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The Labour Corps



The Labour Corps was raised in 1915 and disbanded in 1921, today thier roles are undertaken by the Royal Logistics Corps.

The Corps grew to some 389,900 men (more than 10% of the total size of the Army) by the Armistice. Of this total, around 175,000 were working in the United Kingdom and the rest in the theatres of war. The Corps was manned by officers and other ranks who had been medically rated below the "A1" condition needed for front line service. Many were returned wounded. Labour Corps units were often deployed for work within range of the enemy guns, sometimes for lengthy periods.

In April 1917, a number of Infantry Battalions were transferred to the Corps. The Labour Corps absorbed the 28 ASC Labour Companies between February and June 1917. Labour Corps Area Employment Companies were formed in 1917 for salvage work, absorbing the Divisional Salvage Companies. In the crises of March and April 1918 on the Western Front, Labour Corps Units were used as emergency infantry. It became the 18th -19th Labour Corps in May 1917.

The Corps always suffered from its treatment as something of a second class organization: for example, the men who died are commemorated under their original Regiment, with Labour Corps being secondary. Researching men of the Corps is made extra difficult by this, as is the fact that few records remain of the daily activities and locations of Corps units.



Those known to have served with The Labour Corps during the Great War 1914-1918

Select a story link or scroll down to browse those stories hosted on this site.



Pte. James Page 12th (Service) Battalion Cheshire Regiment

In researching my grandfather's WW1 career, we would like to know how much a private soldier was paid, and how he managed to send money to his wife and young baby. My grandfather enlisted in September 1914, was sent to Salonika in 1915 and was not discharged until 1919. In 1918 he suffered from malaria, stated to have 20% disability and was transferred to the Labour Corps. I should be grateful to know about his pay, as I can find nothing online on this subject.



Sjt. Mjr. William Northcroft Johnson 6th Btn. Essex Regiment

William Johnson was badly wounded at Gallipoli, having landed tehre on teh 11th of August 1915 with the 6th Essex. His name is listed amongst the wounded published in the Essex Chronicle on the 17th of Sept 1915. He was evacuated to Alexandria. He is mentioned in a letter from Sergt. Jack Brady of the 1/6th Essex Regiment, sent from Alexandria in 1916 “The ex-hospital men here (several of whom are Essex) are improving in health wonderfully, and some are quite well again. Sergt-Major Johnson, who did such good work on the Peninsula, where he was severely wounded, is looking well in the circumstances, and after the day's duties are finished he keeps the boys alive with a ventriloquial entertainment, and as a ventriloquist he is excellent.” William later served as CSM with an employment company of the Northamptonshire Regiment and on the 30th of May 1917 he was commissioned as Temp. 2nd Lt. into the Labour Corps and commanded and Area Employment Company as Acting Captain on the 11th of May 1918.



Pte. Herbert Messenger West Yorkshire Regiment

Herbert served with the West Yorkshire Regiment, The Royal Engineers, The Labour Corps and the Scottish Rifles.



Pte. Thomas Harold Bentley West Yorkshire Regiment

Fantastic website! It has helped me research my maternal grandfather's Army service in WW1. He was Pvt Thomas Harold Bentley who served in the West Yorkshire Regiment, KOYLI, Labour Corps,RF. He served on the Western Front. Also the site has helped me research my great uncle: Pvt George Eaddie, RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps). He served in Eqypt, Sulva Bay, Dardernelles, and the Western Front. God Bless you both.



A/Cpl Joseph Sefton South Lancashire Regiment

I have done some research on my Grandfather Joseph Sefton I have a record from Ancestry.co.uk stating he was regt no 2029 on attestation to the 1st Btn South Lancs in Oct 1886, but it mentions that he had served with the 4btn Liverpool Regiment (saying at the age of 18). I also have several other Regt numbers appearing on his records. 124 (1901 record) 8109 (1905 record) and 267813 (1914 record). He was discharged in Oct 1898, re joined in 1901 given Regt no 124. He subsequently went to to Gibralter, Malta, Egypt and South Africa and was discharged in 1906.

He then joined up once more 1/10/1914 He lied about his age and said he was 44 when he was 46, he had six children (one my mother) He was posted to South Lancs and also served in the Labour Corps (I think) and stayed in until Feb 1919.

Unfortunatly I have been unable to gather any information regarding the following: What(if any) medals would have been awarded for all or any of his service? Was he actually in the Liverpool Regiment? Are there any photgraphs of the South Lancs? I Would love to find out more about him or the South lancs. Can anyone help?



James Davies Yorks & Lancs Regt

The above post card was sent to my Grandmother from her husband. His regiment was the Yorks and Lancs, number 1538 He finished his army career in the Labour corps due to shrapnel in his legs and came home after the war. I am sure that one of these is Grandad James Davies.



Lt. Walter Beakley 5th Btn. Sherwood Forresters

My grandfather Walter Beakley could not talk about the war I know he was wounded in the arm as he was not able to play the flute after the war I know he trained at Halton near Wendover Buckinghamshire. I believe he fought at the Somme with the 5th Sherwood Forresters and also served with 194 Coy, Chinese Labour Corps.



Reuben Zinzendorf Bullock Sussex Regiment

Reuben Bullock was my great-grandfather. He had been employed as a gardener at Penlynn Castle before the war, he continued this when posted to France. We have some of his records showing detailed accounts relating to the growing of various crops whilst serving in the Labour Corps.

He was also with the Royal Sussex Regiment. Paperwork lists his role as a scout, which earned him a mention in dispatches. He was awarded a number of medals, which we are currently researching.



Pte. Duncan Campbell Labour Corps (d.20th Oct 1918)

Duncan Campbell was the youngest son. Two of his older brothers, Thomas and David, both also served in WWI but, although wounded, they survived. David was with the Canadian Army. I have been unable to find out in which unit Thomas served. Duncan is buried in Grevillers British Cemetery.



Sjt. Althol Williamson 6th Btn. Highland Light Infantry

My Grandfather Althol Williamson was honourably discharged on the 30th November 1917

He was so badly injured during one battle that his friend hitched him to a gun carriage by his kilt. He was taken back behind British Lines where he was laid out under a sheet as he was presumed dead. We have no further details on this as my grandfather died in 1965. He didn't really want to talk much about this.

My grandfather told me that whilst he was lying on the battlefield, someone or something was moving from the bodies lying on the field and when it came to him it told him he would be aright. He said it was a bright light in the form of a man.

He was sent home, and used to sleep between his mother and father owing to the severe shellshock

One day he went out in London where he then lived using his crutches, he got onto a bus and sat on one of the side seats, the conductor took his crutches and put them under the stairwell. A couple of stops later a woman got on the bus, she was wearing a hat with white feathers in it, she took one of the feathers and put it in my grandfathers lapel. He did nothing, when he got to his stop the conductor gave him his crutches, he looked at the woman, my grandfather said he would never forget her face. He kept the feather in an England's Glory matchbox for many years, and told me he wished he could find that woman to give her back the feather

He remembered waiting in the trenches with the german machine gun bullets pinging on the top of the trench. All waiting for the officer to blow the whistle knowing that as they climbed the ladder to the top of the trench some of them would be instantly killed, my grandfather told me that even with them knowing this no-one faltered and up that ladder they went.

He was 6' 6" tall and cut himself out a special place when they were in the trenches, one day when he came back from a sortie, someone was using my grandfathers special cutout, my grandfather commented to the other soldier but he stayed in my grandfathers cutout. As my grandfather moved along the trench a shell exploded above his cutout and the occupant was killed.



Pte. George Palmer MSM. 30th Coy Labour Corps

George Palmer was my grandfather who died in the year of my birth 1949. As a child I was told that he won his medal saving the life of a fellow soldier who had fallen into a frozen river in 1917. I love to be able to confirm this but in any event would welcome any details as to where and if his battalion saw action during WW1.



L/Cpl Albert Arthur Wykes 2nd Btn. Black Watch (d.18th Jun 1917)

Albert Wykes was a 2nd Cousin of my wife. It would appear he served in the Royal Field Artillery No 99081 and also the Royal Highlanders (Black Watch) No s/10238. He is shown as having died from his wounds.

Can anybody explain why he would have served in 3 different Regiments? I understand that some men who had been wounded or were unfit for Front Line Duty transferred to the Labour Corps, but I am unable to work out in which order he served in the RFA and the Royal Highlanders and how would a cockney come to be in the Black Watch, any suggestions please.

Editor's Note: As Albert's record on CWGC shows him as being with the Black Watch, and transferred to the 13th Coy Labour Corps, it is reasonably safe to assume that he was with the Artillery as his first unit. It is quite common for men to serve with more than one unit, if injured and taken out of the front line for treatment, their place in the regiment would have to be filled by another man to maintain unit strength. On returning to duty they would be assigned to which ever unit required additional personne, so the regional identity of the regiments soon became muddled. Or a man with specialist skills might be transferred from one unit to another if there was a shortage of skilled men in another unit. The Labour Corps was largely made up of men who were not fully fit for front line fighting, so it is possible that Albert was injured or taken ill whilst with the Black Watch and transferred to the Labour Corps for a period of recovery.



Pte. William Cannadine The Labour Corps

William Cannadine was my grandfather and he served in The Labour Corps during the First World War. Sadly he died in 1946 aged 50, after a very long illness, never having met any of his grandchildren. We know very little about him and even though 2 of his children are still alive we have never even seen a photo of him. We would love to find out some information about him if possible.



Gnr. William Hardy 1st Lowland Battery Royal Garrison Artillery

William was my Granddad. He died before I was born but had survived the War. He joined up in August 1914 serving with the 1st Lowland Battery and suffered a shrapnel wound to his right leg on 28/3/1918 which shattered bone. On his discharge from hospital William was transferred to Unit 185 Labour Company where he remained until the end of the war. He "proceeded to Purfleet for Demob" on 12.01.1919 (Long Service). His date of transfer to reserve is listed as 17.02.1919 This is about as much as I could glean from Grandad's service records. Most of the records were held at the War Office Building at Arnside Street in London which was destroyed by fire resulting from a German air raid in 1940. Well over half the records there were lost and many that did survive were damaged by smoke and water (as with my grandad's). Happily, part of his record had been copied to the Pensions Office - I obtained copies of the burnt and unburnt records via Ancestry.co.uk.



Pte. William Frederick Sinclair Welsh Regiment

Enlisted 10th March 1911 Entered Theatre of War France 16th Jan 1915, discharged due to wounds 21 August 1919. He was married with one son also named William Frederick Sinclair,born 1911. After the War he never returned home and joined the Fleetwood Fishing Fleet serving on the MV 'Rachel' registered at Fleetwood. He complained of constant 'Gas' attacks to the crew, unfortunately whilst docked at Milford Haven on the 25 August 1924 other crew members heard him complain of a 'Gas' attack he went up top and was being sick when they heard a splash and he disappeared believed having fallen over board. After a search his body was found the next day. An inquest was held on the 4th September 1924 and a decision of accidental death was recorded with the War being a contributing factor. A very sad and familiar story of a regular Soldier stationed in India before the War who went to war and suffered as a result of 'the Gas'unfortunately his son (my father) never knew his father and I never knew my grandfather. It took many years to even trace who he was and where he went, I am still unable to trace where he was buried.

He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British war medal,Victory Medal I have never seen a photograph of him BUT through the search to trace him I have seen Photo's of his Grandfather.



Pte. Walter Underwood 4th Btn Hampshire Regiment

Before the war Walter worked as a Carter for the Urban Borough Council. He was married to Violet and had 9 children. He joined the army on 14/7/1916, joining the Hampshire Regiment before being transferred to the Labour Corps. He served in France from 14/8/1917 until 12/3/1919



Pte. Thomas Henry Humpherys West Yorkshire Regiment (d.11th Jul 1918)

Thomas Humpherys is the invisible man, son of Thomas Henry Humpherys and Mary R. Thomas Henry Humphreys was born in the year 1897, South East Holbeck Leeds West Yorkshire. There seems to be no death certificate or place of death given or cause. I have tried all avenues but noone seems to know anything.

Thomas was a Private Soldier in the 1914-18 War serving in the West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own). Regimental number 49025. He also served in a secondary Regiment called the Labour Corps, number 545169. This Labour Corps was formed in the year 1916 in Millington, France. Thomas died whilst on active service in France on the 11th of July 1918. Casualty type. Commonwealth War Dead General Number 6817.

It is possible he died in Ireland in the Mater Hospital. He is the son of Thomas Henry Humphrey's and Mary Rebecca Humphreys nee Atkinson. He is in Grave Number 6817 General Inscription Grave Holbeck Cemetery, Leeds, West Yorkshire.I have gone through the French B M D,+ Leeds B M D,to no avail can anyone help me close this? Did he die from the Flu epademic?

Leeds Holbeck Cemetery. This Cemetery’s locality is in Leeds, West Yorkshire within the United Kingdom. The Historical information highlights the use it was put to during the Great War in 1914-18.

The major hospitals in Leeds were the 2nd Northern General with 1,800 beds and the East Leeds War Hospital with 1900. Leeds was also one of the Principal hospital centres in Yorkshire during the Second World War. Leeds (Holbeck) Cemetery contains 65 First World War burials and 21 from the Second World War, all scattered. A Cross of Sacrifice stands by the cemetery entrance. The number of Identified Casualties is 86. The figures quoted include Foreign and Non World War Graves in CWGC care.

During the two World Wars, the United Kingdom became an island fortress used for training troops and launching land, sea, and air operations around the Globe. There are more than 170,000 Commonwealth war graves in the United Kingdom, many being those of service men and women killed on active service, or who later succumbed to wounds. Others died in training accidents, or because of sickness or disease. The graves many of them privately owned and marked by private memorials, will be found in more than 120,000 cemeteries and churchyards.

I have searched for 3 months. Nce Aspera Terrent.(Nor do difficuties deter)



Pioneer George Joseph "Joseph" Messenger 7 Labour Battalion

George Joseph Messenger was my great grandfather. He enlisted on 8th September 1915 and gave his age as 46. Later in his war papers he also gave his wife's name as Kate New and date of marriage as 16/07/1876. I have a copy of his marriage certificate which confirms this. I also have a copy of his birth certificate showing he was born on 24/12/1852 Therefore he must have been at least 62 years of age at enlistment and "pulled the wool" over the enlisting officers eyes. He embarked to France on 17th September 1915 and was returned home on 24/04/1916. He was discharged 02/06/1916 as no longer fit for active service - hardly surprising given his age. He was awarded 1914 -15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal



Pte. Herbert McKenzie 10th Btn. Royal West Surrey Regiment (d.8th Oct 1917)

My Great-Grandfather Herbert McKenzie was born in Bury, Lancashire in 1885. He enlisted in the Cheshire Regiment 10th Battalion in 1916. He was transferred at some point to the 10th Queens' (Royal West Kents) and in October 1917 he was in the 118th Coy, Labour Corps.

He was killed by enemy artillery fire, south of Ypres on the 8th of Oct 1917 and is buried in Poperinghe New Military Cemetery.



Sgt. William Riding South Lancashire Regiment

So far I have found out, with the help of my dad, about my great grandfather, William Riding. On the 8th Jan 1890 he had a medical at Warrington & was pronounced fit for service in the South Lancashire Regiment at the age of 20. Regiment number 2990. Prior to this he had spent 83 days with the Liverpool Regiment 3rd Battalion . He was appointed L/corporal on 28.4.1891, Corporal 13.4.1892, Lance Sergeant 3.9.1895 and Sergeant on 6.2.1896. During this time he served in Gibralter, Malta, Egypt, India & South Africa. He was then transferred to the reserve 7.11.1897 being recalled on 13.11.1899 for the 2nd Boar War. He sailed on R.M.S Canada on the 1.12.1899 arriving at the Cape around the 20.12.1899 with the 1st Batt South Lancashire Regiment. With them was the 2nd Royal Lancaster, 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers & 1st York & Lancaster Regiment. They formed the 11th Brigade under Major General Woodgate & where part of the 5th Division under Lt General Sir Charles Warren. In 1902 he was discharged on completion of 12 years service.

On the 7th September 1914 he had a medical at Southport & again passed fit for service in the South Lancashire Regiment, Regiment number 627154. He joined as a Private but on the same day he was promoted to Corporal then Sergeant. He was posted to Seaford near Brighton with the 10th Battalion.

He was posted to France on the 1.12.1914. He was then transferred to the Chinese Labour Corps 5.12.1918 & discharged from active service on 22.3.1919 as no longer physically fit from Stoke on Trent Military Hospital. He was 49 years old when he finally finished military service having served over 16 years.



Driver Hugh Quigley 9th Divisional Ammunition Column Royal Field Artillery

Dedicated to my great grandfather, Hugh Quigley, born in Govan, Lanarkshire on 29th September 1883 and died in Glasgow on 29th October 1955. On the 23rd June 1915 Hugh enlisted with Royal Field Artillery - Regimental Number: 96527 - Rank: Driver. On the 20th November 1915 Hugh was sent with the British Expeditionary Forces to France. On the 21st March 1918 Hugh suffers mild gunshot wound to face and is taken to hospital in Le Treport then to a hospital in Havre. On the 28th May 1918 Hugh is transferred to the Labour Corps - Regimentall Number: 580865 - Rank: Driver. On the 18th April 1919 Hugh is demobilized with a Class 5 Pension. Disability: Gunshot Wound to Face and Neurasthenia (shell shock). Before enlisting Hugh was employed as an Iron Forge Furnaceman and also a Dock Labourer, when he left the Army one of his first jobs was a Ship Stoker onboard SS Nortonian at Vercruz in Mexico the ship belonged to the Leyland Steamship Company.



Sgt. Joseph Edward Goode MM. 6th Battalion London Regiment

My grandfather, Joseph Goode enlisted in "The Cast Iron" Sixth (also known as the Printers Pals) on the 6th September 1914 at the age of 34. From the 3/6th (Reserve Batt) he was absorbed into the 1/6th as an Acting Sergeant on the 19th April 1916. Within 3 weeks he was a full Sergeant and by November he was Acting Quarter Master Sgt (A/QMS) in "D" Company. He relinquished the "cushy" post in January 1917 and reverted to Sgt.

The verbal family history is that he won the Military Medal for capturing six drunk Germans. In fact his was one of 14 MM's that were awarded for the most successful raid in the whole of WW1. A total of 24 medals were awarded for the capture of 1 Officer, 117 ORs and 5 machine guns, and the destuction of 3 mine shafts and the opposing trenches south of Hill 60 in the Ypres Salient. The Battalion suffered 76 casualties including 14 killed and 2 missing. As the action took place on the 20th Feb 1917 and weeks were spent practicing behind the lines it would seem that Grandad gave up the A/QMS role to be in on the raid.

He stayed with the 1/6th until they were disbanded in February 1918 and spread around other Battalions. He was posted to the the 2/6th and was with them when the Germans launched their last ditch attack on the 21st March. On the 4th April the Battalion was in support of the Australian outside Villiers Bretonneux and were called forward to fill a gap in the line and it was during this action that Granddad Goode got his "Blighty wound" a shrapnel injury to his left hand, right arm and head. On the 16th he was back in England at No. 1 War Hospital, Reading from where he was discharged on the 1st June.

He was then passed fit and returned to the Reserve Battalion but not for front line infantry service and in November was transferred to 358 Coy. Labour Corp escorting prisoners of war. Because of his meritous service he was allowed to keep his infantry rate of pay. He was demob'ed on the 14th Feb 1919 and was awarded 6s-6d (65p) a week for 52 weeks for his injuries. He died in 1947 when I was 8 years old and as the eldest son of the eldest son I should have inherited his medals but the story goes he gave them away to one of his drinking mates. I do however have his Gold half-hunter watch that was presented to him by his employer for winning the Military Medal.



Sjt. Paul Airson 19th Btn. Durham Light Infantry

19th Durham Light Infantry

Paul Airson was a miner, he enlisted at Hartlepool on the 1st of March 1915, requesting to join "Bob's Durham Bantams", he is described as being 5 feet 2 inches tall and 29 years old. He was married with two young daughters and a son. He emarked for France from Southampton on the 31st of January 1916. He returned to Britain suffering from Influenza and was later transferred to 188th Coy. Labour Corps and returned to France, possibly based at Bologne.



Daniel Storey Labour Corps

Daniel Storey was my maternal grandfather, who unfortunately I never met. He died in 1939 of Rheumatoid Arthritis. When she was a child, my mother remembered him as an invalid. According to her mother, Daniel went to France or Belgium immediately after the First World War to 'bury the dead'. I've since discovered his service record which shows he did this in 1920. Apparently the sights he witnessed were truly appalling, and he came back from Europe a changed man. The family attributed the onset of his condition to the trench gases.



BQSM. William Henry Walker Royal Field Artillery

William Henry Walker was born in 1871 - he served in the RFA from 1892 to 1906, during which time he served in India from 10 Oct 1894 to 8 April 1900. He married in 1894 before he left and his bride waited at home for 6 years. Her father was also in the Army and they had met at the church in the Barracks in Woolwich. Their first four children were born in Ireland, two in Fermoy and two in Cork. In 1906 he left the army and returned back to Sheffield, where he and his wife raised another three children.

When WW1 broke out he was called up as a special reservist - the family say he said he would rejoin if he could get his old rank back and the authorities agreed if he passed fit. He was 48 years 169 days old when he reenlisted. He was in England with the 1st Division RFA until 29th of August 1914 and during that time he was made up from driver to corporal on the same day he enlisted. By the end of August 1914 he was promoted to sargent.

On the 24th of October 1914 he was then transferred to the 13th Division then attached to the 209 Bh(?) on the 26th. On the 9th of Feb 1915 he was promoted to BQMS with the 66th Bde. On the 14 June 1915 his record says he was serving in Mesopotamia but the statement of service says posted 9th Sept 1916 so I am a little confused here? He left Mesopotamia on the 26th Jan 1916 and was sent to Egypt where he stayed until 5 Nov 1916.

On the 5 Nov 1916 they were sent to Salonika where he stayed until 25 March 1919 and was serving back in England between 26 March 1919 and 24 April 1919 (But the military history sheet says he embarked for England on the 11 March 1919 - so once more I am confused?) It would also seem that he was transferred to the Labour Corps on the 12 Jan 1918 and there is a note before this saying classified PB 25th Oct 1917 - (I have no idea what this means?)

He had served with the Royal Artillary a total of 14 years 12 days which of course qualified him for a pension. I find it amazing that he survied the complete WW1 and returned to his family, obviously well and fit as he went on to father two more children.

He died on the 13 Sept 1944 - I am currently trying to put together a family history book for him and am investigating what battles were fought and gathering illustrations when and where I can.

John alfred henry, William Henry, Jane Alice, Jane Alice Elizabeth. Taken in Ireland possibly Fermoy prior to leaving in 1906

This was taken between 1915 (when he was promoted to Sargent) and 1917 when the girl to the far right died.



Pte. Frederick Fox 23rd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers (d.28th Sep 1918)

Frederick Fox was born and enlisted in Sheffield. He was a wartime enlistee joining the Lancashire Fusiliers in 1917. Posted to France in 1918 he joined the Labour Corps. He then moved to 23rd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers in May 1918 as it became part of the 40th Division. He was involved in the Final Battles of Flanders being wounded near Nieppe on the River Lys. He died from his wounds and is buried at La Kreule Military Cemetery near Hazebrouck.



Sgt. Thomas Woodward Labour Corps

I want my great uncle, Thomas Woodward, to be remembered because as a man with a crippled foot he could have used it as a very good excuse to avoid the war altogether, but he didn't. The Labour Corps was vital to the war effort and they were working for days in dangerous environments, going ahead of the troops, preparing the way. It could be a thankless and underrated task.

Tom was born in 1887 in West Derby, Liverpool, but had Irish blood in his veins through his mother. He was, according to the 1911 census, a labourer in Bibby's Oil Cake Mills and lived in 42 Webb Street. He had four brothers and five sisters, 2 of those brothers died in two of the bloodiest battles of WW1; the Somme (Deville Wood - 1916) and Passchendaele (the 3rd Battle of Ypres - 1917).

He joined up in 1914 at the age of 27 and survived through to the end. Tom went back to the family home in Liverpool, he never married and finally passed away in 1969 at the grand old age of 81 and a half. Unfortunately, we are unable to get any real intimate details of his army service, we only have a half burnt attestation.



CSM.. Percy Shaw DCM. 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade

My grandfather, Percy Shaw enlisted at Sandown, Isle of Wight on 2nd June 1894. He was initialy sent to Penninsular Barracks in Winchester and then, after training posted, funnily enough, to the 1st Battalion at Parkhurst Barracks on the Isle of Wight. After postings to Malta and Singapore his battalion was posted to South Africa. His battalion were involved in much fighting throughout the Boer war including the relef of Ladysmith (Mentioned In Despatches), Tugela Heights, Colenso and the battle of Monte Cristo. It was while defending a baggage train (F company-v-300 Boers)that he was wounded and put forward for the D.C.M. The medal being gazetted in 1900. He was wounded one more time before the battalion was sent back to U.K. in 1902. Then followed what appears to be the normal round of peactime postings one of which was Dublin.

Then four million Germans came over the horizon!! Still with F compny, 1 Rifle Brigade he embarked for France. My mum, his second daughter, being born at Colchester Garrison 2 weeks after he left. The Battalion's actions during the War are a matter of record. During an action near Mons he rescued an officer who was wounded on a bridge and still under fire, a recomendation was made for a V.C. but the officer concerned died at the regimental aid post and the rules then were an officer must witness the deed or action. After being wounded twice more he was posted at the end of hostilities to the Labour Corps finally being repatriated to the U.K. from Le Havre in 1919 when he was reunited with the four and a half year old daughter he had never seen.

He continued in the Army serving 25 yrs and 65 days. He then worked at the Army School of Equitation untill ill health forced him to retire in 1933. He died in Worthing in 1936. And as of this date 30 January 2012 the daughter he never saw untill she was nearly 5 is still alive and is 97.



Capt. Daniel Coghlan 8th Btn. Royal West Surrey Regiment

Records found to date show that Daniel Coghlan enlisted as a private in the Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment and was sent to France on 23rd February with the British Expeditionary Force. He applied for a commission in April 1917 and was commissioned to the rank of 2nd lieutenant in July 1917 at which time he was transferred to the 116th Labour Corp., Bologne. He was promoted to the rank of acting Captain in July 1918. Records show service in Bologne, Passchendale and Flanders. The records go on to state that when the war ended, he commanded a company of men who were charged with the task of exhuming the bodies of soldiers who had been buried in the field and re-interring them in the official war graves. This company was the 126th Labour Corps which was subsequently re-named "E" Company, Graves Registration and Enquiries in January of 1921. He was de-mobbed in France on 31st March 1921 and given the rank of full Captain. In 1923 he went back to Belgium and married a girl from Poperinghe that he had met during the war. They were married in Ypres Town Hall and he took her back to Ireland with him. He was to become a King's Messenger and to serve as military attache in Paris , Brussels and Petrograd. He was awarded the O.B.E., Croix de Guerre and French Medaille d'Honneu.



Pte Michael Mooney 8 Bn Yorks. Regt

Enlisted Sept 1914 from Smith's Dock as part of 'Pals Battalion'. Wounded and awarded Silver Wound Badge. Transfered to Labour Corps (change of number) (1917?). Holder of 'Pip. Squeak and Wilfred'. Bn trained near Tring Herts. Served on Western front (France/Belgium 1915 to 1918). Discharged to Y List 1919.



Pte. Harry "Bill" Fleming 12th Battalion Royal Fusiliers

Harry Fleming was my father. He served throughout WW1. He was with the 12th (Service) Battalion Royal Fusiliers from 1914 until they were disbanded in 1918. He then served in another RF Battalion and then in the Labour Corps, eventually returning from France/Belgium in July 1919. He fought at Loos, Arras, the later part of The Somme, Messines, and at the Third Battle of Ypres. Harry survived the war and died in 1954. I have been researching 12RF for over a decade and have many thousands of items in my archives and am happy to share the information with anyone connected with 12RF.



Pte. Kenyth Westley Rider 2nd Battalion Essex Regiment

Kenyth Westley Rider was my grandfather, I did not know him that well as he died when I was a child and suffered a terrible stammer brought on from shell shock. According to the military records he enlisted into the Essex Regiment on 6th September 1914 and was posted to the 3rd battalion. On 9th October 1914 he was then posted to the 12 battalion before finally being posted to the 2nd battalion on 27th July 1915. I understand he was mobilised for France on the same day. He was later transferred to the labour corps on 15th July 1918 (33rd prisoner of war company) and them moved into the reserve on 15th June 1919 before being discharged on 31st March 1920. I understand he served in France between 27th July 1915 - 17th May 1919.



Pte. James Henry "Jas" Rilley 18th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles (d.14th Feb1918)

This is my great grandfather's story, he was 39 years old and was married with eight children, one of these children was my granny (Annie Rilley)

"Mrs. J. H. Rilley, 114 Mill Street, New­townards, has received news, but so far non-official, of the death at the front of her husband, Private J. H. Rilley, of the 183rd Labour Company, who originally enlisted in May, 1916. On being transferred to the Labour Company he proceeded to the Front in March, 1917, with which com­pany he was until he made the supreme sacrifice, leaving behind his wife and eight young children.

He was for three or four years before enlisting a labourer in the employment of Mr. Robt. M’Burney, Ballyhenry, Comber. His mother resides in Killyleagh. Rev. Roland H. Streatfield, C.F., writing to Mrs. J. H. Rilley states that on the morning of 15th February he received a message that the Labour Company had been shelled on the previous night, and several men hit, among whom was her husband. He was sure she would prefer to hear from him rather than have the news sent to her on a formal War Office notification. Her husband’s death was absolutely instan­taneous, so he never suffered at all. All his officers and comrades spoke highly of him, and I realise that the company has lost one of its best soldiers. He was buried in a quiet little cemetery with military honours, the Union Jack cover­ing him, and his comrades at the grave­side sang “Abide with Me” and “Sun of my soul” as his remains were lowered to their last resting place,” which would be marked with a neat wooden cross, on which his name and date of death would be inscribed. He hoped to get the grave photographed later. He accorded his deepest sympathy with Mrs. Rilley and her children."

Captain H. E. Vivian Kynak also writes, telling Mrs. Rilley that her husband, Private J. H. Rilley (No. 109,545), of his company, was instantaneously killed by heavy shell fire. Private Rilley was very popular with all his comrades, and a brave and honest soldier. He asked Mrs. Rilley to accept his sincere sympathy, and requested her acceptance of a cheque. Lieutenant Edwin M. Kemp, of the same company, writes describing the de­tails of Private Rilley’s death as above. In Private Rilley, he adds, they had an excellent and willing worker; in fact, one of the best, and his loss was keenly felt by all ranks. After expressing deep sympathy with Mrs. Rilley and family he concludes, “I assure you that his memory will always beheld sacred by all who knew him, for he lead a life to the full.

The Chronicle 23rd March 1918 page 5

For King and Country

Rilley. Killed in action on 14th February, 1918, Private James H. Rilley, 183rd Labour Company, dearly-beloved husband of Mary E. Rilley, 114 Mill Street, Newtownards. Deeply regretted by his sorrowing Wife and little Children

The Chronicle, 20th April, 1918 page 1.



Pte. Joseph Cecil Warren 3rd Battn Kings Own Scottish Borderers

Joseph Warren's war record shows he was with the BEF, being sent to France 15.6.1916. He was wounded 29.9.1915 and sent to Lord Derby Hospital Warrington. Joseph returned to the front and was again wounded (gassed) on the 28th of June 1916 and evacuated from France via Etaples (Le Torquet) via 24th General Hospital on the 1st of July 1916.



Pte. Thomas William King 12th Btn. Suffolk Regiment

Tommy King was my wonderful father who was born in Bermondsey (London's East End) on March 25th 1894. He was educated at Holy Trinity Church school and his mother, Elizabeth King (nee Carr), cleaned the church most of her adult life. His father, John James King, was a Hop Porter. Dad used to talk about Peak Freans, Oxo etc. who were based in the East End too. Dad worked at some time on the docks. He was also (after the war) a wood block floor layer with a firm called Hollis Brothers from London.

Because he was scarcely five feet tall I suspect that he was in the Bantams. Following a brief period of training dad was sent to France in about October 1916 and was posted to Loos. He was severely injured when a grenade went off in his hand causing severe damage to his back and side, and the loss of a finger. Following emergency first aid on the front line he was brought back to England and spent some time at the Red Cross Convalescent home at Newlands Corner,near Guildford. From there he went with other soldiers to Shoreham. When the military staff considered that he was fit enough again they put him to work in the Labour Corps.



Pte. Thomas Wilson Royal Marine Labour Corps

Thomas Wilson served with the Royal Marine Labour Corps, he was wounded and received the silver war badge.



Pte. Walter Oldershaw 4th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders

My grandfather, Walter Oldershaw, enlisted in 1915 at the age of 38 years old. He was sent to France to the front, where I don't know.

He was wounded and then transferred to the Labour Corp. What did the Labour Corp do? Where did they operate? He remained in France until, I think, 1919. He died in 1941 I was 2 years old.



Pte. John Alexander Spence Clint 9th Btn Highland Light Infantry

My father, John Alexander Spence Clint, first served in WWI with the Glasgow 9th Battalion Highland Light Infantry (he referred to it as the Boozy Fourth!). At some point, he was sent back from France to a hospital in Bradford, W Yorkshire, to be patched up, but whether wounded or suffering from "shell shock" is undetermined. He was then sent back to France to serve with the Labour Corps 12-12-1915. He was discharged 31-10-1918. He received a small pension, but though up until he died at the age of 60 and his hands shook so that he could not hold a cup of tea without spilling it, he was considered by the pensions board to be a "malingerer," with the threat of his pension being reduced or cut off. Between 1918 and 1943 he did not have steady employment, until he got a job as an engine slinger during WWII, at which he worked until his death in 1952. My father was a quiet, gentle soul, and I can just imagine how his experiences in WWI, trench warfare, shell bombardment, etc., must have played havoc on his mental/emotional well-being. Go to Google and read how over 300 soldiers were shot, though most were likely suffering from shell-shock and the hazards of warfar were just too much for them. I think we have come a long way in understanding post traumatic stress as it is referred to nowadays.



Pte. James Francis Slavin 5/6th Btn. Scottish Rifles

Private James Slavin No 17182 of the 5/6th Scottish Rifles was one of a large number of men who were wounded during a very heavy shrapnel bombardment on the 17th July 1916. They had withdrawn to positions 1,000 yards behind the village of Bazentin Le Petit and taken shelter in some small caves scooped out of a high bank. Packed in 2 or 3 men to each cave it offered some shelter from the rain, but they could not pull their legs, then the bombardment started and moved down the line hitting man after man.

Private Slavin was moved to Rouen and eventually sent back to Scotland. He was never able to bend his leg again. Transferred to the Labour Corps he was invalided out of the Army in October 1917.

Information gathered from; The Hell They Called High Wood by Terry Norman, Bazentin Ridge by Edward Hancock and A Very Unimportant Officer. Diaries of Captain A Stewart 5/6th Scottish Rifles 1915/1918. A photograph in the book by Edward Hancock on page 146 and 147, taken on the 16th July 1916 south east of Bazentin Village shows a large body of men settling in to caves on a high bank. Believe this to be his regiment in the location that they to be wounded in.



Pte. William Walraven Labour Corps

William Walraven was my great grandfather. I never knew much of him as my father and was put into care at a young age and there is nothing known of the Walraven family I am trying to find out information about him or his service history. If anyone can help please contact me.



Pte. Herbert James Flack 27th Coy. Labour Corps

I am the grandaughter of Herbert James Flack and looking for his army record I came across this article from the New Statesman dated 29th October 1918. It was a question asked in Parliament by private notice:

Mr. Alden (by private notice) asked the Secretary of State of War whether he was aware that private H.J. Flack, 121 Durham Rd, White Hart Lane, Tottenham now attached to 27 Labour Corp, No 47695 formerly No 2242 19th Middlesex Regiment who was discharged in 1914 and joined up again on 22 April 1915 and has served in France since 1 August 1916 has lost 1 eye and that the other is very seriously affected, so he is almost blind and cannot see at night. He also has a compound fracture of the leg which unfits him for active service, that he has 7 children at home, 1 who is paralysed and whether he is aware that the man under orders to leave for France Wednesday and what action he proposes to take. Mr.Macpherson's instruction have been issued that Private Flack should not be sent overseas pending a further medical exam, which will be arranged shortly.

I lived with my grandparents as my Dad was in the 2nd World War and my Mum looked after them as Nan was frail and Gramps could not see far.



Pte. Charles Henry Walker 6th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment

My great uncle Charles Henry Walker enlisted in Middlesbrough on the 26th August 1914 as Private 11228, 6th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. He arrived in France on the 12th of July 1915, was wounded on the 27th of October 1915 and again on the 11th of July 1916. He transferred to the Labour Corps (397879).



Pte. Walter Arthur Wright 23rd Inf. Labour Coy. Labour Corps (d.4th May 1918)

Walter Wright was my Grandfather. He joined as a private in March 1917. He would have been aged 39 at that time. He was sent to France and was present during the Battles of Arras, Vimy Ridge, Bullecourt and Ypres (III), and was gassed on the Somme. He was invalided to Scotland, but unfortunately died in May 1918 as a result of gas poisoning. This is all the information I have found. I have not been able to trace his service records.



Pte. Charles Pinder Bennett 6th. Batallion Royal Sussex Regiment

My Grandfather, Charles Pinder Bennett, (b.1876 d.1944) joined the Royal Sussex regt. June 15th. 1916 and was then transferred to 6th Batallion SLI 24th October 1916. He received gun shot wounds to his face abdomen and thigh on 21st October 1917

He was then classified as permanent base and transferred to 74th company Labour Corps from 27th November 1917 I woulld be grateful if you could give me any further information



Rflm. Arthur Henry Gurr 12th Btn. London Regiment

Arthur Henry Gurr my Grandfather, was born January 1892 in Camberwell, London and attended Boundary Lane School in Southwark. He began his working life as an ‘envelope addresser’. Arthur enlisted in the 12th London Regiment and it seems likely from available documents and photographs that he was in No.10 Platoon, C Company. The Battalion was transferred to Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire and occupied huts at Longbridge Deverill. They were engaged in training and digging trenches for an artillery practice range and earned "an enhanced reputation for good work and soldierly conduct under discomfort". On 5th February 1917 the Battalion left for France and by the 14th they joined Battalions of the 146th Infantry Brigade who were holding the front line in front of Bailleulmont.

Early Autumn 1917 saw the Battalion advancing to the Yser Canal, Ypres. The Battalion moved up to assembly positions on the 25th September preparatory to the attack on the ridge N.E. of St. Julien. This being part of the Third Battle of Ypres. Following a heavy artillery barrage on the morning of the 26th September at 0530hrs ‘B’ Company of the 12th London’s advanced with the 2/9th London’s (Queen Victoria Rifles) The 2/9th found it difficult to maintain the correct direction due to heavy fog, boggy ground and taking heavy fire from a German trench and machine guns in a nearby pillbox. There were many casualties. They pressed on, neutralising both positions. However they stopped 1/4 mile short of their objective. ‘B’ Company of the 12th took its objective but having failed to make contact with the 2/9th Battalion pulled back to secure its flanks. Arthur and his comrades of ‘C’ Company went ‘over the top’ at 0611hrs and were tasked with attacking an enemy pillbox positioned on the ridge. ‘C’ Company was "magnificently led" by Captain Hardy, and after a sharp fight captured the German pillbox, together with "numerous prisoners". The action of Rifleman Ratcliffe was noted as "exceptional" having found himself in charge of the remnants of No 10 Platoon, being one of only four survivors (another being Arthur) collected a few men who had strayed from another Battalion (possibly 2/9ths), including a Company Sergeant Major and a Lewis Gun party and took up a position covering the flank of his Company. Together with the remaining No 10 Platoon men this disparate group held the flank with the aid of a captured German machine gun. Rifleman Ratcliffe was awarded the Military Medal. Communication with Battalion HQ was achieved by 22 year old Lance-Corporal Fred Aldridge within 15 minutes of ‘C’ Company reaching its objective (see the related post on this web site).

A family story has it that Arthur was at some point gassed and had also suffered a hernia carrying a Lewis Gun ‘over the top’. It may have been due to Arthur’s medical problems that in about February 1918 he was transferred to the Labour Corps. Arthur survived the War and returned to the printing trade. In 1926 he married Annie Neaves, whose brother James, an Artillery Gunner, had been killed near Ypres in 1918. Arthur died in Lambeth, London in 1943 at the age of 51.



L/Cpl. John Neilen 6th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment (d.28th Aug 1918)

John Neilen's Medal Index Card

John Neilen enlisted in the 6th Btn Lincolnshire Regiment and was transferred to the Labour Corps and given No. 26432. (This was usually due to illness or wounds leaving soldier unfit for front line service.) It is not known at what date he was transferred to the Labour Corps but it was set up in January 1917. Almost all records were destroyed in the Blitz during WW2 and it is almost impossible as few if any war diaries exist and those that do rarely name other ranks. He was the son of James Neilen of 111 Western Road, Jarrow and the late Elllen Neilen nee Finnegan. On the 1911 census form he is shown as a boarder at 48 Monkton Road, Jarrow, single aged 22 and working as a General labourer in the shipyard.

John was promoted to Lance Corporal and died on the 28th August 1918. He is remembered on Palmers Cenotaph and is buried in Beaurains Road Cemetery.



Pte. Michael Farrell 5th Btn. Durham Light Infantry



Pte. George Charlton Labour Corps

George Charlton was aged 33 when he died on 25th January 1921. He served with the Labour Corps. Born and living in Jarrow, he was the husband of Mary Charlton of 55 Charles Street Jarrow. George is buried in Jarrow Cemetery.



CSM. Joseph Henry Hughes 5th Btn. Durham Light Infantry (d.1919)

My grandfather Joseph Henry Hughes transferred from DLI 5Th Reg to the Labour Corps, I have been trying to find out why. Unfortunately, all of his history seem to have died with him. Any help would be appreciated.

Editor's note: Such a transfer was usually the result of an injury or illness which rendered him unfit to return to an infantry unit.



Pte. John Thomas Coulson 2nd/6th Btn. Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (d.18th Sep 1918)

John Coulson died aged 21 whilst serving with the Labour Corps, he had previously served with the 2nd/6th Btn Cameronians. He was born at Hebburn Quay, son of Thomas and Elizabeth Coulson of 12 Station Lane, Hebburn New Town. On the 1911 census he is recorded as John Thomas Coulson age 13 at School living with his mother Elizabeth Coulson and family at 36 Charles Street back, Hebburn Enlisted Newcastle.

John is buried in Hebburn Cemetery and is commemorated on the Palmer Cenotaph (south face) Jarrow.



Pte. Andrew Henderson 109th Coy Labour Corps. (d.9th/10th August 1918)

Andrew Henderson was 28 when he died. Born in Jarrow in 1890, he was the son of Andrew and Mary A. Henderson (nee Boyle) of 57 Monkton Road Jarrow. Andrew Henderson age 23 Labourer in Steelworks is with his parents Andrew and Mary A. Henderson at 19 Cambrian Street, Jarrow on the 1911 census. He enlisted at Newcastle.

Andrew is buried in Gonnehem British Cemetery. He is commemorated on the Palmer Cenotaph (plaque on west face) Jarrow and on the Triptych in St. Paul's Church Jarrow.



Pte. Edward Balmer First Labour Company Royal Irish Regiment (d.18th Mar 1917)

Edward Balmer was formerly 8631, Royal Irish Rifles. He died in Flanders.





No Labour, No Battle: The Labour Corps in the First World War

John Starling & Ivor Lee


From 1917 British Soldiers who were unfit or too old for front line service were to serve unarmed and within the range of German guns for weeks or even months at a time undertaking labouring tasks. The vital, yet largely unreported role played by these brave soldiers was crucial to achieving victory in 1918. For this book John Starling and Ivor Lee have brought together extensive research from both primary and secondary sources. It traces how Military Labour developed from non-existent in 1914, to a Corps in November 1918 some 350,000 strong, supported by Dominion and foreign labour of more than a million men. The majority of the Labour Corps did not keep war diaries, therefore this work provides vital information for those wishing to acquire information about an ancestor who served in the Corps.





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