The Hill 70 Project
The Project is a Volunteer driven effort with a team of about 40 people, composed of architects, bankers, lawyers, teachers & university professors, ex-military personnel, media experts, property developers, project managers and many others. It has been backed by a number of prominent Canadians who serve as its Honorary Advisors: this groups includes the Gov. Gen., Chief Justice of Supreme Crt of Cdn., former astronaut Chris Hadfield, etc.
This incredible pool of talented professionals has worked pro-bono, enabling us to deliver this project at a fraction of the true cost. Our core budget is $8.5 million of which we have already raised $6.9 million. The Team would eventually like to add $6 million in additional elements.
With that, there are 2 aspects of the Hill 70 story that have a specific Chinese connection.
The first is Frederick Lee.
At beginning of war, the Canadian army was primarily composed of a part time militia. These soldiers were augmented by volunteers who enlisted to fight for Canada. Virtually none of these men had any combat experience on a modern European battlefield. But our frontier way of life made our soldiers tremendously adaptable, and they quickly learned how to adapt to this new environment since modern warfare is a terribly good teacher.
Frederick Lee was one of these soldiers. He had enlisted in his home town of Kamloops and was initially assigned to the 172 Battalion, which today is perpetuated by the Rocky Mountain Rangers. When he got to France, he was transferred into the 87th Battalion (now perpetuated by The BC Regiment – Duke of Connaughts Own) and fought at the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917. Four months later, he was again engaged in frontline combat at the Battle of Hill 70 where sadly he was killed. There are several things that make Frederick Lee’s service truly remarkable:
- He was a volunteer (conscription was imposed in September 1917 – the month following Hill 70);
- He was a native born Chinese Canadian. Only 200-300 Chinese Canadians were permitted to enlist in the Canadian Corps, due to rampant discrimination at that time against the Chinese community; and
- He was one of these remarkable men who were motivated to serve their country despite these circumstances.
The second is the Chinese Labour Corps.
By 1917 the Allies were in deep trouble. They were desperately short of replacement troops to make up for the terrible losses in the battles of 1916 (the Somme, Ypres, etc). Further, the Russians were about to be knocked out of the war; the French Army was in revolt; and unrestricted submarine warfare was threatening to strangle Great Britain.
To help relieve the manpower shortages they were facing, the Allied high command decided to hire labourers from mainland China to replace those Allied soldiers who maintained the logistical chain that fed the war effort. Somewhere between 120,000 – 200,000 Chinese workers were subsequently shipped to France where they served as stevedores, railway men, munitions factory workers, grave diggers, etc. An estimated 80,000 of these men were shipped to France via Canada.
How The Hill 70 Project Proposes to Recognize these Twin Contributions by the Chinese Community
A walkway named in honour of Frederick Lee at The Hill 70 Memorial in France, which is presently being constructed on an 8 hectare parcel of land located on the original Hill 70 battlefield (land donated by the French). Name of walkway will be in Mandarin, English, French.
A special insert on Frederick Lee & the Chinese Labour Corps will be included the Hill 70 Learning Kits, which are being distributed to 3,500 secondary schools across Canada.
To donate to The Hill 70 Project, please go to www.hill70.ca.