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Gregory James on the Chinese Labour Corps

posted 23 Jan 2014, 03:02 by John Leighton   [ updated 24 Dec 2017, 03:25 by OMRS Admin ]
On Wednesday 22nd January many members and friends met at the Police Officers’ Club in the bar and later in the History Room for what proved to me a most excellent evening.


We were very fortunate to have as our guest speaker Gregory James who has extensively researched the Chinese Labour Corps and has considerable information on the bronze version of the British War Medal issued to the Corps and the recipients of these medals.


Gregory introduced his recently published book ‘The Chinese Labour Corps (1916-1920)’ and copies were available for purchase and signing. Details of the book are reproduced below.

Gregory captivated the gathering for about two hours with an almost endless series of fascinating slides, anecdotes and sheer wealth of research information about this little known formation.    Both before and after the lecture Gregory was excellent company over refreshments in the bar and proved to have a command of his subject that very few would be able to match.  


The Chinese Labour Corps (1916–1920) by Gregory James. ISBN 978-988-12686-0-0   xxiv + 1,285 pp. [OCLC: 758984699]

In The Chinese Labour Corps, Gregory James offers an informative account of the creation, management and operation of the 95,000-strong auxiliary unit recruited in China for service in Europe during the First World War. Financed and administered by the British War Office, it was raised at a time when Allied casualties, on the Western Front and elsewhere, had seriously reduced the availability of the manpower necessary to ensure the maintenance of a combat-fit military force. He shows that the Chinese Labour Corps derived its organisational structure from earlier Chinese units in foreign service, for example the Canton Coolie Corps recruited by the British and French during the second Opium War in the mid-nineteenth century, or the contingents of labourers contracted to the mines of the Transvaal at the turn of the twentieth. In this important and wide-ranging contribution to military history, the author draws on an extensive array of public and unofficial sources to chronicle the saga of a wartime cross-cultural encounter whose legacy remains in the narrative of contemporary Sino-Western relations.