Chinese Labour Corps

A Heritage Project Commemorating the CLC’s Contribution to the Allied Effort in WW1

On 19th April 1917, a thousand Chinese men landed on French shores to make their way to the Western Front. They were the first contingent of the 96,000-strong Chinese Labour Corps (CLC), recruited by the British army to provide essential support behind the lines. They dug trenches, built roads and railways, repaired tanks and, after the war, cleared ordnance, buried the dead and restored the land to agricultural use. It is conceivable that their contribution may have brought forward the end of the war. Yet the story of the CLC is little known, even today.

Since April 2016, to coincide with Britain’s commemoration of the centenary of World War I, The Meridian Society has been conducting a multi-faceted project to raise awareness of the CLC story and their contribution with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The following webpages will show the various events and activities held over the past few years and the outcomes of our project. It is hoped that these will not only help inform readers about the Chinese Labour Corps, but will also serve as a virtual memorial to these men and ensure that they are no longer forgotten.

Click here to see an article in Centenary News about the launch of the Chinese Labour Corps project.

National Lottery support to commemorate the contribution of the Chinese Labour Corps to the WW1 British War Effort​

The Meridian Society has been awarded a grant of £99,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) towards a commemoration project of the contribution made to WW1 by the Chinese Labour Corps (CLC).

Volunteers will be recruited to help in various elements of the project and will be given training beforehand by experts in the field.

The project will consist of a documentary film in English with Chinese subtitles, to be screened at BFI Southbank, its sister cinemas and universities offering Chinese degree courses nationwide. The film will include oral histories from descendants both of the CLC in a and of their British commanding officers in the UK, archive material, filmed footage of existing sites, e.g. vestiges of training camps in China, trenches of the Somme and CLC burial sites in England and Europe.

DVD copies with accompanying booklet will be distributed to museums, libraries, archives, schools and Chinese community centres as a teaching/reference aid during and beyond our project. The booklet will contain supplementary documents and images, a bibliography of publications on the CLC for further reading and details of related websites. It will be bi-lingual to aid members of the Chinese community unfamiliar with English and to help learners of Chinese at workshops. Volunteers will assist in all stages of production, including research, filming, editing, and packaging and distribution of DVDs.

Educational workshops aimed at young people from 6-18 years of age will enable audiences to handle memorabilia, letters and documents for interpretation and to stimulate them to think about their deeper significance. Interactive drama performances will be given on such topics as poverty, departure, acclimatisation, alienation, homesickness, war, fear, death and sacrifice. Participants will be invited to write pieces or create artwork representing the emotions and experiences of the CLC or expressing their own thoughts and impressions of the CLC story.

Stuart Hobley, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund London, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, The Meridian Society will work with members of the public to explore the contribution of the Chinese Labour Corps to British efforts in the First World War. HLF is pleased to support this commemoration project which hosts an exciting programme of events, talks and creative activities.”

Peng Wenlan, Project Director for The Meridian Society, added: “The story of the Chinese Labour Corps and their contribution to the Allied effort during the Great War have remained forgotten for too long. This grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund will enable us to reveal it to the British public in a creative and accessible way. Our project website, featuring all the activities and outcomes of the next two years, will act as a virtual memorial to the CLC and will hopefully bring together descendants of Chinese labourers and their British commanding officers, so that new friendships can be forged and the legacy of their ancestors’ close collaboration can be continued.”

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.

Further Information

The Meridian Society: Peng Wenlan, Project Director, 07751 077945 or

Heritage Lottery Fund: Felix Gott, Communications Manager, 020 7591 6138 or