The forgotten Chinese workers who played a key role in Britain’s victory in the Great War is to be recognised in the UK - 100 years after their valiant efforts and sacrifice.
96,000 Chinese volunteer labourers were recruited and transported to France from the UK and at least 2,000 thousand gave their lives but there has never been a permanent memorial to them. Now a fitting tribute is being planned and it will form part of the centrepiece of the new business district being built by ABP in Royal Albert Dock with an unveiling ceremony scheduled for September 6, 2018.
9.6 metres in height with each meter representing 100,000 men of the Chinese Labour Corps, the column will include bas-relief carvings depicting the scenes of Chinese labourers being recruited, being transported to the Western front, working and return.
The monument, named Huabiao in Chinese, will face due east, directly towards Jinan, capital of Shandong Province from where the majority of labourers originated. At its base four photographs will be made into bas-relief carvings, depicting the journey, work and sacrifices of the Chinese workers.
John Miu, COO of ABP London said:
“We are honoured to host the UK’s first public memorial to the Chinese Labour Corps on the site of Royal Albert Dock London, where we are constructing the premiere business gateway between China and the UK, and London’s next business hub. We are proud of the contribution made by the Chinese Labour Corps in supporting front line allied troops: it is crucial that future generations remember their sacrifice and contribution while we enjoy living and working in a time of peace. Therefore we have set aside £100,000 budget to ensure the memorial to be built on the site and the budget supports design, landscaping, lighting, foundation construction and planning and licensing.”
The building of the UK’s national memorial to the contribution made by Chinese workers to the Allied war effort of the First World War now means it will also be home to what is undoubtedly to become an iconic symbol of Chinese heritage in the UK.
Established in 2014, Ensuring We Remember campaign is leading the project. Steve Lau, Chair of the Ensuring We Remember Campaign, said, “As ABP pushes forward in developing a future business district for London and the UK, it is fantastic that they also being so generous towards its past. Through ABP’s support, our campaign for a long overdue memorial to the Chinese volunteers who came to Britain’s assistance in her hour of need, but who were then almost completely forgotten enters into its final chapter. Ensuring we remember is no longer a dream, it is now set to become reality.”
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) have long supported the efforts from within the Chinese community to commemorate the contribution made by Chinese labourers. Lord Bourne, Minister for Communities at DCLG noted:
“The contribution made by the Chinese Labour Corps has been barely recognised and that is why I welcome the campaign to raise awareness of their extraordinary work and to build a memorial to ensure that their sacrifice is not forgotten.”
The Chinese Embassy in London has long supported the campaign for a memorial, and His Excellency, Ambassador Liu Xiaoming, remarked,
“The project will help everyone to understand the historical contribution of the Chinese Labour Corps, promote harmony between British Chinese and local communities and further China-Britain friendship”.
Wholehearted support has also been received from the Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, in which the memorial is now to be built, and has tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament noting that the contribution made by the Chinese has yet to be fully recognised, and welcoming the building of the memorial at the Royal Albert Docks.
Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP said: “It is regrettable that their toil and sacrifice were largely overlooked after the Great War, and have never properly been commemorated. A better tribute should be paid to their extraordinary contribution; their sacrifices helped deliver Britain’s victory. I warmly welcome the planned permanent memorial in ABP Royal Albert Dock.”
Fundraising for the memorial is well underway. With an original budget of £400,000, donations, pledges and gifts-in-kind have secured £230,000. Funding has come through a variety of sources, with some generous personal gifts.
Thomas Chan, who heads the fundraising appeal, said,
“After a hundred years it is time for all of us, young, old and from all backgrounds, to remember how these young men volunteered to come from China to assist Britain and her allies, and were part of the reason that peace was secured in Europe and the world.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
Chinese Labour Corps and Ensuring We Remember Campaign:
During the Great War, Britain recruited 96,000 Chinese volunteers to work on the Western Front. Though their contribution was significant, they were virtually forgotten after the war. To redress this historical oversight, the Ensuring We Remember Campaign was launched on 14th August 2014, and is formed of a strategic partnership of Chinese non-profit organisations led by the Chinese in Britain Forum. As well as its work to build a national memorial to the Chinese labour units of the Great War, the campaign has been involved in extensive lobbying in attempt to set the record straight.
For further information on the campaign including copyright cleared photographs, contact Steve Lau, +44 (0) 7782135005. firstname.lastname@example.org. Further details on the campaign can be found at http://EnsuringWeRemember.org.uk.
The full text of Stephen Timms’ Early day motion:
This House, in commemorating the centenary of the First World War, pays tribute to the 96,000 men of the Chinese Labour Corps, of whom the first arrived in France in April 1917; notes their extraordinary sacrifices in support of front line allied troops, and that over 2000 died; notes also that they dug trenches, buried the dead, cleared shells, built and operated military railways, maintained and supported tanks and aircraft which were decisive in Britain’s war effort, and helped build the cemeteries around the Somme after the War; regrets that their contribution was largely overlooked afterwards and has never been properly commemorated; and welcomes the planned permanent memorial to their toil and sacrifice in ABP’s new business district at Royal Albert Dock in the London Borough of Newham.
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