Chinese ANZACs book launched

A book that chronicles the contributions of men of Chinese descent who fought for New Zealand during the First World War was launched at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington in March.

Chinese ANZACs was launched at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park in Wellington this month

A New Zealand Defence Force trumpeter played the last post at the launch, and a list of names of the New Zealand-born Chinese who served during the war was read to those present. Antendees included dignitaries from the New Zealand Defence Force, the New Zealand Chinese Association, the Chinese Embassy and the returned Services Association, as well as the Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae.

The launch was for the second edition of the book; the first edition was published in Australia and focussed exclusively on Australian ANZACs. The latest edition includes a chapter featuring the stories of 33 Chinese New Zealand soldiers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Research for the chapter identified about 50 WWI New Zealand servicemen as being Chinese or likely having Chinese ancestry. 

Although most of the names read out were clearly Chinese in origin, some were English and the author notes that identifying certain individuals as having Chinese heritage was in some instances difficult, with records having been lost and names changed or altered. 

One useful source of information the author acknowledges in the preface to the book is the members of the 14 New Zealand Chinese Association branches who provided names, photos, family papers and anecdotes regarding their ancestor's experiences. Researchers then cross checked this information with databases at National Archives of New Zealand and the Auckland War Memorial Museum to get a fuller picture of the lives of the servicemen.  

National President of the New Zealand Chinese Association (NZCA) Mr Meng Foon said the book is an opportunity to let fellow Kiwis know about the role that ethnic Chinese have played in helping forge this country’s history.

 “This event commemorates and honours the contributions that Chinese New Zealanders have made to New Zealand. 

“We want to support research into the development of the New Zealand Chinese identity as a unique strand within the multicultural fabric of New Zealand, within a bicultural setting.”

Chinese ANZACS was written by historian Alastair Kennedy, and the new chapter was compiled with assistance from the Auckland War Memorial Museum and Dunedin-based historian Dr James Ng. 

In his summary, Kennedy notes that he hopes the chapter on New Zealand Chinese servicemen acts as a starting point for a history on the part played by New Zealand-born Chinese in the social and military history of New Zealand in the Twentieth Century. He says he hopes other researchers will take up from where he left off.  
The publication has been made possible with the support of the New Zealand Consul-General in Guangzhou, Rebecca Needham, and part-funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s War Commemoration budget.

Chinese ANZACs can be purchased directly from the New Zealand Chinese Association for $40 + freight. Send requests for book sales to James To.