Battleground Clearance

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Why did so many of the Chinese Labourers buried at Noyelles die after November 11th 1918? One simple reason was that many of them were given the job of battleground clearance. Such an innocuous sounding task: such a deadly reality.

As soldiers were demobilised, the Chinese Labour Corps (and other labourers) were left behind to return the French countryside to its pristine state. That meant clearing bodies and reburying them in the neat cemeteries with which we are so familiar today. It also meant clearing battlefields of the detritus of war, some of which was still liable to explode when disturbed.

It is perhaps no surprise then that, with the war officially over, labourers continued to die in their hundreds right through to 1920. This Remembrance Sunday, spare a thought and a prayer for these poor men who died thousands of miles from home long after the fighting had stopped.