New projects mark 1917 Centenary of China joining WW1

Posted on on 14 August 2017
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China's entry into the Great War 100 years ago is being marked with the launch of new initiatives by the UK-based Ensuring We Remember campaign.

The group has released an online 'toolkit', and a book of recently-discovered archive photos, to promote projects commemorating the Chinese Labour Corps. 

It's campaigning for a UK National Memorial to the 96,000 volunteers of the CLC who carried out many of the labouring duties essential for keeping British troops supplied on the Western Front.

China declares war - August 1917
China was still emerging from the revolution that overthrew the Manchu Dynasty when it declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary on 14 August 1917.
By then, Britain and France had already begun recruiting Chinese workers to make up for their own manpower shortages on the Western Front.
China threw its weight behind the Western Allies in the hope of achieving influence at post-war peace talks.
Most of the Chinese Labour Corps was drawn from the eastern coastal province of Shandong. Japanese forces, also allied to Britain and France, had occupied the port of Qingdao (Tsingtao), after its surrender by the Germans in autumn 1914.

The archive photographs, from the WJ Hawkings Collection, are being published for the first time as part of efforts to commemorate Chinese involvement in the First World War.

William James Hawkings was a Mandarin-speaking British army officer who escorted newly-recruited Chinese labourers to France and served alongside them.

A new book features a compilation of photos, rediscovered by his grandson, John De Lucy, in 2014.

The pictures are also being made available for loan to exhibition organisers. The majority are currently on view at Durham University Oriental Museum - in an exhibition entitled 'A Good Reputation Endures Forever: The Chinese Labour Corps on the Western Front'. 

Profits from the book sales will be donated to a charity, The Chinese in Britain Forum, to help raise awareness of the CLC.

The scenes captured by WJ Hawkings are often informal. As Ensuring We Remember notes: 'Unlike the set-piece propaganda photographs taken official photographers, the 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 Centenary Commemorations Toolkit can be found on the 'Ensuring We Remember' website.

See also the photobook: 'The Chinese Labour Corps: Photographs from the WJ Hawkings Collection'. 

More information about CLC commemorative events can also be found here, in Centenary News.

Information & images: 'Ensuring We Remember'

Posted by: CN Editorial Team