24 November 2017

WWI British War Medal to the Labour Corps

Another international return thanks to Bill.

It is nearly 8 years since Peter Harrison, a retired Australian Army officer and his wife Eileen brought home to Australia the 1914-1915 Star awarded to 16938 Sgt McQuade,Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
As a return gesture, in August this year he took back to England the British War Medal awarded to 557332 Private Philip Klawansky, 1001st Labour Company, to return to his family.
The history of the Labour Corps reflects, in many ways, the social history of Europe during the First World War and the changes it brought to Europe.
With conscription, it was expected that a citizen of an allied country would be enlisted into the British service or return home to serve in their own countries forces. For many Russians in the UK, which included a large Jewish population, fighting for the Tsar was not a favoured option, given that many had fled Russian persecution. This reluctance was not exactly greeted with enthusiasm in Britain so one of the solutions was the formation in the British Army of the Russian Labour Companies who served in France and the Middle East. Despite their name they were under British Command.
Out of respect for the family, I have censored my research. However, if anyone reading this Blog should wish to go a bit further down the path of history, may I recommend: John Starling & Ivor Lee's excellent work No Labour, No Battle - Military Labour During The First World War.

The returned medal tally is now 2173. 

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