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London students pay tribute to Chinese men who helped WWI effort

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-11-07 01:40

London students pay tribute to Chinese men who helped WWI effort

Students from Kingsford Community School in the Beckton area of London pay a tribute to Chinese World War I volunteers in London on Monday. [Photo/chinadaily.com.cn]

Students from Kingsford Community School in the Beckton area of London gathered on Monday to remember the sacrifice and the unsung contributions by members of the Chinese Labour Corps, who contributed to the Allies' effort during World War I.

The corps, recruited by the British and French armies, consisted of about 140,000 Chinese volunteers. They provided behind-the-lines support, such as the digging of trenches and building of transport links.

As many as 20,000 of the men were believed to have died during the war, yet there are few tributes to them among Britain's 40,000 war memorials.

Li Chunlei, manager of the Confucius Classroom and international office at Kingsford Community School, said the school decided to hold a service to honor the men of the Labour Corps.

"We would like to let all the young people in the UK learn about the war and learn about the Chinese Labour Corps, to respect them, to commemorate them," he said.

Li said they wanted to encourage more students to remember the Labour Corps.

"Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the end of the war and we're going to try our best to organize as many students as possible in the UK to launch this activity to commemorate the Chinese Labour Corps in the First World War," he said.

More than 400 students from Kingsford Community School held up the names of some of the Chinese people who lost their lives.

Every student learns Mandarin at the school and a small group of them expressed their feelings in the language.

The national anthems of both the UK and China were played, followed by a minute's silence.

A group of student representatives from years seven to 11 later visited a cemetery in London and laid flowers in memory of the Chinese volunteers.

Belinda, a Year 9 student, said such ceremonies are a vital part of British social history.

"In history lessons, I learn of the history of Britain and the world war, but a lot of the time we tend to miss out a vital part, which was these great contributions that Chinese people gave to this country," she said. "I think it would be a great thing if this could be integrated into the curriculum for history, not just in Kingsford, but make it be a part of national curriculum."

William Bolton, the chairman of the governing body at Kingsford Community School, said he was thrilled to attend the memorial because it reminded him of his father, who was born in 1900 and who encountered the Chinese laborers while serving in the military in France.

"He told me about these Chinese people, we couldn’t talk to them, and they couldn't talk to us, and they got all the nasty jobs to do but they made a very big contribution in the war. To have this labor force of people who were strong and able to do things was quite important and we felt very blessed to have them with us."

Zhang Yangfei in London contributed to this story.

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