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Chinese Labour Corps of WW1 will be remembered in Spalding

Chinese Labour Corps workers during WW1
Chinese Labour Corps workers during WW1

During the Great War of 1914-18, as the British commitment of men and materials grew, there was a severe shortage of men to work as labourers behind the front lines.

They were needed to move the tons of stores needed each day, the food, the ammunition, barbed wire, duckboards, etc. The list is almost endless.

A Chinese grave in France.
A Chinese grave in France.

So the British government decided to recruit labourers from around the Empire to do this important work and free troops for front line duty by performing support work and manual labour.

In addition to the West Indies, South Africa, Malta and the Seychelles, recruiting teams were sent into China.

Some 140,000 Chinese men were recruited from isolated villages and shipped to Europe to work for the Allies.

They spoke little English, so always had to have translators close by and were led by British officers who spoke Chinese.

When the war ended, most of them went back to China, leaving around 6,000 behind to help clear the battlefields of war debris and the thousands of tons of unexploded or unused ammunition.

Those who stayed on after this drifted to Paris, where they established the Chinese Quarter.

Until last November, when members of the Meridian Society - trying to further remembrance of the Chinese on the Western Front - were invited by the Western Front Association (WFA) to take part in the remembrance ceremony and lay wreaths at the Cenotaph in Whitehall on November 11, the Chinese Labour Corps, or CLC, have been a forgotten part of the Great War.

They have no memorials in this country other than a few graves in a handful of cemeteries and few in France, only those in the few cemeteries where Chinese graves are.

In all, an estimated 10,000 Chinese died in the war effort - victims of shelling, landmines, poor treatment or the worldwide flu epidemic.

As part of the Western Front Association’s efforts to see that these men who came from the other side of the world to work for us are remembered after 100 years of silence, the Spalding and South Lincs Branch of the WFA have Wenlan Peng, one of the founders of the Meridian Society, giving a presentation on the Chinese Labour Corps and its accomplishments.

The meeting is open to anyone with an interest in the CLC or the Great War in general and will be held at The Church Hall, alongside St Paul’s Church, Fulney, on Thursday at 7.30pm.

An entry donation of £3 will get you in and there will be refreshments and a raffle during the evening, as well as sales of a fundraising Chinese Labour Corps DVD.


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