Speech by the Rt. Worshipful the Lord Mayor of Liverpool
Cllr. Christine Banks

The Chinese Labour Corps had to travel to Europe as fast as possible to reach the Front Line. But when it became too dangerous for them to cross the Mediterranean Sea because of German U-boats patrolling the region, they had to take the more arduous journey across the Pacific Ocean, overland across Canada, over the Atlantic to Britain and, from here, to northern France.

Shortly after they were recruited in 1917, from May of that year to April of the following year, 27 transport ships arrived on our shores, here, in Liverpool. Between them, they carried 65,000 Chinese labourers, in other words, over two thirds of their total force. The CLC did not stay long in Liverpool, because of the pressing need to send them on to Folkestone to board more ships destined for France.

But just think: 65,000 Chinese passing through Liverpool in the space of 12 months – that is a remarkable number. I wonder what they would have made of our city? Many of them would have been disorientated by their long journey and bewildered by these strange people called Liverpudlians with their even stranger accents! But they would probably have marvelled at the sight of the Three Graces, the first true signs of a mighty Western civilisation. They could not have imagined, at that moment, that they would soon be confronted by the horrors of a brutal war.

The Chinese labourers did not pass through Liverpool again. They would not know that we would become home to one of the oldest Chinese communities in Europe. While it is good to know that most of them managed to return home after the war, it is a great sadness to learn that a few thousand died and lay buried in France, Flanders and Britain, including the five men here in Anfield Cemetery. But to their descendants back in China, I want to assure them that Liverpool is and always will be their home and we are proud to count them amongst our own. They will be forever in our hearts and we thank the Chinese community for what they did for Liverpool, England and across the world.