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Chinese Labour Corps Ammunition Logistics


ianjonesncl

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Whilst on my last trip to Ypres I visited the Chinese Memorial  at Busseboom which commemorates the part played by 140,000 Chinese Labourers employed by the British and French  during the Great War.

 

Their contribution and role is outlined by the National Archives;  National Archives - Chinese Labour Corps on the Western Front

 

 

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CHINESE LABOUR CORPS MEMORIAL BUSSEBOOM

 

Adjacent is another memorial to 13 Chinese labourers killed in a German air raid on 15th November 1917 which overlooks the former cemetery where they were buried. 

 

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CHINESE LABOURERS MEMORIAL BUSSEBOOM

 

Both memorials feature statues of ammunition handlers, a role that is vital to the to the functioning of the artillery ammunition logistics chain. The weapon of Artillery is the shell, and to provide it's effect it is required to be moved from the point of manufacture to it's point of impact. The Gunners can fire shells if they have them, the problems of lack of ammunition being highlighted in the 'Shell Crisis' of 1915. That crisis saw major reorganisation of the manufacturing and supply chain in the UK. The increased number of shells required would also necessitate the lines of communication being able to handle the additional volume of shells, and that would mean manpower to move ammunition.

 

In 1916, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig requested labourers be recruited to meet the ever increasing manpower required to sustain the war effort which was exacerbated by the increasing casualties sustained. Consequently schemes arose to recruit labourers from the colonies of the British Empire and China. Among the tasks allocated to the Chinese Labourers was ammunition handling.

 

 

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CHINESE LABOUR CORPS MEMORIAL BUSSEBOOM

 

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CHINESE LABOURERS MEMORIAL BUSSEBOOM

 

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A review of Distribution of Labour Companies Situation 27th July 1918 [1] shows the number of Labour Companies (British / Chinese / other countries) dedicated to the handing of ammunition. One Chinese company was deployed between First and Fifth Army, and 10 1/2 Chinese companies on Lines of Communication (out of a total of 12 1/2 companies). A Chinese Labour Company was run by British Officers and SNCO's, with between 470 and 490 Chinese labourers. [2] On that basis, 11 1/2 companies would mean around 5,500 Chinese Labourers would be employed on ammunition handling.

 

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In recognition of their service in the Great War, those who served with the Chinese Labour Corps were awarded the British War Medal, though it was a bronze medal, not the silver medal awarded to British Empire Troops.

 

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[1] Distribution of Labour Companies by Employments and Formations (catalogue reference: WO 107/37) 

[2] https://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/chinese-labour-corps-western-front-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by ianjonesncl

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Some of these men remained in Belgium after the war, married local girls and settled down. Their descendants are still there.

Belgian TV did a documentary on them and their descendants and families some years ago (quite a lot of years ago; in the late 80s, I think).

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5 hours ago, healdav said:

Some of these men remained in Belgium after the war, married local girls and settled down. Their descendants are still there.

Belgian TV did a documentary on them and their descendants and families some years ago (quite a lot of years ago; in the late 80s, I think).

I would think that life back in China would have been uncertain and prospects in post war Europe may have seemed better.

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2 hours ago, ianjonesncl said:

I would think that life back in China would have been uncertain and prospects in post war Europe may have seemed better.

And the Belgians took to Chinese restaurants very quickly! Yes, many opened restaurants.

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