During the First World War the French and British armies mobilized millions of men: soldiers, engineers, physicians but also blue-collar workers. The sheer scope of the war required the Allies to continuously look for more labour to participate in the war effort.

As a result, around 140,000 Chinese workers were recruited in their country starting from 1916. They travelled across the world to work in France and Belgium. The first workers arrived in Europe in early 1917 and were placed under British and French command. They worked on railway projects, in the ports, in arms factories but also in zones that were quite dangerous at times given their proximity to the frontline. At the end of the war they helped clean up and rebuild the areas that had been disturbed by warfare. These workers, who came all the way from China, thus came face to face with death on a daily basis.