Canadians and the Chinese Labour Corps in the First World War
HARRY LIVINGSTONE was a small-town doctor from Listowel, Ontario, when he felt the pull of patriotism that led him to volunteer in the First World War. In 1917, Livingstone found himself embarking on a strange journey that took him to China, where he would inspect, and ultimately travel back to Canada with men who became known as the Chinese Labour Corps.
Once in Canada, the Chinese under Livingstone's care travelled across Canada in secret trains bound for Halifax. All news about the trains was censored. On board crowded ships, the labourers crossed the U-boat-infested Atlantic and once overseas were put to work to keep the war machine in motion--digging trenches, hauling supplies, repairing military vehicles, and the grisly task of cleaning up the battlefields. Overall, some 300,000 Chinese were recruited by the British, French, and Russians during the war. Roughly 84,000 of them passed through Canada.
Rain dripped off men's faces onto their woolen coats while they stood in line in Weihaiwei on the northeastern coast of China's Shantung province. The storm had whipped the bay into a swelling grey mass streaked with foam and the cold spray from the huge breakers was "thrown up into the compound." It was October 29, 1917, and formed up along the crescent beach--facing the waves and the unknown--2,290 Chinese labourers stood with the small cadre of British and Canadian officers assigned to accompany them to Europe via Canada.
Tim Cook wrote:
"This book is traditional history at its best, presenting an exhaustive collection of material in a meticulous fashion to tell a fascinating story in clear and well-paced prose. It does not have an ideological or theoretical bent and so allows the material to speak for itself."--Diana Lary, The Canadian Historical Review, Vol. 101, Issue 4 December 2020
Chris Baker on https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk wrote:
"This is a little-known story of the war and Black brings it alive with vivid writing and deep research. Black also peppers the book with unique photographs.... Black 's research and passion for this project have restored this forgotten story of the war."--Tim Cook, Canadian War Museum, Canadian Military History, Vol. 30, No. 1, Winter/Spring 2021.
"I found this to be an absorbing, fascinating and new account. For anyone interested in the Chinese Labour Corps it will be simply invaluable, but it goes further than that for it helps in developing our understanding of the global conflict and of the extraordinary logistical efforts that had to be undertaken to fight it."--Chris Baker, the Long, Long Trail website, Oct. 24, 2020