200,000 Chinese Worked For The Allies In World War I In The Trenches.

by Daniel Russ on January 10, 2014

 

China09

 

Chinese Labor Corps 

 

Just coming into the memory of history again is another chapter few have heard about. The fact is, the trenches that World War I brought to combat were in fact quite operose affairs. It took thousands of men to dig them. They often had roofing, and inner chambers built where war planners could open a map without rain and mud spoiling documents. Trenches were the fortifications of their day and needed cooks, and medical professionals, and people who would handle corpses. The Allies had such man power shortages, that they needed to outsource the labor. They turned to the same source of cheap labor that helped build the railroads: Chinese laborers. In fact starting in 1917 upwards of about 200,000 Chinese laborers were shipped in from Shandong province to the battle fields of Eastern France and Belgium. Some of them went through the Suez Canal and through the Mediterranean.

 

On the way in, the laborers were quarantined and examined in a facility in Canada. Today the facility is a small jail.

 

The Chinese mostly worked in horrid conditions, in the rain, excavating and securing unexploded munitions, and as many as 20,000 of them died on the battlefield, under fire, and unarmed. Yet there was no chance that the western forces could have culled together an Asian militia with little or no stake in the fight. The work was difficult and authorities posted guards at compounds and on transportation trains to prevent defections

 

The Chinese laborers also worked in agricultural fields, many were mechanics were serviced planes and tanks and many of the Chinese Labor Corps essentially ran and maintained the railroads in northern France and in Belgium. Because the French had so much territory in Indochina, many of the Chinese laborers were fluent in French, and acted as interpreters between the French and the English.  After the war about 5000 remained behind, and the rest of the survivor were repatriated. 

 

Source: http://www.straight.com/

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