History of Chinese Labour Corps during World War I

2009-11-26 15:46 BJT

In 1916, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig requested that 21,000 labourers be recruited to fill the manpower shortage caused by casualties during World War I. As China was initially not a belligerent nation, her nationals were not allowed by their government to participate in the fighting - although the Chinese later declared war against Germany and Austria–Hungary, on 14 August 1917.

The scheme to recruit Chinese to serve as non-military personnel was pioneered by the French government. A contract to supply 50,000 labourers was agreed upon on 14 May 1916 and their first shipment left Tianjin for Dagu and Marseille in July 1916. The British government also signed an agreement with the Chinese authorities to supply labourers. The recruiting was launched by the War Committee in London in 1916 to form a Labour Corps of labourers from China to serve in France and to be known as the Chinese Labour Corps.

The Chinese Labour Corps comprised Chinese men who mostly came from Shandong Province, and to a lesser extent from Liaoning, Jilin, Jiangsu, Hubei, Hunan, Anhui and Gansu Provinces. The first transport ship carrying 1,088 labourers sailed from the main depot at Weihaiwei on 18 January 1917. The journey to France took 3 months.

Editor: Zheng Limin | Source: wikipedia