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Chinese and Indian CemeteryAyette

Ayette Indian and Chinese Cemetery

The commune of Ayette has the distinction of having on its soil a Chinese and Indian Cemetery, the Indian and Chinese Cemetery where 80 civilian workers are buried, having worked on the maintenance of the trenches and the supply of the units. The British used these men, recruited from the colonies to relieve the soldiers of logistical tasks. Their work was arduous: they were on the job 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. Because of the language barrier, they also attracted the suspicion of the military and the civilian population. In 1919, 80,000 Chinese remained in France, to clear the areas devastated by the fighting.

In memory of the workers

Although these graves are neatly arranged as in all Commonwealth military cemeteries, the men buried there were nonetheless civilian workers. With the war, each allied army strengthened its logistical organization for which more and more soldiers were mobilized.

The forgotten of history

In order to be able to assign as many men as possible to the battle, the British called upon volunteer civilian workers recruited from different countries to relieve the soldiers of these logistical tasks. 100,000 Egyptians, 21,000 Indians and 20,000 native South Africans were thus grouped into Labour Corps under military command. At the end of the conflict, the Chinese Labour Corps of the British army numbered 96,000 men.

Asian workers in the Great War

Harsh conditions

On the coastal bases, these workers serve as laborers in general stores and ammunition depots, unload ships and trains, log the forest ranges, and maintain the roads. Their living conditions were not easy. For a daily wage, they worked 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. Because they were unable to communicate easily, the Chinese attracted the distrust of the officers who supervised them and of the civilian population. They were housed in special camps, the largest of which was at Noyelle-sur-Mer in the Somme, and were treated in hospitals reserved for them. 160 of them, who died in the N°2 General Labour Hospital of Saint-Etienne-au-Mont near Boulogne, rest today in the cemetery of the commune, alongside 10 members of the South African Native Labour Corps.


A place of memory

At Ayette, south of Arras, the Indian and Chinese Cemetery has 80 graves of Indian laborers and Chinese coolies employed near the Front to maintain trenches and supply units.

In May 1919, 80,000 Chinese will still be in France, participating in the work of clearing the territories ravaged by the fighting.