Commemoration event for the Chinese Labour Corps

Organised by The Meridian Society and The British Library

Date: Saturday, 17th November 2018
Time: 1.00-4.30pm
Venue: Knowledge Centre, British Library,
96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB

On 11th November 1918, streets throughout Western Europe were filled with jubilant crowds. Armistice had been declared and weary soldiers were able at last to go home. Yet, there were some who had to stay behind at the Front – amongst them, the Chinese Labour Corps (CLC), who had to clear the land of ordnance and dig up and bury the dead.

Almost 140,000 Chinese labourers had been recruited by the British and French armies to fill the void resulting from the disastrous losses at the Battle of the Somme. They provided desperately needed manpower by digging trenches, building railroads and repairing tanks. China, hoping it might be rewarded with the return of Shandong Province from German control, was keen to assist the Western Allies. But this was not to be.

In this fourth and final year of the centenary of the Great War, as we remember all those who took up arms, we must also commemorate those who helped behind the lines.

The Meridian Society invites the general public to join us in an afternoon of remembrance in honour of the Chinese Labour Corps, to pay tribute to these invisible men who, to date, have not been formally recognised for their contribution.

The event, co-hosted by the British Library, will consist of the following:

“The Shandong Problem”: Talk on the historical backdrop to China’s involvement in WWI and the political agenda of each of the major players in the war – by Dr Frances Wood, former Curator of Chinese Collections at the British Library and co-author of Betrayed Ally – China in the Great War

“Some Paradoxes of the Chinese Labour Corps Recruitment”: Talk on the challenges and contradictions within the British Army’s recruitment of the CLC – by Dr Gregory James, author of The Chinese Labour Corps 1916-1920

“Expectation versus Reality”: Talk on the social and cultural disparities between what Chinese labourers thought they would experience and what they were actually faced with on arrival at the Front – by Prof Philip Vanhaelemeersch, translator of two diaries written by Chinese labourers

Screening of “Forgotten Faces of the Great War: The Chinese Labour Corps”, an oral history by descendants of Chinese labourers and Western officers of the CLC Introduction to The Meridian Society’s project webpage on The Chinese Labour Corps

“Cherry Blossom” and other pieces: Music on the erhu (Chinese two-stringed fiddle) by Charlie Tienyi-Waddle

There will be a short break, during which light refreshments will be served free of charge

Entry: Please write to to reserve complimentary places

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