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British musician writes novel, song for WWI Chinese workers

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-01-26 14:20
Clive Harvey shows his 11-chapter English novel, Yang's War, which was published in Britain last week after final amendments on Jan 25, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

Inspired by the forgotten story of Chinese Labor Corps (CLC) in World War I (WWI), a British musician and author wrote a historical novel and composed a song, with the hope to open people's eyes to the huge contribution and sacrifice made by the Chinese men.

The English novel, Yang's War, has been officially published in Britain last week after final amendments, the author Clive Harvey told Xinhua Thursday. The 11-chapter novel can now be ordered online from the publisher and any bookshop.

It tells the story of a well-educated Chinese young man, Yang, along with his cousin Sheng, enduring the rigors of being wrenched from their homeland, herded onto ships and packed trains, then delivered by their nightmare voyage to the killing fields of Europe.

The book is accompanied by contemporary photographs highlighting the invaluable role the 140,000 Chinese workers played in providing manpower to the British and French Armies during WWI.

Harvey, 62, from Kent, wanted to write the story after he heard from a war historian about the CLC in 2014.

"How could it be that this unthinkable dislocation of thousands of young men from the other side of the globe could have taken place yet with almost no historic acknowledgment?" he lamented.

"It's time to set the record straight," he believed. "The Chinese men helped us but we forgot them. A friend in need is a friend indeed. No matter when or where, this kind of true friendship should always be remembered and cherished."

Members of the Chinese Labour Corps loading sacks of oats onto a lorry at Boulogne. [Photo/iwm.org.uk]

It took him two years to finish the book. He sought historical guidance from historians during writing. "I am not a historian, but I am writing a historical novel and I want it to be realistic," he said.

A professional musician, Harvey also composed a song dedicated to CLC.

"Wherever they have fallen, together we remember them, their fears and their words, linger here... These hundred years have hurried by rapidly, all that they were forever here, for years and now, as we recall so many lives lost in war, we wonder has anything really changed," the lyrics go.

Harvey said he wants to see his book made into a film and the song into theme music. But what he loves most currently is to see the music played by a Chinese children choir at a ceremony planned in September for the unveiling of the first CLC memorial in Britain.

Harvey supported the memorial building plan, saying that Britain owes not only a monument but also a heartfelt thank you to CLC.

"We must now express our deepest thanks to the Chinese Labor Corps and to the Chinese People," he said, "and we must properly acknowledge and accept all that these men did for us and the difference they made all those years ago."

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