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Chinatown remembers 20,000 fallen workers of the Western front

Pagoda Orchestra leads tributes to forgotten army of World War One

Published on November 4th 2014.

Chinatown remembers 20,000 fallen workers of the Western front

LIVERPOOL'S Pagoda Chinese Youth Orchestra will this Saturday remember the "forgotten of the forgotten" of World War One.

In one of the most poignant tributes to commemorate the start of the war, a century ago, the orchestra will play the Last Post on its traditional instruments.
While around the country the Last Post will sound to remember the millions who fought and fell in World War One, in Liverpool the people of Chinatown will remember the 140,000 Chinese men, recruited as front-line workers in the battlefields of France and Belgium.
An estimated 20,000 men of the Chinese Labour Corps fell alongside soldiers, never to return to their homeland. Five men of the Labour Corps are buried in Anfield Cemetery, three of them resting in official War Graves Commission graves.
During the 1914-1918 war a massive recruitment drive took place across China to find men willing to travel to Europe.  More than 140,000 Chinese workers were transported to the frontline, carrying out duties such as digging trenches and repairing armed tanks. They also unloaded munitions and supplies from ships and trains, built roads and laid railway tracks. They were kept on after the war continue recovering bodies, and burying the fallen soldiers in the numerous war cemeteries.
A century on, official tributes will be paid for the first time to the men of the Chinese Labor Corps. And leading those tributes will be the award winning Pagoda Chinese Youth Orchestra, based at the Pagoda Arts Centre in Liverpool’s Chinatown.

Chinese LabourersFor the first time, tributes are being paid to the 20,000 Chinese labourers died on the Western Front

During November hundreds of communities around the UK have signed up to play the Last Post to commemorate the sacrifices which affected every city, town and village.
On Saturday at 1pm the playing of the Last Post by the orchestra will be the Chinese community finally paying tribute to its own army of works who made the long journey from China to France and Belgium.
As part of the ceremony in Liverpool there will be the first ever recital of a special song performed a century ago in China as a recruitment song for the cause.
An exhibition at the Pagoda telling the story of the Labour Corps will continue until November 30th.
The Last Post is a mass participation project that will see communities across the UK playing the Last Post on a variety of different instruments to remember lives of World War One. 
Zi lan Liao, who runs the orchestra following the death last year of her father, said: “Very few people are aware of this vast number of Chinese people recruited to play an important role in the Great War.  Many of them paid with their lives, with estimates of at least 20,000 of them being killed.
“It is most fitting that the Youth Orchestra will be at the centre of this tribute, remembering those brave countrymen who made that long journey to the battlefields of Europe.

Img_3596The Anfield graves were visited last Sunday by members of the Chinese community

“At Pagoda Arts we will have a display about the history of the Chinese Labour Corps andthe impact the First World War had on our community.  The Pagoda Chinese youth orchestra will be performing and members of the orchestra will be telling stories of the Labour corps and their links to Liverpool.”
The youth orchestra will be performing the song “Last Post” as well as Chinese songs that were popular or written during the WW1 era. 
On Sunday the graves of the five buried in Liverpool were visited by leading members of the Chinese community in Liverpool. The youngest person at the tribute was orchestra member Isaac Cheung, 13, who will on Saturday be among those playing the Last Post.

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