Military Labour During The First World War    


The Labour Corps were employed in Italy from June 1917 some four months before the British sent fighting soldiers support the Italian army. In Southern Italy Taranto was an important base as part of the supply route to Egypt and Salonika. The Labour coming from men of the Egyptian and Fijian Labour Corps and the British West Indies Regiment. With the end of the war the British sent troops into Turkey. To support these troops six British Labour Corps companies were transferred to Constantinople and the Black Sea area. Units of the Maltese Labour Corps and men recruited in Salonika also supported British troops in Turkey. There appear to be virtually no information about the use of military Labour during the campaign in North Russia in 1918 – 1919. The only Labour Corps troops appear to be men from the Russian Companies who were used as interpreters. The Slavo-British Legion, which had been established as a fighting force, was turned into a labour unit after it mutinied in July 1919.

Whilst more natives were employed during the East African campaigns than in any other theatre of war there is very little information about them, their work and their deaths. We have no accurate idea of how many men were employed or of the number that died. Official figures state there were 66,500 natives employed in East Africa in November 1918 whereas at least 800,000 natives were employed between 1914 and 1918. Most of these natives would have been used as porters (carriers) to carry the food, ammunition and supplies and move the artillery needed to support the Army. In 1914 carriers moved most goods through the African Bush, as the routes were impassable to ox wagons. As the war developed roads, bridges and huts had to be built by natives employed by the British.

The Military Labour Bureau was set up in February 1916 under Captain Oscar Watkins with a staff of 2 British officers and 4 NCOs for every 1,000 natives. A year the Bureau was renamed the Military Labour Corps with Colonel John Ainsworth, who was appointed Military Commissioner for Labour, succeeding Watkins.

In Egypt local natives under British R.E. supervision carried out tasks like building and maintaining roads, railways and water pipes. Unlike France the role of British labour troops in Egypt was primarily to undertake regimental duties and support hospitals, convalescent depots, the YMCA and as guards at PoW camps.

Prior to 1917 British labour was primarily found from some thirteen Garrison Battalions stationed in Egypt. Even when the Labour Corps was formed it only created companies for service in the U.K., France and Salonika. It was a decision of General Lawton in July 1917 to create Employment Companies in Egypt from men serving in the Garrison Battalions. Initially 16 Employment Companies were formed as part of the Labour Corps (companies 800 to 815). Little is known about these companies, as their records do not appear to have survived. Natives in the Egyptian Labour Corps who were commanded by British officers and N.C.O.s provided the vast majority of labour in Egypt. There were no accurate records of how many men served or died in the ELC.

Labor and World War I

The World War I has a deep signification for everyone around the globe as it is the first conflict at this level that impacted not only the people involved but also their descendants. The world has changed a lot since then but we still admire the people living those times for their courage. Looking beyond the aggressive war, it is interesting to briefly analyze the labor sector from that period.

Important facts in the history of Labor

Maybe the only advantage felt during the first war was the reduced unemployment rate. Most of the men were recruited for the military service leaving behind many vacancies which couldn’t be put on freeze until they were coming back. Given the instability of those times, women proved to be able to perform as well as men did in the same positions. In this way many gender stereotypes were broken and women earned a new position in the labor market. On the other hand there were many escorts at who were entertaining the soldiers while they were stopping by in the cities.

As we could see, women had unusual professions, such as firefighters, tram conductors or clerks. As for men, their military service was difficult to endure and long. Most of them were leaving for several months without knowing if they would come back. Therefore, when they had the chance to rest themselves in a city, such as Miami, they looked for the company of a Miami escort; this beautiful lady who would make them forget for a few moments about the war and to cherish the peace found in her company. They used to dance, listen to good music, play games and try the best local receipts.

Experiences of the World War I

Though the days spend with the Miami escort seemed to be too short, their energy as well as their good mood were empowering the soldiers to continue to fight with more courage. It’s hard to imagine the life of soldiers that were on duty during this war. They were spending months in trenches where the food was poor and the conditions limited, nearly under the bare necessities. However, the correspondence with their family was possible and this proved to be very important for their psychological support. When they were not fighting, they were doing the observations tasks or some heavy jobs.

Though everyone was working hard, the soldiers all over the world managed to create a sort of every day routine that contained the working hours, the meals and some moments of recreation. Meeting the lovely escorts was probably their favorite part of this routine which was kept until today for many gentlemen who want to spend their spare time in an enjoyable way. A small number of men were not soldiers but even those were working on the battle field as doctors or priests.

To conclude, the World War I has unexpectedly improved the labor market for women all over the globe and ensured working places in the army for almost all men able to fight. The consequences were disastrous for everyone though people have learned a lot about peace and love.