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Private 3/11796 William Maxwell. Served in the Durham Light Infantry. He was transferred to the Labour Corps (309496)  He fell on March 25 1918



The Labour Corps
During World War I, 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.
The Labour Corps, initially a non-combatant organisation, was formed in Apr 1917 absorbing the earlier infantry labour battalions (each as two labour companies) and labour companies from the RE and ASC. 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.
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 1,000, with little evidence of their origin.
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.
Photograph above: Pioneers of the 11/Liverpool enjoying an alfresco meal in exposed conditions near Ypres in December 1917

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