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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Shanghai Contingent Gunners



Whilst reading Betrayed Ally - China in the Great War [Pen & Sword - Frances Wood / Christopher Alexander] there was a reference to 110 men working in China at the beginning of the Great War volunteering to join the British Army. 

Did any of these men end up as Gunners?


China at the beginning of the Great War China was a republic, though European Powers and Japan had spheres of influence in the country. In those areas, the characteristics of colonialism prevailed. The powers controlled much of the trade and commerce, headed official institutions such as councils and police, and built enclaves of separate communities. The Europeans and Japanese would also establish garrisons and naval bases. Nearly 80 % of China was under foreign control. 


Britain's sphere of influence was along the Yangtze River and the port of Shanghai at the mouth of the river. 



British Army parade Shanghai

As Europe descended into war in August 1914, China's President Yuan Shikai declared China’s neutrality on 6th August 1914. In the European enclaves around China, men looked to return to Europe to engage in the war. 

In Shanghai, the War Office accepted an offer of 110 men who had previous military training. 


On the morning of 16th October 1914, crowds thronged the Bund in Shanghai to wave the men off to war. [1]


The Bund Shanghai

The men sailed on the SS Suwa Maru under the command of Captain Hilton-Johnson, who served with the Shanghai Municipal Police Force. [2] The journey would take 10 weeks and during the voyage the men conducted military training. [1]


The SS Suwa Maru arrived in London on 14th December 1914, the volunteers marching as a column to the Central Recruiting Office in London. On attestation to the British Army most of the volunteers joined one of two regiments: the 10th (Service) Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards) or King Edwards Horse (Territorial Force Yeomanry). [1]

There were however 7 men who would end up as Gunners, who all worked for governing organisations before enlisting. [2]

Charles Edward Beale 
Shanghai Municipal Police
Royal Horse Artillery; transport battery
Life story: Charles E Beale | Lives of the First World War (iwm.org.uk)
Returned to Shanghai after the war

Walter Bowden Betts
Shanghai Municipal Council, Electricity Dept
King Edward’s Horse; RFA
Life story: Walter Bowden Betts | Lives of the First World War (iwm.org.uk)
Died 12-5-21

Allyne Farmer Gimson
Shanghai Municipal Council, Public Works Dept, Surveying asst
Royal Field Artillery
Life story: A F Gimson |Lives of the First World War (iwm.org.uk)
LG 12th Jan 1915 Cadets and ex Cadets of the Officers Training Corps to be temporary Second Lieutenants
Allyne Farmer Gimson.
EG 1st Jan 1917 Temporary Lieutenant (Acting Captain) Awarded Military Cross
Returned to Shanghai after the war

John W. Litt
Shanghai Municipal Police
RFA; Labour Corps
Life story: John W Litt | Lives of the First World War (iwm.org.uk)
Struck off en route. Served Egypt

Archibald Longman
Shanghai Municipal Police
Royal Field Artillery, “D” Bty. 94th Bde
Life story: Archibald Longman | Lives of the First World War (iwm.org.uk)
Killed in action, 2-10-1916, Somme 
Dismissed from Shanghai Police, 17-12-1914

A.R. Murphy
Shanghai Municipal Council, Electricity Dept, Collector
Royal Field Artillery
Returned to Shanghai after the war


Edward William Trotman
Chinese Maritime Customs
Royal Field Artillery, then RAF
Life story: Edward William Trotman | Lives of the First World War (iwm.org.uk)           
1915 Oct 29. Commissioned 2nd Lt in RFA
1917 Oct 15. Observer Officer in RFC with seniority from 16 Jul 1917



Victory Celebrations Shanghai

On the 16th February 1924 a memorial was unveiled on the Bund, from where the Shanghai Contingent left in 1914, commemorating over 200 Shanghai foreign residents who lost their lives during the First World War.

Unveiling of the War Memoria

Shanghai War Memorial


[1] Shanghai Contingent (theauxiliaries.com)

[2] The Suwa Maru contingent | Robert Bickers

[3] Lost monuments and memorials of the Shanghai Bund 1: The War Memorial (1924) | Robert Bickers

Edited by ianjonesncl

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Thanks for this article, always very interesting to learn more about China in the war. :thumbsup:

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