Film of an Egyptian Labour Corps Contingent



A film of one contingent of the Egyptian Labour Corps (ELC) from their recruitment in Egypt to their arrival and work in France. Please click on the link to watch the film.
The photograph included here acts as a still for the film and shows men of the ELC on board the deck of their transport ship at leisure.


The film An Egyptian Labour Contingent is a crucial source for thinking about how Britain presented the mobilisation of its colonial troops, combatants, and non-combatants to broader audiences during the First World War. The film follows members of an Egyptian Labour Contingent (ELC) from their enlistment at camps in Egypt, the provision of uniforms and kits for which the men are depicted as extremely grateful, the boarding of the ship - the SS Minnetonka at Alexandria – and the journey to France. The film ends with some scenes of the labourers’ work in Marseilles. The above photograph duplicates a still from the film and shows the men on board the ship during leisure time. The men appear to be engaged in some kind of leap frog game, observed by both their peers and a couple of white officers. The long, monotonous journey to war on the confines of the ship was a common trope in troop accounts of their service. Crowded onto this deck, the men of the ELC chaperoned by their white officers are being transported from their homeland to the Western Front. It captures the excitement of the men as they played energetically, breaking up their lengthy journey. Its inclusion in the film is not only an essential part of the Egyptian experience but serves to emphasise the distances the British Empire would go to in its mobilisations. The Egyptian men carried with them their intellectual and cultural baggage: the traditions in which they had been raised and their own preconceptions of the world outside their own villages and countries.