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Remembered Today:

Chinese merchant seaman


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Hi all, it is fasinating to learn about stoker's life is not only shoveling coal as my Asian G-grandfather told me.

It's a bit of a long shot that I would get a reply (it's 2021!) 

 

My ancestor is a Chinese-ethnic seafarer among  20,000 seaman who mostly worked as stokers (until 1945). As you may know most Asian family rarely talk about personal stories, let alone intense stuff during war times. So I have to guess that he served one of the merchant ships at the Liverpool port and may have transferred to a warship (by 1901).

 

Sadly, all documents and his war journal were also thrown away during a move....I am very gutted as the great grand daughter! I have found pieces here and there from British officers talking about Chinese Labour Corps but not stokers before WW1.

 

As the Indian or Chinese seafarers' stories are difficult to find, much appreciated if anyone can refer me to readings / websites / stories so I can trace a little bit of my family history!

 

 

 

 

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I have seen it mentioned that up to 20,000 Chinese mariners were serving in British flagged merchant vessels during WW1.

MB

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I had a look on Findmypast under "merchant seamen 1918-41" which includes the CR10 identity cards in BT350 from 1918-21.

I found around 6500  CR10 cards for men born in China and another 3000 ish for men born in Hong Kong.

It might be worth having a look at them although I think the name transcriptions may not be great.

best wishes

ernestjames

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The job titles for men involved in such work in the merchant marine was either ‘Fireman’ or ‘Trimmer’. (The term ‘Stoker’ was really  used only to describe Royal Navy ratings). Firemen worked in the boiler room and saw to the furnaces; Trimmers made sure that a ready supply of coal was available, shovelling it up from the coal bunkers, making sure not to take it from only one place of storage, so as to keep the ship trim in the water.


In 1911 there were 4,595 seamen of Chinese origin employed in the British Merchant Marine. However once war broke out there was soon a huge demand for labour at sea, in order to fill the shortages left with so many young men going off and joining the army, or being mobilised from the reserves into naval service. By 1916 the uptake of Chinese merchant seamen from the mainland and from the British colony of Hong Kong was so great that it had started to alarm the UK seamen’s unions (who blamed the Chinese for depressing their members wage rates). I have seen the 20,000 number being used, but whether that is accurate or not, I couldn’t say. There are however 3,075 names on the WW1 Mercantile Marine Reserve ‘Chinese’ medal roll (these were the men serving in naval auxiliaries, most probably of Hong Kong origin), so I would expect at least triple that number being employed in the purely civilian merchant fleet. The largest Chinese seamen’s memorial is in Stanley Military Cemetery in Hong Kong where the names of 532 personnel of the Mercantile Marine who have no known grave are commemorated. Sadly many men of Chinese origin are omitted from the Tower Hill Memorial, however steps have been taken in recent years to start to address that.

 

MB

Edited by KizmeRD
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  • spof changed the title to Chinese merchant seaman

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