Category Archives: Context

Praise… of sorts!

“During the last big push by Germans, the Chinese labourers working behind the lines offered their services to help the wounded, who were streaming back from the front in all kinds of conveyances. When official permission was given, they gave their own cigarettes and food rations to the wounded men they were helping. The wounded …

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The Chinese Labour Corps in Basra? Part 2

In a recent post, The Chinese Labour Corps in Basra? we explored the story of 227 unidentified Chinese buried in Basra, explaining our belief that records had been lost rather than the names of those Chinese having never been recorded. Our belief was based as much on cultural reasons as on anything else. Wherever possible the British paid respect to …

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In memory of John “Jack” Johnstone

Private M1/5741 John “Jack” Johnstone, committed suicide on the 7th July 1916. Why it is hard to even guess a reason. Perhaps it was because of the date, he killed himself soon after the opening of the Battle of the Somme. Jack was only 21 he had his life in front of him. He was …

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What should we remember?

An interesting question was posed in a report by Austrian researchers into commemoration. But what should we remember if existence and memory are no longer part of what we remember? It’s a great little sound-bite, but what does it mean? Ultimately, if we do not remember existence or memory, then what can we remember? Reflecting on the …

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A message from France

I had never heard anything of these Chinese who came during the First World War. Through Mr Léo Lapointe’s book* I now know a little about the terrible conditions that they experienced. Nathalie, France   * Most likely refers to the novel,  Le planqué des huttes by Léo Lapointe’s

The difficulty of assessing China’s war loses

It is difficult to clearly evaluate China’s war losses during World War I (WWI). Firstly, defining the time period in question is a complex matter: China passed through a period of neutrality (August 1914 – March 1917), a period of severance of diplomatic relations (March 1917 – August 1917), and a period of declaration of …

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2007 Article from the South China Morning Post

BEHIND THE NEWS Oct 08, 2007 A bronze plaque on the wall of a Paris railway building and a modest monument in a small park are the only reminders of a remarkable but forgotten story of the first world war – 150,000 Chinese volunteers who cleared mines, removed the dead and made munitions, and became …

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Surely we should invite our Chinese friends to the Cenotaph

The following article, by Professor Michhael Wood, appeared in the April 2015 edition of BBC History Magazine. Our thanks to and the editorial team’s kind permission for us to reproduce the article. We’ve been filming in China on and off for many months now, and still enjoying every minute. It’s nearly 30 years since …

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The Long Shadow

[T]he Chinese dimension of the Great War rarely figures in British-centred narratives despite its importance in understanding our own day. David Reynolds The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century, p432 ISBN-13: 978-0857206350


值此停战大喜之日,我向威海卫人民祝贺战争胜利,并感谢你们的帮助,从威海卫招募的华工军团对战争发挥了巨大作用,非常感谢华人社团对政府的衷心支持。 1919年11月11日 青少年爱国主义网

The `coolie’ killing fields

By Danny Buckland in The Independent, 28 June, 1997 Britain has made much of human rights in the run-up to the hand- over of Hong Kong to the Chinese, but who are we to point fingers? As Danny Buckland reports, thousands of Chinese labourers died at our hands from mistreatment, malnutrition and bullets during the turmoil …

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