Maltese Labour Corps during World War I

Maltese Labour Corps during World War I

Further to the letters by Antonia Muscat and Charles Debono, on Maltese Labour Corps during World War I, the first contingent of Maltese had arrived in Gallipoli during September 1915 where they gained a reputation as good workers.

In September 1916, a battalion of Maltese was raised, composed of labourers, drivers and stevedores, which arrived for service in Salonika during October and from there onto the Lines of Communications.

The Maltese labourers also served on the peninsula although alleged that when they came under shellfire at Suvla and Anzac they were unreliable and often refused to work. But then who would?!

A 2nd Battalion was raised which arrived in December 1917, followed by two Employment Companies during 1918.

After the Armistice one of the Employment Companies moved to Constantinople in Turkey and in the Black Sea area.

Although unconfirmed, I have encountered reference to members of the Maltese Labour Corps as having served in Italy, with detachments at the Taranto docks and having a mining company employed in tunneling work in the north of the country.

The British War Medal (1914-1918) in silver was awarded to those who entered a theatre of war between August 5, 1914 and November 11, 1918 and to those who served in Russia in 1919 and 1920.

Maltese and other non-British labour units were issued with a bronze version of the medal.

I wonder where records could be?

The Maltese Labour Corps was composed of locally enlisted personnel and related documents would have probably been deposited at the Palace Archives in Valletta.

I believe that some World War I records of Maltese serving in the Royal Malta Artillery and the King's Own Malta Regiment of Militia are now housed at the National Archives in Rabat.

If these records aren't in Malta and neither at the National Archives at Kew in the UK, maybe they're with the Royal Logistical Corps (1993), the descendents of the then Army Service Corps. The Maltese Labour Corps had served in Gallipoli with the Army Service Corps, in which many Maltese had also enlisted and served in the same theatre.

Another possibility is The Royal Engineers Museum, considering that the MLC were as the name says, "Labourers"! There were Chinese, Egyptian, Indian, Jewish and other Labour Corps, mostly from countries within the Empire although there also were foreign units and recruits. By 1920, all Labour Corps were disbanded but maybe records of these units could have survived and possibly preserved together.

For those who wish to read further about the World War I Labour Corps, I recommend No Labour, No Battle, a culmination of over 15 years' research by Ivor Lee and John Starling. More on the Maltese Labour Corps and possibly assistance can be found at: labo ur.htm

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