World War I (the Great War) broke out in 1914 with Germany, Austria, Hungary, Turkey and Bulgaria fighting against England, France, Russia, America and other nations. Britain mobilized all her human resources to add strength to her fighting troops, and she recruited soldiers and non combatants from all her colonies. In 1916, about a million soldiers and half a million non combatants from British India and Burma were sent to Mesopotamia, Iran, France and Turkey.
About four thousand Zo young men went to Europe. Their journey from Chittagong, Akyab and Rangoon took them to France, where they evacuated the wounded and loaded and unloaded military supplies going to the front. Each of them, except for those who died on the ship or in Europe, brought enough money home to pay for any bride they chose to marry.
The experiences of those who went to Europe were not easily forgotten and in some cases changed beliefs. They were impressed by the war machinery of the Europeans, as the planes, ships and guns were immense developments for the boys from Zo country. They also had endless tales of their adventures and experiences with the French women of the night. Before the Zo young men left for Europe, they had been certain that the sun rose out of the mountain ranges, but when they returned, they were convinced that the sun rose from the ocean.
The British demanded a fixed number of young able-bodied men from every clan and village for the French labour camps, and various Naga, Lusei and others joined the force in 1916. During the 1st World War, 2100 young men from Lushai Hills District, 2,000 Nagas and Zomi from Manipur Hills, and 3000 Zomi from the Chin Hills went to France voluntarily as the Allied Labour Corps. But in 1917, more men were demanded, one thousand men from each of the administrative subdivisions of Falam, Haka and Tedim. The Zo people, who had never left their country, feared that their youths would never come back, as was the case with some who had gone earlier. Moreover, the British still resented the collection of arms and slaves by the British.