Speech by HM The Lord-Lieutenant of Merseyside
Mr Mark Blundell

This year marks the fourth and final year of Britain’s World War I centenary commemorations. During these four years, much homage has been paid to those who fought so bravely and selflessly to defend our nation.  We have also paid tribute to those who worked tirelessly at home or behind the lines – the munitions workers, medical staff, map drawers and many more – without whom our final victory could not have been achieved.

This is also true of the very many labourers brought over from India, South Africa and, of course, China.  The Chinese Labour Corps, or CLC, consisting of almost 100,000 men from China, mostly from poor farming communities, was the largest of the labour corps recruited to help with manual work during the Great War.  What they did was neither easy nor glamourous. Yet, it was essential.  We will hear very soon about the kind of heavy physical work they carried out for ten hours a day, seven days a week, without respite and with little complaint. Sadly, their story is little known, even to the people of Liverpool, which played host to them, albeit for a short while, as they made their way to the battlefields of Europe.

But the Chinese labourers shall not remain forgotten. Theirs was a civilian army which deserves as much respect and recognition as our armies of soldiers. It is for this purpose that we are gathered here today – to remember all those who travelled thousands of miles across the continents and under the harshest of conditions to help our troops on the Western Front. As the words on many of their tombstones read, theirs was “a noble duty bravely done”.

May I, at this moment, declare a small personal interest. My grandfather was a junior officer on the Western Front. In 1917, one of his tasks was to organize the planting of 150,000 cabbages using  a team of Chinese labour. This was a vital task of the feeding of the troops, typical of the kind of work of the CLC.

Francis Nicholas Blundell

As Lord-Lieutenant, on behalf of Her Majesty, I should like to say “thank you” to the men of the Chinese Labour Corps. Liverpool and Merseyside will remember them.