Scotland/China articles

Remembering the Chinese Labour Corps

by Website Editor, 8 November 2014

As the United Kingdom remembers the sacrifices made during the First World War, at the first of four Remembrance Day periods over the next four years, we should also commemorate the 96,000 men of the Chinese Labour Corps who supported the British armies in France and Belgium from 1916-1920.

A campaign was launched this summer by the Chinese community in the UK, who are asking the British government to support the establishment of a UK memorial to the men of the Chinese Labour Corps. They have an interesting website at www.ensuringweremember.org.uk, which explains their campaign and the background to the CLC. If you wish to support the campaign, you can sign their online petition.

Several notable Scots were also associated with the development of the CLC. The British Military Attache in Peking, Colonel David Robertson, was an enthusiastic promoter of the scheme, and diplomats James Stewart-Lockhart and Reginald Johnston were involved in the initial work to set up the CLC depot at Wei Hai Wei. In addition a number of Scots - often former missionaries, doctors or businessmen in China - served as officers or NCOs in the CLC.

A total of some 1,953 CLC fatalities are remembered in Commonwealth War Grave Commission cemeteries in France, Belgium and elsewhere. The largest is at Noyelles-sur-mer, on the Somme in France, where 879 are buried or remembered (see photos below). It is similar to a normal CWGC cemetery, but with some distinctions, notably the rather attractive Chinese-style gate.

The graves themselves are similar to those used for Commonwealth dead, with the man's name in characters, his place of origin, his CLC number, and date of death. Each grave has one of four standard inscriptions, carved by CLC men for their fallen comrades.

  • “Though dead he still liveth”
  • “Faithful unto death”
  • “A good reputation endures for ever”
  • ”A noble duty bravely done”