Remembering “The Unremembered”: the forgotten workers of the First World War

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Following the huge loss of life at the Somme, from January 1917 onwards the British Army drafted into its Labour Corps hundreds of thousands of men from across the UK, China, India, South Africa, Egypt, Canada, the Caribbean and many other places within the British Empire.

These men supplied the army with weapons and ammunition, food and fodder, water and fuel. They built and maintained roads and railways. Little is known about these men whose courage and contribution were vital to the war effort, but who never held or fired a gun. Today their service and sacrifice are all but forgotten. They are the Unremembered.


This event, co-hosted by the Big Ideas Company and RUSI, commemorated their contributions and courage for the centenary of the Labour Corps.


Our expert panel included:

Dr Edward Madigan is a Lecturer in Public History and First World War Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London. His work combines cultural, religious and military history and his main research interests are British identity and culture in wartime and the British and Irish experience and memory of the Great War. He is on the Executive Committee of the International Society for First World War Studies and the editorial board of the 1914-1918 Online Encyclopedia.


Dr Santanu Das is a Reader in English Literature at Kings College London, focusing on the First World War. His first book Touch and Intimacy in First World War Literature (Cambridge, 2006), explored the sensuous world of the trenches and war hospitals, and the relation between war experience, art and emotion. Dr Das edited Race, Empire and First World War Writing (Cambridge, 2011) and The Cambridge Companion to the Poetry of the First World War (2013).


Dr Virginia Crompton is Chief Executive of the Big Ideas Company specialising in public engagement.  The Unremembered is one of a series of community projects for the First World War Centenary funded by the Department of Communities and Local Government which continues next year under the 'Remember Together' banner.  Dr Crompton worked at the BBC from 1994-2012 and founded Radio 4's history series The Long View.  

We are honoured this event will include a special performance by jazz legend Courtney Pine. The ground breaking, multi-instrumentalist has led a generation of exciting and innovative musicians. He has released 16 studio albums, been given an OBE and CBE for his services to British music, and continues to tour worldwide.


This event is by invitation only, if you would like to be considered for a place please email


To join The Unremembered project email 

Watch the recording

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