Harry Livingstone’s Forgotten Men

Canadians and the Chinese Labour Corps in the First World War

by Dan Black

An untold story about the clandestine operation to transport 80,000 Chinese labourers from remote Chinese villages, across Canada and all the way to the European battlefront to aid in the war effort and the mistreatment and racism they faced along the way.

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.

About the Author

Dan Black

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.


"An absorbing, fascinating and new account. For anyone interested in the Chinese Labour Corps it will be simply invaluable."
The Long, Long Trail

"In his new book, Dan Black...has uncovered and presented a fascinating story of Canada’s connection to these Chinese labourers."

Tim Cook, Canadian Military History

"This is a little-known story of the war and Black brings it alive with vivid writing and deep research. Black also peppers the book with unique photographs taken by Livingstone with his portable camera and they are a powerful legacy of documenting the Chinese workers, of which there are few papers, letters or diaries."

Tim Cook, Canadian Military History

Subjects (BISAC)


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