A presentation by Steve Lau, Chair of the Ensuring We Remember Campaign, at the launch event of, The Stories behind the Pictures: Colonial Troops in the First World War. This event is being held at
University of Hull,
Friday, 20th October.
An outline of the presentation follows.
By the outbreak of the First World War photography was the hobby of millions around the world. Although the technology had been looked at by the military, its significance was not to be developed fully until the First World War.
This short presentation will give a very brief introduction to the militarisation of photography, In particular it will explore the use of the photographic image as a tool for influencing the opinions of the public at home, as well as the public and governments overseas. This propaganda use of photographs will be brought into sharper focus by comparing and contrasting the official photographic record, as published by the Ministry of Information (1914-1918) with unofficial photographs, most particularly those by Captain William J Hawkings, of the Chinese Labour Corps (www.EnsuringWeRemember.org.uk/photobook).
The presentation shall be drawn to an end with reflections on how, a hundred years on, our use of these photographs have changed? Debunked, what value can we attach to propaganda photographs of the Great War? And if at all, where have we managed to shift reality to?
The event is ticketed but free, tickets available here.
Parliament and World War One: The forgotten Chinese Labourers of World War One
UK Parliament Outreach and Engagement Service
Tuesday, 7 November 2017 from 19:00 to 20:30 (GMT), Portcullis House, Parliament, London.
In an entertaining and informative talk Frances Wood, author of Betrayed Ally: China and the Great War and former curator of Chinese Collections at the British Library, will outline the historical background to the CLC story, with insights into the political manoeuvres and debates in Parliament. Her talk will be followed by an oral history film Forgotten Faces of the Great War: The Chinese Labour Corps, presented by Peng Wenlan, documentary filmmaker and director of The Meridian Society’s two-year project commemorating the CLC and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The event will be hosted by Lord Wallace of Saltaire a member of the government’s Advisory Board for the Commemoration of World War One . There will be a Q&A after the screening.
We have reorganised the way our videos are presented. Hopefully the new layout will make it easier to see what is available and to access them. Find our videos from the link on the left hand side of this page.
The following is an independent review of the publication Chinese Labour Corps Photographs from the W J Hawkings Collection. The review is by Dr John R A Cleaver, Life Fellow and College Archivist, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. Our thanks to Dr Cleaver for making this contribution.
This new book is an annotated collection of photographs from William James Hawkings, who was an officer in the Chinese Labour Corps. His background seems to have been typical for CLC officers, as he had worked in China from 1908 with the British American Tobacco Company and was fluent in Mandarin.
Initially he accompanied two contingents of workers from China, formally becoming Second Lieutenant when he reached France in August 1917 (but with seniority back-dated to March 1917 in recognition of his prior service) and later attaining the role of Acting Captain. After demobilization he returned to Shanghai, and he was in Shanghai at the time of the Japanese invasion. He died in India in 1965.
After the war he turned his photographs of his time with the Chinese Labour Corps into lantern slides, and these provided the images for this new photo-book. His slides included copies of images that are official or have been published previously, but the ones reproduced in this book are those that he himself took; they are more personal and it is believed that they have not been published before.
Hawkings was able to take photographs which portrayed the intimate aspects of the life and work of the Chinese people. I am always reluctant to use the shorthand of describing them as labourers, despite their membership of the Chinese Labour Corps; terminology is a little misleading. The majority of the workers were unskilled and of peasant background but there were many who had or who acquired skills (in particular, in the workshops of the Tank Corps, where they were highly productive) and many of their counterparts working for the French were engaged in factory work. For a time, Hawkings was responsible for a Skilled Trades Company. In addition, educated Chinese men supported the actual workers.
The images provide fascinating contrasts between the medical provisions for the men and the procedures that were employed in their work. Hygiene and medical treatment appears repeatedly – particularly memorable are the images of inspection and treatment of the eye diseases that were endemic amongst Chinese peasantry in that era. Trachoma and conjunctivitis were particular problems, and we see the men subject to regular medical inspection, to the daily receipt of eye drops, and to hygienic precautions to minimise transmission of infection between the men. The majority of the photographs are around Noyelles-sur-Mer, on the Baie de Somme, where the main CLC base and a substantial CLC hospital were situated, so it may well be that practice there was more regular and scrupulous than when the men were dispersed in the field.
But the actual working practices shown are distinctly disconcerting. After the end of hostilities, Labour Corps members engaged in recovering munitions and corpses from battlefields (though these activities are not shown) and in breaking down surplus, captured, and unexploded munitions – many CLC personnel had worked in munition depots during the time of combat. The work shown in the photographs of the unskilled men breaking down munitions is quite daunting to modern eyes; only general-purpose tools are visible, rather than tools configured for specific operations on particular types of munition, and there is an absence of any obvious safety precautions other than an optimistically generous provision of fire extinguishers. There is minimal spatial separation between workers to limit the consequences of any one explosive or incendiary incident. Munitions and their components are held in unprotected hands or clamped in simple, traditional mechanics’ workbench vices without any special jigs or fixtures.
It is no wonder that more than half of the CLC deaths recorded by the Imperial War Graves Commission occurred after the Armistice, although many of those resulted from tuberculosis and influenza rather than from accidents.
In the ninety pages of photographs, as well as work and formalities and the experiences of travel from China, the more personal and domestic life of the men is shown. These include the daily tasks of food preparation, cleaning, and the tending of the kitchen garden of the hospital at Noyelles, as well as traditional activities of festivals, kite flying, and gymnastics.
Thus Hawkings’ images provide a very interesting addition to the growing body of material on the Chinese Labour Corps in the Great War – a topic that had been neglected and almost forgotten for most of the intervening century.
The image reproduction in the book is excellent: clear and essentially free of defects. Some images would have benefited from reproduction with higher contrast – but, without seeing the tone range of the original slides, it is not possible to judge whether the original images could consistently have been restored and contrast-enhanced without unduly emphasising defects.
A good touch is that the captions and other text in the book are tri-lingual, in French as well as in English and Chinese, even though the images are entirely from the British sector of the Western Front – this serves as a reminder that the French imported around 40,000 Chinese workers.
So – a useful addition to the material on the CLC. Further, profits from the publication will be donated to the Chinese in Britain Forum, a registered charity, and used for raising awareness of the contribution of the Chinese Labour Corps.
Dr John R.A. Cleaver
Cambridge, 30 August 2017
The Ensuring We Remember Campaign if spearheaded by a coalition of major UK Chinese non-profit organisations. To mark today’s centennial anniversary of China declaring war on Germany we reflect on the position of the Chinese community in the UK, whilst launching our Centenary Commemorations Toolkit.
Today the Chinese community holds a privileged position in the UK. Through the hard work of those Chinese who came after the second World War, Chinese communities in Britain are strong and vibrant. Although no country is perfect, and no people are without faults, Britain and the British people have overwhelmingly welcomed and accepted Chinese people. For their part, the Chinese have worked hard and hindered nobody, through which they have built, and maintain, strong economic and cultural capital. Chinese children have for decades outperformed children from all other ethnic groups at both GCSE and A’Level, fulfilling the dream of every parent that their children’s lives should be better than their own. But it is not only duty to family that concerned the Chinese in Britain – we would argue that they have also contributed to a better society. The Chinese are the only ethnic minority group that is under-represented in the British criminal justice system, something for which the Chinese community can justly be proud.
Less obvious is the pride that might be held in the fact that in both World Wars the Chinese and British peoples stood united against common enemies and ideologies.
For this reason we are today encouraging Britain’s Chinese communities and supporters to commemorate this much neglected are of our heritage – a century to the day when China formally declared war against Germany and joined Britain and her allies in World War I.
To this end we created a Centenary Commemorations Toolkit which has already been sent out to British Chinese religious, voluntary and community organisations. We will be working with Chinese supplementary schools in rolling out the toolkit.
We hope, by promoting a growing awareness of the full contribution of Chinese people in British history, we can contribute to the ongoing development of a fully integrated, high performing, socially cohesive British Chinese community.
We are delighted to announce the publications of, The Chinese Labour Corps: Photographs from the WJ Hawkings collection, launched today to commemorate the centenary of China declaring war against Germany and formally joining Britain and her allies in the Great War.
- Hardcover: 96 pages
- Publisher: Myosotis Books (14 August 2017)
- Languages: English, Chinese and French
- ISBN-13: 978-1-9998066-0-6
- Product Dimensions: 28.5 x 1.3cm x 21 cm
Rediscovered in 2014 by his grandson, John De Lucy, photographs from the collection are published here for the first time. Unlike the set piece propaganda photographs taken by official photographers, the WJ Hawkings Collection shows the day-to-day lives of the Chinese Labour Corps; many of the photographs are believed to be unique in the subject matter they cover.
The profits from the sales of this book will be donated to the Chinese in Britain Forum, registered charity 1096542 ,and used exclusively for raising the awareness and profile of the Chinese Labour Corps.
For Press enquiries, please enquire via our contact page.
Buy our new A2 sized poster (42cm x 59cm).
Today we remember three men of the Chinese Labour Corps who died in service.
LI FU CHEN (56237) 1919.
LU HSUEH SHU Labourer 106238, died 1919.
TSENG CH’IEN SHENG Labourer 25109, died 1918.
YANG CHIH FU Labourer 99855, died 1919.
We Remember Them.
The following four members of the Chinese Labour Corps died on the 12th August:
CH’ANG CHIH HAI (100234) 1919
KAO HUA CH’I (7740) 1919
LI LAI FU (76400) 1919
LIU FENG I (54908) 1919
If you are wondering why 12th August 1919 when hostilities ended on 11th November 1918, it’s because the Chinese Labour Corps were kept on after the armistice to repair roads, clear the battlefields and recover ordnance. They also exhumed the fallen, reburying them in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries. See our video for more information.
We remember them.
Par France 3.
Vive Labeur, Chinese Labour Corps in de Eerste Wereldoorlog
Prijs: € 24,50 (incl. verzendingskosten)
Sun Gan is een plattelandsonderwijzer die de kans heeft gegrepen om verre horizonten te verkennen door zich aan te melden bij het CLC. Met een opmerkelijk observatievermogen vergelijkt hij de toestand en de gebruiken in Europa met die in zijn thuisland en beschrijft hij zijn wedervaren in de oorlogsjaren.