Notes on An introduction to the Chinese Labour Corps Video

By necessity we try to explain sometimes complex points in a very limited time. As a result we resort to using a word or phrase which fails to capture the subtlety of the matter. To clarify such points we will be adding notes to each of our videos to explain some of the words of phrases we use. You can enjoy the video equally, with or without these notes.

Britain recruited about 96,000 Chinese workers, mainly from Shandong Province in NE China. France recruited about 40,000, so often the total number of Chinese labourers that assisted the Allies is given as 140,000. There are two memorials to “Les Travailleurs Chinois” (The Chinese Workers) in France. So for clarity we restrict our scope to the 96,000 recruited by Britain as we seek to have them remembered through a memorial in the UK.

The Chinese volunteered for the work in the sense that they were not conscripted, but went of their own free will to what they knew was a war zone. Some questions exist, however, on exactly how much some, even most, understood of the conditions they would face.

Assist Britain
Assistance was mainly in France, but some Chinese were also assigned to work in East Africa, Egypt and Mesopotamia; over 200 died in the latter.

Name Unknown
The Chinese Labour Corps records held in the UK were destroyed during the blitz in World War 2. The Medal Role held at the National Archives in Kew is in fact a copy of the Roll originally held in China, but returned to the UK after the Second World War. Although we have something close to a full list of names and corresponding roll numbers, in almost all cases it is not possible to match these details with photographs of individuals.

1,000 colleagues
Two Battalions (500 men each) of the Chinese Labour Corps were assigned to supporting the tank. These men were skilled workers, and their contribution an essential part of the success of the tank.



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