Wreaths and floral tributes laid at the CLC graves in Anfield Cemetery on August 10 (Photo: Centenary News)

Liverpool remembers the Chinese Labour Corps

Posted on centenarynews.com on 10 August 2018
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The latest in a series of UK events commemorating the First World War service of the Chinese Labour Corps has been held at the graves of five CLC members in Anfield Cemetery, Liverpool.

Tributes were led by the Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside, Mark Blundell, representing Queen Elizabeth; the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Christine Banks; and Brigadier Peter Rafferty, of the British Army.

Britain and France together recruited 140,000 Chinese workers for frontline support duties as the Great War took its toll on their own manpower.

Of the 96,000 men who enlisted with British forces, many arrived at the port of Liverpool on their way to the Western Front in 1917.

HM Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside, Mark Blundell, led the wreath-laying ceremony (Photo: Centenary News)

Coincidentally,  the officer appointed to command the Chinese Labour Corps was Lieutenant-Colonel Bryan Fairfax of the King’s Liverpool Regiment.

Northwest England’s present-day infantry regiment was represented at the Anfield service on 10 August 2018.

Brigadier Peter Rafferty, Colonel of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, saluted the CLC’s vital contribution to the war effort: "They dug fortifications and trenches, assembled munitions, constructed ports and port facilities, carried water and supplies, and cleared battlefields of munitions, debris and the dead.

"The work they did was not glamorous, but it was essential war work to keep the armies fighting to eventual victory and in itself was an extremely dangerous occupation at a number of times. They were constantly subject to artillery fire, to aerial attack, and to ground attack."

And he concluded: "Our nation’s promise 'never to forget' should apply to them as to any other Allied contigent in that ‘war to end all wars’.”

Karen Soo spoke in memory of her grandfather, Soo Yuen Yi. Recruited to serve French forces, he settled in Liverpool after the Great War. Paying tribute to his courage, Karen Soo said: "My grandfather was put to work on an active airfield, and his task was to keep the airfield functional. He filled in bomb craters and he kept the runway clear so that Allied planes could land, sometimes when the Germans were bombing. After the war, for two years, he was given the dangerous and gruesome task of clearing munitions from the land to make it safe for civilians again, along with reburying the dead." (Photo: Centenary News)

The Day of Remembrance in Liverpool was the latest UK event raising awareness of the CLC, organised by the Meridian Society,  a charity dedicated to promoting Chinese culture and understanding. 

At least 2,000 soldiers of the Chinese Labour Corps, probably many more, were killed on the front line, or died of disease.

CLC Project Director Peng Wenlan said: "Sadly they have not received formal recognition for their contribution. And even more sad, they have hardly been remembered which is why it falls to all of us to pay tribute to these men."

Also in Centenary News:

Shorncliffe remembrance service for the Chinese Labour Corps.

Reporting from Liverpool by CN Editor

Images: Centenary News