I keep saying I will never write another blog on the Chinese Labour Corps, so…
The Chinese had been labourers in the British Empire for a while. They were miners in South Africa, railway navies in Canada and worked in other roles throughout the Empire. Prior to the First World War, there was a Chinese Regiment in the British Army There were Chinese civilians on Royal Navy warships in the Falklands War in the eighties. They are often forgotten, as are the British Soldiers who volunteered to serve in the Chinese Labour Corps.
The recruiting area for the Chinese Labour Corps was centred on Weihai, Shandong, China. The first known recruit in my records is Bi Xuzhong. Bi Xuzhong came from a village in Rongcheng, Shandong. Bi Xuzhong survived the war and almost certainly returned to China.
The last, again in my records is Ch’un Ch’ih Wang. While not the first or the last Chinese man to be executed for murder by the British in France, they are my records and I have put him last. Ch’un Ch’ih Wang was executed in the small square at Poperinghe Town Hall. His execution site is one of the most visited places in Poperinghe yet few could tell you a Chinese man was executed there. Ch’un Ch’ih Wang is buried in Poperinghe Old Military Cemetery, it is a mile down the road from the New Military Cemetery. For at least one reason this is a shame because busloads stop at the New Military Cemetery and place at sometimes seems armfuls of poppies on the graves of those who were shot at dawn there and ignore Ch’un Ch’ih Wang’s grave a mile down the road.
One of the basic premises behind the then Imperial War Graves Commision, now the Commonwealth War Graves Commision’s treatment of Imperial/Commonwealth war dead is they should all be treated equally. Something we seem to have “Unremembered”, No matter the rank, age, sex, race, what they did or how they died. Death is the great equaliser. We just don’t, we put armfuls of poppies on some. I tell people go to any of the CWGC cemeteries in the tourist season and walk down the row ends look along the rows. The mounds of poppies mark the grave of a VC holder, Boy Soldier, shot at Dawn, or a poet. We say we treat them all with the same respect. It is time we did.