The Royal Marines Labour Corps was formed on 2nd February 1917 to resolve the manpower needs created in French ports caused by the need to unload the vast amount of stores being shipped to support the British Expeditionary Force.
The hub of the unit was created by transferring two companies of Army Service Corps personnel to it; however additional recruitment was soon opened in all the major English ports. The men had to be over 41, the maximum age for combat units at that time; many of those who did volunteer were over 50 and saw the RMLC as a way to do their bit for the war effort in France.
Eventually almost 8,000 men attested into the RMLC for service in France. As they were recruited to be dock workers there was no desire or need to train these men at drill, turnout or with weapons, therefore they received little military training.
Although never involved at the front line, the ports were frequently shelled and the RMLC suffered 25 men killed by enemy action, 14 more were killed in accidents and a further 95 men died of disease or natural causes.
During the war the RMLC were awarded three OBEs, one DSC, seven DSMs, eleven MSMs and 59 mentions in dispatches for service in France.
By John Rawlinson - Royal Marines Historical Society