Campaign to Commemorate UK’s Chinese Labour Corps in WWI Launched

Eight leading Chinese organizations in UK have launched Ensuring We Remembera campaign which aims to build a memorial for 96,000 Chinese workers who worked in UK’s Chinese Labour Corps during the Great War. The said drive was put in motion last August 14.

According to the press release, let out by the campaign’s organizers, Britain enlisted a total of 96,000 Chinese workers while the Great war was raging on. These workers comprised the Chinese Labour Corps of UK and worked various tasks, from building roads to exhuming the dead.

Nevertheless, the many contributions made by the Chinese Labour Corps were all forgotten after the Great War ended. As a matter of fact, not one of the 43,000 war memorials in Britain was set up in memory of these brave Chinese men. In light of this, the Chinese community in Britain endeavors to change that.

Chinese Labour Corps: The History

After France and Britain suffered heavy casualties in the first days of the Battle of the Somme, the two countries realized that the war was going to be a lengthy one. Moreover, they also recognized that the Great War was also about keeping the numbers of the troops. So, both France and Britain looked to China as the solution and, together, they recruited 140,000 Chinese laborers. Eventually, China would really become part of the Great War as an ally.

The Chinese laborers were told that they wouldn’t be placed near the front lines. But then, Britain sent almost all her Chinese recruits to the front line to dig new trenches, build roads and railways as well as unload trains and ships. A number of the Chinese laborers were also placed in tank workshops and worked at maintaining WWI tanks.

In 1918, the Great War ended. Yet, Chinese laborers recruited by Britain were retained. They were the ones who filled the trenches, clean up the battlefields from live ordinance, exhume the dead and rebury them in the recently made cemeteries of the Commonwealth War Graves.

As what Mr. Steven Lau, chairperson of the Chinese in Britain Forumvoiced out, these Chinese laborers were the ones who did some of the most dire tasks in WWI and yet, they were forgotten.

He further stated that he believes Britain’s promise to never forget applies to the Chinese Labour Corps, too.

The Ensuring We Remember drive was launched last August 14, the exact date of the 97th anniversary of China’s declaration of war against Germany. The aim of the campaign is to be able to unveil a national memorial for Britain’s WWI Chinese Labour Corps by August 14, 2017 — the centenary of China joining the Great War as an ally.

Here is the campaign video of Ensuring We Remember:

Heziel Pitogo

Heziel Pitogo is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE