Channel 4 commissions Britain's Secret Chinese Army (W/T) documentary

For the first time on television Channel 4 will reveal the untold story of the army of 140,000 workers who travelled from China to Europe in 1917 to form the backbone of the Allied war effort, ultimately helping them win the First World War.

Britain’s Secret Chinese Army (W/T), a brand new 1x60 documentary, will examine a treasure trove of recently discovered unpublished letters, diaries and documents which reveal how and why these unsung heroes were recruited by Britain and France. Known as the Chinese Labour Corps they risked their lives building vital roads and trench systems, repairing railways, maintaining tanks and even dismantling unexploded bombs.

Now their British descendants will go on an emotional journey to discover how their forefathers not only helped win the war - but also stayed on long afterwards to bury the dead and turn ruined land back into to working fields, and in doing so getting Europe back on its feet again.

But the remarkable contribution of these Chinese pioneers was quite literally painted out of history. Longer than a football pitch and over 13 metres high, ‘Panthéon de la Guerre’ was the biggest painting ever commissioned and represented all the Allies who helped win the war, with one glaring omission: the Chinese Labour Corps. Through forensic analysis of what remains of the painting today the film examines how and why these unsung Chinese heroes were erased from history.

There are over 60,000 memorials in the UK commemorating the First World War – including memorials to animals and Germans - but there are none for the Chinese Labour Corps. To honour their contribution to the allied victory the film follows the campaign, championed by many including the late Sir David Tang, Joanna Lumley, and the Ensuring We Remember campaign, to get the first ever public memorial erected to commemorate the Chinese Labour Corps in Britain, one hundred years after they first arrived in Europe to serve in the First World War.

Jazz Gowans, CEO, Transparent Television says: “They worked 10-18 hour days, seven days a week, with only three days holiday a year, and yet their contribution was repeatedly erased from history. This story needs to be told and their contribution recognised.”

The film has been commissioned by Rob Coldstream from Transparent Television and Argonon International are the international distributors for the programme. The director is Simon Chu. The executive producer is Jazz Gowans.


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