Enjoy a photo exhibition, organised by Shandong Overseas Chinese Association Hall, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War by showing the hidden stories of 140,000 Chinese labourers recruited by Britain and France to serve for the Allies during the war.
What this exhibition shows is not the far-reaching bloodshed, nor the warriors who achieved miraculous feats in battles. Instead, a group of “nobodies” whose contribution has not been recognised, will be introduced – they are the 140,000 Chinese labourers who served for the Allies. Living at the bottom of society, these poor and low-born people, in their humble positions, decided to take overseas hard-labour work for the sake of livelihood. They were called in contempt as “worker ants” or “coolies” on the battlefield. Yet who can deny their suffering, endeavour and sacrifice in helping to end the war? Come to see the exhibition and find out more.
Recruitment of Chinese Labourers
In July 1914, the First World War was provoked between the Allied Powers led by the UK and France and the Central Powers led by Germany. Due to the escalation and the long duration of the war, labour shortage became an increasingly serious problem for the two warring sides. The Allies turned their attention to China with a hope to turn defeat into victory by recruiting Chinese labourers. France and the United Kingdom started recruitment successively from May and October 1916 to early 1918. During the two years, a total of 140,000 labourers were recruited.
During the recruitment, Shandong province became the main base and source of Chinese labourers. From the beginning of 1917 to early 1918, more than 98,000 Chinese labourers sailed from Shandong’s Weihaiwei and Qingdao. Among them, more than 94,000 were recruited by the United Kingdom, and over 4,000 by France.