Name: Private Henry Fox
Date of Birth: 1899
Address: 105, Gibson Yard, Church Lane, Anstey
Joseph Henry Fox
Clara Fox d 1909
Stepmother: Ellen Smalley m 1917
Occupation before the war:
Elizabeth b 1883 | Sidney b 1896
Ruth b 1914 | Joseph Fox W b 1918 | Walter Henry b 1921 | Edith Fox N b 1923
Date Died: 17.2.1919
Place of Death: Winchester Military Hospital
Place of Burial/Memorial: Anstey Cemetery
Cause of death: Pneumonia
649th Agricultural Company
Any other information (e.g. Service Record/ appearance etc)
The Labour Corps 1917 – 1921
At the beginning of the Great War tasks such as moving stores, repairing roads, building defences were carried out by the fighting soldier when he was withdrawn from the Front Line for rest. As the war progressed and the army enlarged it was realised that far more men were needed and that this method meant the fighting man often returned to the Front tired and not rested.
So in 1917 the British Army’s Labour Corps was formed. Manned by men who were either ex-front line soldiers who had been wounded or taken ill or men who on enlistment were found to be unfit for front line service because of ill health or because they were too old.
By the end of the war in November 1918 the Labour Corps was some 400,000 strong (11% of the strength of the army). 9,000 men in the Labour Corps were to die serving their King and Country. In addition over 300,000 foreign labourers served alongside the British supporting the fighting soldier.
Despite this, until now, virtually nothing has been written about this forgotten Corps. For this reason Major John Starling, of the Royal Logistics Corps, and I are researching the Labour Corps and writing their history.
The men of the Labour Corps overseas undertook any labouring task required of them. They built and repaired roads and railways, built defences, laid electricity and telephones cables, moved ammunition and stores and buried the dead. Some Companies were used in Forestry or Quarrying Work or to guard Prisoners of War.
Other Companies looked after services in the towns and camps where the front line soldiers went for rest when not at the Front. These Companies were employed in the Divisional Baths, Laundry, de-lousing facility and at the Salvage Dump. They also provided men for guard duties, traffic control and catering duties as well as the Divisional Cinema and Theatre.
In France & Belgium the men of the Labour Corps worked unarmed within the range of German guns. A Company would often work for weeks or even months at a time in the most dangerous conditions with only one days rest in every seven.
Light Railways and Canals were vital for moving supplies
An important requirement of the military labour force was to lay and maintain the light and broad gauge railways as well as the road system. By the end of the War there were 2,340 miles of broad gauge and 1,348 miles of narrow gauge rail-line to maintain.
Men worked unarmed for weeks within the range of German guns
Death from enemy shelling was a common occurrence, the worst incident occurring on the night of 11 May 1918. 101 Company was laying cable in the FONQUEVILLERS area when attacked by German gas shells. As a result of this attack 3 Officers and 136 men were killed and a further 130 men gassed. Within a few days replacements had been sent to 101 Company and they were again working in the area.
Almost 175,000 men of the Corps served in the United Kingdom at military bases, in hospitals and in factories supporting the war effort. Almost 75,000 of these men were in the Labour Corp’s Agricultural Companies and worked on farms throughout the UK.