Steve Lau, Chair of the Ensuring We Remember Campaign reflects on the challenges of the general public’s extremely low level of awareness of the contribution made by the Chinese to Britain’s war effort.

In my role I share my passion (some may say obsession) with anyone willing to listen really. It’s not too difficult to become skilled in quickly identifying those who are listening but really they are just being polite. I usually describe knowing whether someone is genuinely interested in what I’m saying, not out of any need to find positives when sometimes there are very few to be found, but because the response is feedback to what I want to know… what difference, or impact might come out of what I’ve said.

There is a real challenge posed when trying to engage people in a subject for which there is a very low level o public awareness in our respective fields of interest.We’re not the only group by any means, particularly as we share It’s great to raise that level of awareness, even if by one person a time. But quite often the response given can (unwittingly) oil the conversation. It was something which, when first encountered, had me thinking of some way to resuscitate the conversation before tumbleweed rolls past.

The response? One word, “really?” I hear it so often. The tone varies from wide-eyed surprise to incomplete reflection. Those with knowledge of the Great War may be thinking, “How could over 100,000 Chinese labourers serve in the British army in Europe, Africa and Mesopotamia, and I’m hearing it for the first time from you?” Those with nothing but a limited general knowledge of the war may be thinking, “From China? 100,000?” In both cases the thought is distilled into just, “really?” a word I have come to appreciate and if the tumbleweed threatens I give a parting recommendation for one of our campaign videos on our website.

I can’t help mentioning one case where ‘really” could have been uttered, though it wasn’t, but if it had, it would have been shorthand for, “How stupid do you think I am, I’m not falling for that. Chinese. Yeah, good one.” He refused to believe it even when others told him it was true. Clearly we were all in on the prank!.

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