and the attack (a complete surprise) was accompanied by

heavy shell and machine-gun fire both from enemy troops and numerous low-flying aeroplanes.

The casualties were over 10%. Notwithstanding this, the retirement was effected in an

orderly manner and with coolness which has received praise from British officers present.

The camp at Fins (2 miles in the rear) was under heavy shell fire. three direct hits being

recorded, but over 90% of the men left rallied at this point by noon and, after receiving

arms and ammunition, were again ready for action and remained in reserve throughout the day,


4. On December 1. shelhng of the camp at Fins was renewed, two heavy shells ex-

ploding in the camp and several in its immediate vicinity. On December 3. by direction of

the A. R C. E.. the men were withdrawn to Brusle. and since that time two of the huts

have been totally wrecked by direct hits.


Colonel, Engineers. N. A.


In the FlelcL December 4, 1917.

From: C. 0.. Co. F. 1 lth Engineers, Ry.

To: C. 0.. 1 lth Engineers, Ry.

Subject: Report of operations, November 30.

1. This company left camp at Sorel. by train, at 6:30 h.. on the morning of November

30, to construct sidings in the railway yard at Gouzeaucourt. As the tram approached

Chapel Crossing, it was observed that Villers-Guislain and Gonnelteu were under heavy

shell fire. The tram proceeded to Gouzeaucourt Yard, the men detrained and started work.

In about fifteen minutes the yard was subjected to heavy bombardment by high explosive

and shrapnel; at the same time German aeroplanes. armed with machine guns, flew overhead

and fired upon our men. The company was unarmed, and the men were ordered to clear the

yard, At about this time the German skirmish line was seen coming over the hill preceded

by parties of about five men armed with machine guns.



Captain, E. 0. R C.


In the Field December 5, 1917.

From: C. Raymond Hulsart, Captain, U. S. R.

To: C. 0.. 11th Engineers, Ry.

Subject: German attack upon Gouzeaucourt. November 30. 1917.


The work tram arrived at Gouzeaucourt Yard at about 7:30 h. The troops were detailed

to different parts of the yard between points A and B and work was weII under way at about

8 o’clock when a barrage moved over the ridge and roughly half way to the track, a few

shells bursting near the track at the Cambrai Road. No warning of an advance by the

Germans had been received and at that time no retreating troops had been seen. I, there-

fore, still thought that we need fear only the shelling which had reached the track first

at the Cambrai Road and was moving south, so I ordered all the troops to board the work

train which had begun to move out. The barrage then moved forward to the track in the

vicinity of the train and the locomotive was uncoupled and ran south. I ordered the men

to leave the tram, to scatter in the fields to the southwest (south of Gouzeaucourt) and

to hurry over the hill in that direction. At about that time I saw, several hundred yards

to the south, British troops retreating over the ridge C-C and across the track.

After the men had left the tram, Lieut. Cone walked south on the track and I walked

north to see if everyone had left. There was no one in sight and I believed everyone had

left, although I learned after that a number of men had sought shelter in dugouts along

the track. Believing that everyone had left, Lieut. Cone and I followed the men up the

ridge to the southwest, he, one or two hundred yards to my left and somewhat in rear with

a group of E Co. men for whom he had walked south on the track. The shelling was then

general along the track and in Gouzeaucourt and the fields between us and the town. The

barrage, with gas shells intermingled, continued to be more advanced on our right to the

north, as it was when it first reached the track.

With about a dozen men, I reached the sunken road D ahead of the main barrage and

found Major Burbank, Lieut. McLoud and a number of men in dugouts. Lieut. Cone reached

the sunken road with two or three men a moment later in the midst of the barrage.

Lieut. Cone had received a wound in the head and said that Sergeant Frank Haley of E

Company had been struck at the same time. As Sergeant Haley had not come in, I went back

about a hundred yards toward the track and found him with Sergeant Donald MacIsaac of

E Co. and two English soldiers waiting for a stretcher which someone had said they would

send. They were then in the heaviest shelling so it was necessary for us to carry

Sergeant Haley to the sunken road without a stretcher, although it caused him considerable

suffering. Sergeant MacIsaac then returned with me to look for a wounded British soldier,

who I was informed had been left in the barrage. We were unable to find him and returned

to the sunken road to send the men on as the Germans were then coming over the ridge

C-C in front of Gouzeaucourt. Major Burbank and Lieutenant McLoud had left the sunken road

with a number of the men. Lieut. Cone and Sergeant Haley had been attended by a British

surgeon attached to a battery quartered in the dugouts in the sunken road and had been

carried by our men on stretchers to ambulances on the Fins-Gouzeaucourt Road.

I got the remainder of our men with some unarmed Canadian and British (about 25 in all)

out of the dugouts and sent them out of the sunken road across the field to the southwest

with orders to follow the first road (Gouzeaucourt-Heudicourt Road ) to eamp. I followed

as soon as I was satisfied that all our men were out of the dugouts.

The shelling in the vicinity of the sunken road and between it and the railroad track

had then greatly diminished. Either the barrage had passed on or had been discontinued.

Heavy shelling continued in Gouzeaucourt.

Following the barrage, appeared a large number of aeroplanes. Two of these turned

machine guns on the 30 or 40 men scattered over the field between the sunken road D and

the Heudicourt Road. Other aeroplanes turned machine guns on the Heudicourt Road and the

railroad. As far as I know no one was hit.

When I reached the Gouzeaucourt-Heudicourt Road, I proceeded toward Heudicourt with

about fifteen men of B, E and F Companies, thence to Sore1 Camp to assemble my company.



Captain. Commanding.

There's about another page or so which I'll post later on.

Hope this helps,


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Garth,

This pretty much rounds it out I hope this helps. I'll check the 30th Summary of Ops to see if it mentions 105th Engineers.

Take care,



In the Field, December 6. 1917.

2d Lieut. E. N. Holstrom. Co. F, 1 lth Engineers, l?y.

C. 0.. 1 lth Engineers, IQ.

German attack on Gouzeaucourt


On Friday morning about 7:30 o’clock, I was ordered to construct the remainder of

our siding, connect to the Belgian rail at Gouzeaucourt crossing, and to insert a switch.

Two sergeants, one corporal. and twenty-four men were in my detail. This detail was

divided about evenly and the men distributed along the siding on each side of the road

bed in the immediate vicinity.

2. Shells were bursting seven to eight hundred yards up the Cambrai Road and in the

general direction of Gonnelieu. One shell exploded about two hundred yards away and the

sergeants were instructed that in case another shell burst in the same vicinity, they were

to withdraw their detail. take them away from Gouzeaucourt and into the field.

3. The shelling did not seem to come any closer, so I walked to the south end of the

Gouzeaucourt railroad yard to get information from Major Burbank, 4th Canadian Battalion,

the officer in charge, regarding missing material. However. on reaching him, I found he

was ordering the work train engine out of the yard, and Captain Hulsart. Lieut. McLoud.

and Lieut. Cone were ordering the men away. Shells were then exploding on the tracks

and beyond.

4. I immediately turned about and started for my detail, but had no sooner done so.

when I was caught in what turned out to be a heavy barrage. I worked my way through it

to the crossing, where my detail had been at work. No one was in sight. Starting north

along the track I found the senior sergeant and a private. The sergeant reported all men

safely away.

5. We ran along the railroad bank toward Villers-Plouich and out of the heavy shelling.

On reaching an old machine-gun emplacement I waited until the shelling should cease. Word

was passed that the Germans were coming down the Cambrai Road and from St-Quentin Ridge.

We then started into the fields, went around Gouzeaucourt picking up what men we could, and

then I sent the men to camp.

6. Thinking I might be of some use, I went back toward the railroad yard, alter going

around the town of Gouzeaucourt. but on reaching a point 200 yards from the Gouzeaucourt-

Heudicourt Road, was sniped at by a machine gun. It was impossible to get any nearer and

nothing could be done further, it seemed, so turned about and went to camp.

l *****


2d Lieut., E. 0. R C.


Link to post
Share on other sites

One more time Garth,

No mention in the 30th Summaryof Ops there is a 30th Division History which someone on the Forum may have though.

There's also a mpa of light railways which goes along with the above posts give me an address and I'll be happy to print and mail it for you.

Take care,


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Neil:

Thanks a million for sharing this information. I've copied and pasted the above posts into a Word document and have saved it in my 'Railway' file. Also have stared a new spreadsheet on the 4th CRT Bn. and have noted 11th Engineers working with them in November/December 1917.

Thought this was an interesting tidbit from the entry for December 6/17 "3. The shelling did not seem to come any closer, so I walked to the south end of the Gouzeaucourt railroad yard to get information from Major Burbank, 4th Canadian Battalion, the officer in charge, regarding missing material." :ph34r::lol:

I'll take you up on your offer on mailing me the map that goes with the posted info; send you my postal address in an e-mail. Once again, many thanks.


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Garth,

I sent you a hard copy of the whole Cambrai chapter along with the map this morning.

I forgot to mention that the 30th US is one of the divisions that served with the BEF so the 105th Engineers I'm sure was involved with the Railways let's just hope it's mentioned somewhere!

Take care,


Link to post
Share on other sites

Almost forgot,

The map is standard 81/2" x 11" size I printed it and included an attempted enlargement. If you have any questions or can't read anything I'll check the original adobe pdf file.

Take care,


Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 years later...

Found mentioned in 12th CRT's war diary that 1 officer and 14 men of the 108th US engineers were attached for a short period of time. I didn't note the dates but from memory it was sometime around october 1918.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...