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Labour Battalions


Ken Wayman
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A friend in my village has asked me to find out what I can about a relative who was attached to 28th Labour Battalion in 1917 and was subsequently killed on 21/9/17 while serving with that unit.

I know how to trace where line battalions were serving but I have no idea with Labour Battalions. Did they maintain war diaries? If so, how may they be traced on the National Archive website as such battalions were not directly affiliated to a specific division?

Is there any other way to discover where 28th Labour Battalion served during 1917?

Thanks in advance.

Ken

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When the Labour Corps was founded in April 1917 it consisted of Labour Companies, of about 500 men each, administered by Labour Group HQs. Only the latter kept War Diaries and those which survive are in WO95 under either Army Troops or Lines of Communication Troops. If you go to the NA website, www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/catalogue/search.asp

and put the word Labour in the "word or phrase" box and WO95 in the "department or series code" box, you will get a list of them.

I could not see in this list any unit which might be the one you want, but if you try putting the man's details into the CWGC website you may be able to confirm his actual unit. Otherwise I am afraid that it will be a long trawl: do you have anything else about him which might help? Was he in the Ypres area, where there was heavy fighting in 1917?

Ron

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Hi Ron

Many thanks for your excellent information.

The soldier concerned, Thomas Cooper (No. 16336), went to France in April 1917 with 28 Coy of the Labour Corps and died of wounds in the Salient on 21/9/17 - he is buried in Huts Cemetery, to the southwest of Ypres. He had enlisted at the turn of 1916/1917, joining the Lincolnshire regiment and later being transferred to the DLI.

Any further ideas would be gratefully received.

Cheers

Ken

Have you looked at Ivor Lee's website? Ivor is a member of this forum and is a mine of information on the Labour Corps.

http://www.geocities.com/labour_corps/

That's a gem! Many thanks.

Ken

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The soldier concerned, Thomas Cooper (No. 16336), went to France in April 1917 with 28 Coy of the Labour Corps and died of wounds in the Salient on 21/9/17 - he is buried in Huts Cemetery, to the southwest of Ypres. He had enlisted at the turn of 1916/1917, joining the Lincolnshire regiment and later being transferred to the DLI.

Any further ideas would be gratefully received.

Cheers

Ken

Hi Ken

The files at Kew likely to be of most interest to you are WO95/358 and 359, the Labour Group HQs in Second Army, and WO95/571, ditto for Fifth Army. All of these seem to cover periods of around May to October 1917 only, but of course this does include the date you want.

Try also WO95/5495, which deals with the deployment of Labour Corps units. This may tell you in which Labour Group 28 Coy was at the time.

Prior to April 1917, both the Lincolns and the DLI had Labour battalions (12th and 25th respectively) but 28 and 29 Coys Labour Corps were actually formed from 20/Sherwood Foresters!

From the information you have, it looks as if he died of wounds, possibly as a result of shelling while building roads or digging trenches in the Ypres Salient.

Good luck!

Ron

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Hi Ron

That is excellent stuff - many thanks for your interest, time and effort, it's much appreciated!

At least I have something to work on when I go down to Kew.

Cheers.

ken

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Have you looked at Ivor Lee's website? Ivor is a member of this forum and is a mine of information on the Labour Corps.

http://www.geocities.com/labour_corps/

Hi

I've had a look at the website - really good - and I've suggested that my friend e-mails Ivor to try to take his search further.

Many thanks for your time and help.

Cheers

Ken

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Ken

Sorry somehow I missed this posting!

28 Company was formed from the 20th Battalion Notts & Derby Regiment.

They arrived in France in March 1916.

There is a War Diary for the Battalion for their service up to May 1917( WO 95/571) after that time tracing them become more difficult. However there is a far amount in 29 Labour Group Headquarters (WO 95/358)

Unfortunately, as with so many Labour Corps men, the only reference for the day is that 2 men were killed but without a location. The nearest there is to the date is on 5 September when they were in ANZAC Corps area at Sheet 28 location H.33.a.3.

Cause of death was almost certainly shelling - we know, for example, that one of the companies in the Group was under a gas shell on 5 September.

Ivor

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Evening Ivor

Many thanks for your fascinating insight into and extensive knowledge of the Labour Corps - it really is appreciated! It would have taken me months to get a quarter as far, if ever!

I have passed on your e-mail address (from the website) to my friend on whose behalf I initiated the enquiry - hope you don't mind. He's intending to go to Ypres (for the very first time) to visit his Labour Corps relative's grave at Huts Cemetery.

Thanks again.

Ken

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