Speaking for Ourselves

Memorial to 'long forgotten' soldiers

Memorial to 'long forgotten' soldiers

Daniel Nelson

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Memorial to 'long forgotten' soldiers

A Labour member of the London Assembly has added his voice to the campaign for a memorial to the 140,000-strong Chinese Labour Corps recruited by Britain and France in World War One.

His reminder of the "long forgotten but tremendous contribution to the allies’ cause on the Western Front" came ahead of the 100th anniversary of the 11 November Armistice Day that ended fighting in the war between the Allies and their opponent, Germany.

Addressing the London Assembly in early November Andrew Dismore said the conditions in which the Chinese worked was "virtual slavery" but that without their contribution "we might not have succeeded".

Afterwards he commented, "Most people have not even heard of the Chinese Labour Corps. These men deserve better and our nation’s promise never to forget should apply to them as to any other. That is why I support the campaign for a national memorial to these men from China who gave so much."

He said that designs for a permanent memorial were "under construction" in China, "so I hope before long we will see the monument erected in Chinatown in London.”

The campaign for a memorial is also being boosted by Forgotten, a play showing at the Arcola Theatre in London.

In the play's programme, Karen Soo, who lives in London and is the granddaughter of a French-recruited Labour Corps member, Soo Yuen Yi, writes: "As a member of the British-Chinese community I feel that this hidden history is immensely important in connecting our community to British and European history.

"It gives us a a place in that history where we can feel proud that our ancestors contribution made a difference."

Last year Soo and her late grandfather unveiled the first-ever commemorative plaque of the Labour Corps contribution at the China Exchange in London's Chinatown.

The boost to the campaign for a Chinese Labour Corps memorial came in the same week as the unveiling of a bronze statue of a Sikh soldier in the West Midlands town of Smethwick honouring the more than one million Indian soldiers who fought with the Allies against Nazi Germany in World War Two.

6-7 November, photo exhibition on the Chinese Labour Corps, China Exchange, 31a Gerrard Street, W1. Info: http://chinaexchange.uk/contact/