Chinese community to urge remembrance

Today marks the 97th anniversary of the death of 543 Chinese labourers, killed when the SS Athos was torpedoed en route to the Western Front, carrying (amongst others) 900 members of the Chinese Labour Corps. This act would eventually lead to China declaring war against Germany on 24th August, 1917.

It is an obscure fact, for sure, but represents a very small piece of a much larger story of China’s involvement and support for Britain in World War I. In total about 140,000 Chinese labourers were sent to support the Allies (the Americans had a contingent of 10,000 Chinese to support them). The number that died runs well into the thousands.

That the story of so many thousands of Chinese who supported Britain and France is so obscure, virtually forgotten, is a great shame – even shameful?

With the coming centenary commemorations of the Great War, it is not too much of a surprise to learn that a national Chinese charity, The Chinese in Britain Forum (, is in the final stages of planning a campaign to have these men commemorated with a permanent memorial. “The pieces are coming together,” said a spokesperson, “but a numbers of strands all need to be in place before we launch. What I can say is that we hope to involve everyone in the campaign, not just Chinese people. This is a story about Chinese people, but it is just as much a British as a Chinese story: it’s about ensuring we remember.”

This appears to be part of a wider political landscape in which overseas and commonwealth contributions are being recognised. Certainly our interest has been raised in the story of the Athos, which you can read about in our next entry.

The campaign launch will take place in late March or early April. You can pre-register for the campaign newsletter below. (If you cannot see the form below, try at the end of the page here. Please note your details will be sent directly to the Camapaign, and not to Two Dragons. Update(25/02/14) Campaign Facebook Page

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