Chinese Labour Corps

The Chinese Labour Corps project is being delivered by The Meridian Society with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and AAAHA management support.

The project has produced a documentary film in English and Chinese with Chinese subtitles. It includes oral histories from descendants both of the CLC and of their British commanding officers in the UK, archive material, filmed footage of existing sites, e.g. vestiges of training camps in China, trenches of the Somme and CLC burial sites in England and Europe. It has been screened at BFI Southbank and continues to be shown at venues throughout the UK.

DVD copies with accompanying booklet is being distributed to museums, libraries, archives, schools and Chinese community centres as a teaching/reference aid during and beyond our project. The booklet contains supplementary documents and images, a bibliography of publications on the CLC for further reading and details of related websites.

Educational workshops aimed at young people from 6-18 years of age will enable audiences to handle memorabilia, letters and documents for interpretation and to stimulate them to think about their deeper significance. Interactive drama performances will be given on such topics as poverty, departure, acclimatisation, alienation, homesickness, war, fear, death and sacrifice. Participants will be invited to write pieces or create artwork representing the emotions and experiences of the CLC or expressing their own thoughts and impressions of the CLC story.

Stuart Hobley, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund London, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, The Meridian Society will work with members of the public to explore the contribution of the Chinese Labour Corps to British efforts in the First World War. HLF is pleased to support this commemoration project which hosts an exciting programme of events, talks and creative activities.”

Peng Wenlan, Project Director for The Meridian Society, added: “The story of the Chinese Labour Corps and their contribution to the Allied effort during the Great War have remained forgotten for too long. This grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund will enable us to reveal it to the British public in a creative and accessible way. Our project website, featuring all the activities and outcomes of the next two years, will act as a virtual memorial to the CLC and will hopefully bring together descendants of Chinese labourers and their British commanding officers, so that new friendships can be forged and the legacy of their ancestors’ close collaboration can be continued.”