Efforts to commemorate and raise awareness of the role of Chinese who aided Britain during the First World War were launched today.
More than 96,000 Chinese men – known as the Chinese Labour Corps – volunteered to assist the British military on the Western Front in 1916. Despite being the largest non-European contingent of workers in the war, the contribution of the Chinese has not been recognised. Of the 43,000 Great War memorials across Britain, none commemorates the Chinese.
In London yesterday, an alliance of Chinese-British political and social organisations launched a campaign to raise awareness of the efforts of the Chinese in the war. They hope to get funding and planning permission for a memorial by 2017, in central London.
The Chinese were not frontline soldiers – many dug trenches in France. Around 2,000 Chinese are buried in Commonwealth war graves, but some estimates put the number who perished at several multiples of that.
The Ensuring We Remember group has set itself a fundraising target over the next three years of £600,000. “This is a campaign to change history,” said Thomas Chan, of the Chinese in Britain Forum, yesterday. Quoting the “Ode of Remembrance” he added: “At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”