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  • Christina Drummond

Private Samuel John Thorley, 187 Labour Corps

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1917, Private Samuel John Thorley, 187 Labour Corps, died from wounds previously sustained.

He had worked as a labourer before joining the army in 1915, serving at first with the 18th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers. His battalion was sent to France at the end of January, 1916, and he was transferred to 187 Labour Corps in May of 1917.

The formation of the Labour Corps was sanctioned by the Royal Warrant of the 21st of February, 1917. The object of the formation was stated thus: “to obtain more fluidity in utilizing the services of men in Infantry Labour and Work units and to simplify administrative work.” Some infantry battalions were transferred enirely to the Corps, and in 1918 the Corps was used as emergency infantry and for salvage work.

The Corps was manned by all ranks, oficers and enlisted men alike – apart from those transferred with their battalions, they were soldiers who had been medically rated below the A1 condition required for fighting on the front lines. Some were men who had been wounded and not recovered enough to be sent back to the fighting, yet fit enough to work. Others were men who had been turned down by recruiters prior to February of 1917, deemed as unfit for service perhaps due to a disability or other health issue.

It is not clear how Private Thorley came to be wounded, but it is known that the men of the Labour Corps were at great risk, as the units were frequently sent to work within range of the enemy guns for often great lengths of time. Being so positioned to work, not fight, made them vulnerable. He is buried in the Mendinghem Military Cemetery, Poperinge, West-Vlaanderen in Belgium.

Samuel, from Birmingham, was 38 years old and married with five children, the youngest being just three years old at the time of his death.

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