“War as seen by the Chinese”

The following articles appeared in the South China Morning Post on November 9th, 1918.

Mr Chow Chen-fu, Interpreter to the 167th Chinese Labour Co., Labour Corps, B.E.F., France, writes to a foreign friend in Shanghai: You ask me to give you a description of my life in France. I will attempt to do so without going into details. I was posted to this Company at the Base for Chinese Labour; every draft coming from China is sent to this aforesaid Base, which is just outside a small French village not so very far from the place of landing. After spending about three weeks here, the Company was transferred to work to a place about 10 miles behind where the fighting was actually going on.

The village we arrived at had been knocked about a great deal by shell fire, while I saw one or two very exciting air fights. I cannot say much about that place, or the French people as they were very few.

At present we are stationed in or just outside a lovely French village. The countryside is about the finest that one could wish to see, and to make things more pleasant we have been having splendid weather. My opinion of France is that it is about the best country for farming in the world.

The French nation can farm; every inch of land is put to use. Just at present, I would very much like you to see the different crops. I know very well you would have the same opinion as myself.


About three times a week I get permission to visit the nearest villages for the purpose of shopping. There one meets French and British soldiers mixing with each other both in the village and en route. Every estiminet is packed, singing, etc., which is the custom here. As you are aware, I dress in my own private clothes and the French people, both civilian and soldier, look at me with great curiosity, wondering who on earth I am, as being differently dressed from the coolies, who, I should have mentioned before, are dressed in uniform. When I go into a shop and air the little French language I have managed to pick up, the shop people fairly stare. I know very well that they expect me to ask for whatever I require in Chinese. I must admit that the French always treat me with kindness and respect.

The company is made up of Southern and Northern coolies, and taking things generally, I have had a very strenuous time. I am a go-between of the officers and the coolies. My duties are to go out every day with the company, translating the work at one place. Then I am called to another, and this kind of thing goes on the whole day through. I can assure you that I am jolly tired at the end of the day.


Since I have been in France, I have had the pleasure of seeing a great deal of the British soldiers, and my opinion is, they are about the finest and fairest in the world, brave men who are fighting and dying for a just cause. When you write me, please give me news of the trouble regarding the North and South of China.

I have not been here any more than nine months, but I could fill a book about the things that I have seen and gone through. Do not imagine for one moment that is has been all sunshine, because I can assure you it has been cloudy as well. There is one thing: it is an experience that could not bought or read in books.

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