Noyelles-sur-Mer | France

Operation Jubilee

In 2014, Andy took his two sons and his father to France for the day on the slim excuse of a recce for a tour relating to the 1942 raid at Dieppe.

Amongst Andy's papers were two postcards dating back to the early 1900s and, game as they were, his father and sons took their part in recreating a scene.

Apart from an excellent opportunity for a boys' jolly, the visit to Noyelles-sur-Mer was an opportunity to recognise the contribution of the Chinese Labour Corps to the Great War.

Further reading below.

We last visited in - April 2019

Chinese Labour Corps

In the Great War, Noyelles-Sur-Mer was the base depot of the Chinese Labour Corps in France.

It was also the site of the largest Chinese Labour Corps and of No.3 Labour (originally the Chinese) General Hospital.

This entry gives us the opportunity to recognise the contribution of the Chinese in the Great War.

On 30th December 1916, an agreement was reached between the  United Kingdom and Chinese Governments for the employment of Chinese labour in France.

The first contingent (from north China) arrived in France in April 1917, increasing to 54,000 by the end of the year in both France and Belgium.

By November 1918, Chinese Labour Corps had increased their number to 96,000.

Over 1,900 members of the Chinese Labour Corps were to lose their lives and 841 of them are buried at the Noyelles-Sur-Mer Chinese Cemetery.

There is a Chinese inscription carved around the entrance of the cemetery which was chosen by the Chinese Ambassador to Great Britain during the war, Shi Zhaoji which translates as:

'This site commemorates the sacrifice paid by 1900 Chinese workers who lost their lives during the 1914-1918 war, these are my friends and colleagues whose merits are incomparable.'

Wenlan Peng delivered an informative live webinar of the work of the Meridian Society to the Western Front Association on 14th December 2020. 

Visit the Western Front Association You Tube channel for more content and give them the credit they deserve.

Video Credit - You Tube, Wenlan Peng and Western Front Association

Chinese Labour Corps | The Cicerone's view

Grappling with a challenging topic

The use of Chinese labour during World War played a significant role in the global dynamics of the time, but its connection to the outbreak of the Spanish flu remains a topic of ongoing historical debate. Chinese labourers were predominantly employed in various support roles, including construction, logistics, and other essential services, both on the front lines and in the rear areas. 

Their contribution to the war effort was substantial, particularly in the provision of critical labour required for infrastructure development and maintenance.

However, the crowded and unsanitary living conditions endured by these labourers, combined with the general lack of proper healthcare infrastructure and resources, created an environment conducive to the spread of infectious diseases. While the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 is believed to have originated from a different source, the global movement of troops and labourers during the war acted as a catalyst for its rapid spread.

Although historical evidence suggests that the movement of large numbers of troops and labourers during the war facilitated the virus's dissemination, it is crucial to recognise the multiple factors contributing to the pandemic's escalation, including the virulence of the virus itself and the prevalent lack of immunity among the global population.

In the shadow of COVID 19, research into the historical origins and global spread of the Spanish flu continues to evolve. Comprehensive and nuanced analyses should consider the multifaceted nature of the pandemic's emergence.

Did you know?

China declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary on 14th August 1917

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