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 and the men was censored. On board crowded ships, the men crossed the U-boat-infested Atlantic. They were then put to work to keep the war machine in motion — digging trenches, hauling supplies, repairing military vehicles, and the grisly job of cleaning up the battlefields.
About 300,000 Chinese labourers were recruited by the British,French, and Russian allies during the First World War. Nearly 84,000 of them passed through Canada on their way to France.
Livingstone and other officers kept diaries and journals, and wrote letters home telling of their experiences with the Chinese. From these first-person accounts as well as historical records and from rare letters written by Chinese labourers themselves, author Dan Black offers for the first time a full account of Canadians and the Chinese Labour Corps — a story that had mostly been unknown until now.
DAN BLACK has written and edited hundreds of articles on Canada's military, past and present. He is the former editor of Legion Magazine and the co-author of Old Enough to Fight: Canada's Boy Soldiers in the First World War and Too Young To Die: Canada's Boy Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen in the Second World War, with John Boileau. Dan lives outside Ottawa, Ontario.