On Tuesday 21 March, 15 young people from Everton FC Academy and 15 from Liverpool FC Academy were brought together by the project The Unremembered: World War One’s Army of Workers to remember the sacrifice of the Chinese Labour Corps during WWI.
The two teams – which usually meet as rivals on the pitch – came together to visit five Chinese Labour Corps graves at Anfield Cemetery, which is situated between the two clubs. They were met by Mr Tam from See Yep Association, to learn about the Labour Corps and Chinese customs. At the graves, the teams laid white flowers, bowed in respect and held a reading about the Chinese Labour Corps. They then lit 30 white candles embossed with both club emblems during which Zilan Liao of Pagoda Arts performed a moving rendition of the Last Post on the Chinese flute.
Following the visit to the cemetery, the two Academy teams visited Chinatown where Liverpool’s Chinese community support for the day’s events continued. There, the teams were taken on a tour of the oldest Chinatown in the UK which is also home to the oldest Chinese community in Europe.
The event took place ahead of Qingming, or Tomb-sweeping Day, on 4 April – a traditional Chinese festival for remembering ancestors. The event was held before this week’s derby match between Liverpool FC and Everton FC on 1 April to show unity and togetherness ahead of the game at Anfield.
David Porter, Head of Academy Education at Everton Football Club, said: “We’re dedicated to raising well educated young people both on and off the pitch and today was a great chance for the young lads to take part in a unique and engaging experience. The city of Liverpool is renowned for its Chinese culture and it seemed appropriate to come together with Liverpool FC to pay our respects – another great example of how football can unite us all, no matter the colour of your team.”
Head of Education and Welfare at Liverpool FC, Phil Roscoe added: “It was an absolute privilege for both teams to be involved in this event to remember the sacrifice of the Chinese Labour Corps. It is crucial that the players are educated on off the field matters such as WW1 so today was a real honour to be able to remember those that sadly passed away. We have a great relationship with Everton FC and today only highlighted the importance of unity. I would like to thank all those involved for making this poignant event happen.”
The event is part of The Unremembered: World War One’s Army of Workers, which is running for the duration of 2017 – 100 years after the Labour Corps were were recruited. Big Ideas Company are calling for local community groups and schools across the UK to join the project. They can receive a resource pack in which there will be opportunities to learn about the history of the Labour Corps, find local stories and participate in activities. The resource pack will be accompanied by monthly releases about Labour Corps from different countries around the world. The Unremembered is funded by Department for Communities and Local Government.
Communities Minister Lord Bourne said: “The war effort required a great many people from a great many countries, whose bravery and service was so crucial to the Allied victory. The Chinese Labour Corps formed the largest contingent of workers recruited, but too little is known of the dangerous yet essential work they carried out on the Western Front. They came to Britain’s aid in her hour of need. So it’s right that we remember and honour the contribution of every one of the brave men who served.”
Join the project this year to remember World War One’s Army of Workers: