Labour Battalion / Canada WW1




 
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June 29th, 2012  
El Zippo
 
 

Topic: Labour Battalion / Canada WW1


Does anybody have ANY information about what the Canadian Labour Battalion was and what role did it play @ Vimy?
My Great Grandfather was in this battalion and died in 1917 and I have been trying to figure out what the Labour Battalion's job might have been.
Could they have been another term used for Engineers ?
June 29th, 2012  
MontyB
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by El Zippo
Does anybody have ANY information about what the Canadian Labour Battalion was and what role did it play @ Vimy?
My Great Grandfather was in this battalion and died in 1917 and I have been trying to figure out what the Labour Battalion's job might have been.

Could they have been another term used for Engineers ?
My understanding is that they were the labour branch of the Engineering corps, they were basically employed to build and maintain the huge network of roads, railways, canals, buildings, camps, stores, dumps, telegraph and telephone systems, etc, and also for moving stores, relied on horse, mule and human.

If you know what Battalion he was in their war diaries are available on line...

These cover the period 1 Jan 1917 to 13 Sept 1918

War diaries - 1st Infantry Works Battalion (formerly 1st Labour Battalion):
http://data4.collectionscanada.ca/ne...html&r=151&f=G

War diaries - 2nd Infantry Works Battalion (formerly 4th Labour Battalion)
http://data4.collectionscanada.ca/ne...html&r=152&f=G

Hope they help.
June 29th, 2012  
LeEnfield
 
 
One of my uncles in WW1 wound up in Labour Battalion. He had done some 30 years with the colours and when war broke out he signed on again and as he had turned 50 I think he got stuck in a labour battalion digging trenches and maintaining them and other tasks to give the younger men a bit of breather who were doing the fighting. Now they could have been doing a similar thing in the Canadian Army.
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June 29th, 2012  
El Zippo
 
 

Thanks guys, this being my first post and 2 responses is great. @ MontyB his death certificate states the 1st labour battalion. By what you tell me as being a branch of the Engineers and doing the jobs you mentioned makes sense since he was a Foreman with the Road-Works-Dept. for the City of Belleville, Ontario, Can. prior to the War.
Thanks again and thanks for the link to the diaries I will be checking them out now.
June 29th, 2012  
El Zippo
 
 
I have a pic of him on a Pony in France and also his "Dead Man's Penny" (shell casing stamped plaque) if anybody's interested?
June 29th, 2012  
MontyB
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by El Zippo
Thanks guys, this being my first post and 2 responses is great. @ MontyB his death certificate states the 1st labour battalion. By what you tell me as being a branch of the Engineers and doing the jobs you mentioned makes sense since he was a Foreman with the Road-Works-Dept. for the City of Belleville, Ontario, Can. prior to the War.
Thanks again and thanks for the link to the diaries I will be checking them out now.
I know very little about Labour Battalions but I would suggest they were more like contractors to the Engineers than Engineers, a lot of them had special skills such as Railway Construction, Road building, Tunnelling etc. so the Engineering Corps would have said we want a road built or repaired from point A to point B and these guys would have built/repaired it.

My understanding is that most of the casualties in these Battalions was from German artillery fire and aircraft as they repaired roads, communications and rail lines near the front to improve front line logistics.


Quote:
Originally Posted by El Zippo
I have a pic of him on a Pony in France and also his "Dead Man's Penny" (shell casing stamped plaque) if anybody's interested?
All information is interesting as it fills in knowledge most of us do not have and somewhere in the future it will probably help someone else out as well so it is worth posting.

June 30th, 2012  
El Zippo
 
 
@ MontyB, thanks again you helped me piece together a piece of history for me that I have wondered about for years ( how he died )
His name is on the second line at the end # 636793 private Bartlett C.H. killed by shell fire. I found it quite ironic that I was also a rail worker, mind you his work was way more dangerous obviously.
http://data2.collectionscanada.ca/e/e059/e001461780.jpg
On that day it says he's buried @ York House cemetery , but the Canadian war records has him buried @ La Laiterie Military Cemetery ( Belgium ) is it common practice to be moved ?
June 30th, 2012  
MontyB
 
 
At a guess and this is only a guess but I would suggest York House Cemetery may have been a local cemetery or one attached to the hospital he would have been taken to and later he was reburied in a Commonwealth military cemetery.

It is amazing what you can find online...


Birth: unknown
Death: Jul. 23, 1917

Inscription: Canadian Labour Corps

Note: 636793
Burial: La Laiterie Military Cemetery
Ypres (Ieper)
West Flanders (West-Vlaanderen), Belgium
Plot: X. A. 2.
Created by: International Wargraves ...
Record added: Nov 06, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial# 31191201

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg...&GRid=31191201&
June 30th, 2012  
MontyB
 
 
Interesting, here is a Canadian site which provides more information but some of it seems contradictory...

http://www.canadiangreatwarproject.c...il.asp?ID=6055



Slowly beginning to put together an idea of what the Labour Battalions were although information on Canadian units is hard to find it would appear that the British Labour Battalions eventually became the Royal Pioneer Corps...

Here is a write up on the British Labour Corps.

During World War I an initially non-combatant organisation was formed in 1917 called the Labour Corps. The initial need for labour units during WWI had been achieved with some 38 Labour Battalions established in 18 different infantry regiments, and a large number of Labour Companies from other infantry regiments.

In addition there were a good number of Labour Companies in the Royal Engineers and the Army Service Corps. All these became Labour Corps companies in the spring and summer of 1917.

The Labour Battalions and later the Labour Companies of the Labour Corps carried out a whole range of defence works duties in the UK and in overseas theatres, especially in France and Flanders. These included road and railway building/repair, moving ammunition and stores, load and unloading ships and trains, burial duties and at home agriculture and forestry.

When the Labour Corps was formed in mid-1917 it was decided that the men assigned to it from other regiments, often because of their reduced medical category, should change from their regimental badges to that of the General
Service Corps. Many of the men disliked having to wear this badge and preferred to retain their regimental identity.

Towards the end of 1918 the Labour Corps was granted their own badge - the piled pick, rifle and shovel emblem that was to become the badge of the Pioneer Corps (later Royal Pioneer Corps) of World War II.

Once it had been created, the Labour Corps was split into various Labour Groups, each consisting of a Headquarters and several Labour Companies. In addition there were Area Employment Companies, Area Employment (Artisan) Companies, Divisional Employment Companies, and Agricultural Companies.

A Divisional Employment Company, Labour Corps was assigned to a division and usually co-located with divisional HQ. The company establishment was two officers, one Company Quarter Master Sergeant, 270 NCOs and Privates, an Orderly Room Clerk and a Batman. The company role was a very varied one including running the divisional baths, laundry, cinema, stores, and officers mess as well as acting as divisional police and undertaking guard duty. Within the company there were specialists such as tailors, shoemakers, butchers and telephone operators.

By the end of the war the Labour Corps had strength of about 380,000 men stationed in the UK, in France and Flanders, Italy, Egypt and Salonika. In fact the size of the Corps reached its greatest of almost 400,000 in Jan 1919. This included about 240 Labour Companies in France and Flanders, with about thirty to fifty Labour Companies allocated to each of the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Armies, with a few kept aside as Lines of Communication units.

There were about the same number of companies serving elsewhere overseas at Area, Divisional, Corps and Army level as well as some 400 or so companies working in the UK. In late 1918 and early 1919 there were Labour Companies numbered from 1 to over 1000, with little evidence of their origin.

Although initially considered non-combatants, the British companies of the Labour Corps often performed their duties in forward areas, often under heavy fire. In the spring of 1918 the corps assumed combatant status for dealing with the last German Offensive of Mar 1918. Throughout the summer of that year the men of the Labour Corps units in the forward areas worked fully armed and some served as fighting soldiers when need arose.

However the vast majority of men continued to work in unarmed companies. Life in the Labour Corps could be as bad as that enjoyed by front line troops; they were often under continual shellfire for months at a time. Indeed 2,300 men
in the Labour Corps were either Killed in Action or Died of Wounds between May 1917 and the end of the war.

When the war ended in Nov 1918, the Labour Corps continued their support role and were also involved in salvage work, grave and burial registration and as PW guards.

The Labour Corps was disbanded late in 1919.
 


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