Labour Companies of the British Army in the Second World War

This article looks at the war-raised labour companies of the British Army which became companies of the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps shortly after their creation. This is one of a number of guides I have written to help you research Second World War soldiers:

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Labour Companies of the British Army in the Second World War

Following the outbreak of war in September 1939, the British Army quickly formed over fifty labour companies for work with the British Expeditionary Force in France. During the First World War, the Labour Corps had been created to provide manual and skilled labour but this had been disbanded not long afterwards. To form these new labour companies, the army initially used reservists, mostly from the infantry and cavalry. These were men who had completed a period of full-time service in the army before being transferred to the reserve. Thousands of these reservists found themselves serving in France with a labour company by the end of September. There was no set war establishment for these new companies and most had a strength of between 250 and 500. Each was given a designation consisting of a number followed by its proposed role, e.g. the No.10 Docks Labour Company and No.1 Railway Labour Company. However, you’ll need to consult the relevant war diary, listed below, to find out its actual role in France. Labour companies were transferred to the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps in October 1939.

The formation of the No.3 Ordnance Labour Company is typical of those companies raised in September. On 1 September, Lieutenant R. O. Betts arrived at the Infantry Training Centre of the Welch Regiment at Cardiff. This was the Regiment’s Depot. The next day two more officers arrived, including Major G. S. Moorhouse who would command the Company. On the 5th, 150 other ranks from the Welch Regiment, 75 from the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, and 100 other ranks from the Royal Welch Fusiliers joined. Another twenty-five soldiers from the South Wales Borderers and sixty from the Gloucestershire Regiment arrived the next day. All these soldiers were reservists from infantry regiments. Only a single soldier joined on the 7th, a Driver from the Royal Army Service Corps. On this date, the Company had a strength of three officers and 410 other ranks. A small number of soldiers left the Company to return to their units while it remained at Cardiff, while others joined. On 11 September, the Company left Cardiff for Southampton. After an uneventful crossing, the No.3 Ordnance Labour Company landed at Cherbourg on the 12th, less than ten days after Britain declared war. The Company was redesignated as the 21st Company Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps later in the year.

No.11 Works Company Royal EngineersSoldiers of the 33rd Company Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps enjoying their Christmas dinner at Rennes in 1939. This Company was raised as the No.11 Works Labour Company and landed in France in October. When formed, this Company had contained a lot of soldiers from the East Yorkshire Regiment, whose cap badge can be seen above the blackboard, on which its abbreviated title was written.

Researching Labour Companies

The only way to research labour companies is to view their war diaries held at the National Archives in London. A war diary was written by one of the company’s officers and recorded its location and activities. All bar one of the labour companies’ war diaries can be found as part of the war diary of the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps company it was converted into. For example, the No.3 Ordnance Labour Company’s war diary can be found within the war diary of the 21st Company Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps. You can find out which war diary you’ll need by consulting the table below. Labour company war diaries will either begin following their formation or once they embark for France. The only labour company which has its own war diary is the No.4 Ordnance Labour Company.

Labour CompanyAuxiliary Military Pioneer Corps CompanyWar Diary
No.10 Docks Labour Company1st Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1237
No.11 Docks Labour Company2nd Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1238
No.12 Docks Labour Company3rd Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1239
No.13 Docks Labour Company4th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1240
No.14 Docks Labour Company5th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1241
No.15 Docks Labour Company6th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1242
No.16 Docks Labour Company7th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1243
No.17 Docks Labour Company8th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1244
No.18 Docks Labour Company9th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1245
No.1 Railway Labour Company10th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1246
No.2 Railway Labour Company11th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1247
No.3 Railway Labour Company12th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1248
No.4 Railway Labour Company13th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1249
No.5 Railway Labour Company14th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1250
No.6 Railway Labour Company15th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1251
No.7 Railway Labour Company16th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1252
No.8 Railway Labour Company17th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1253
No.1 Transportation Stores Labour Company18th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1254
No.1 Ordnance Labour Company19th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1255
No.2 Ordnance Labour Company20th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1256
No.3 Ordnance Labour Company21st Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1257
No.4 Ordnance Labour Company22nd Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1258
No.4 Ordnance Labour Company22nd Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1344
No.1 Works Labour Company23rd Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1259
No.2 Works Labour Company24th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1260
No.3 Works Labour Company25th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1261
No.4 Works Labour Company26th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1262
No.5 Works Labour Company27th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1263
No.6 Works Labour Company28th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1264
No.7 Works Labour Company29th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1265
No.8 Works Labour Company30th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1266
No.9 Works Labour Company31st Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1267
No.10 Works Labour Company32nd Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1268
No.11 Works Labour Company33rd Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1269
No.12 Works Labour Company34th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1270
No.1 Royal Army Service Corps Labour Company35th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1271
No.2 Royal Army Service Corps Labour Company36th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1272
No.3 Royal Army Service Corps Labour Company37th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1273
No.4 Royal Army Service Corps Labour Company38th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1274
No.1 Royal Army Medical Corps Labour Company39th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1275
No.13 Works Labour Company40th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1276
No.14 Works Labour Company41st Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1277
No.15 Works Labour Company42nd Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1278
No.16 Works Labour Company43rd Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1279
No.17 Works Labour Company44th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1280
No.18 Works Labour Company45th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1281
No.19 Works Labour Company46th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1282
No.20 General Labour Company47th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1283
No.21 General Labour Company48th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1284
No.20 Works Labour Company101st Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1321
General Headquarters Works Labour Company102nd Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1322
No.20 Depot Labour Company105th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1325
No.19 Depot Labour Company106th Company A.M.P.C.WO 167/1326