Watch The Secret Betrayal: How the UK ejected the Chinese WWII sailors who had risked their lives
Updated 02:12, 07-Jan-2023
Simon Morris

For full coverage, go here: The Secret Betrayal

American supplies shipped across the Atlantic to Britain were vital to the defeat of Nazi Germany. The story of the north Atlantic convoys – and the heroic sailors who defied German U boats, storms and freezing weather – has become part of British national identity.

Less well-known is that more than one in seven of the merchant seamen who risked their lives crewing the convoys were Chinese. 

But when the war ended, their loyal service was rewarded with betrayal. The Chinese sailors were no longer welcome, even though many had started families with British women.

In the absence of a legal right to remain, even those emotional and family ties counted for little as thousands were rapidly expelled in a wholesale clear-out.

This is the story of a 70-year shame which the British government has only now acknowledged, but still not apologized for – a story of lives blighted by lies and loss.

The men had no chance to tell their families what had happened; most could not write in English. Those women and children left behind often believed they had simply been abandoned. Tragically, some went to their graves thinking their husbands and fathers had deserted them.

The families and communities left behind still do not know what happened to the men, some of whom were not even identified in shipping documents.

Deprived of their breadwinners, families struggled to pay the rent. Many were forced to abandon children who grew up in foster families or orphanages, suffering the dual indignation of looking different from those around them and not being able to explain why.

Documents now uncovered from the time reveal a desire to protect British jobs and find homes for native British families, combined with a cruder form of racism, motivated the decision-making. There may also have been concerns that the underpaid and overworked Chinese workers might organize to demand better conditions.

There's now an increasingly urgent search for answers by aging sons and daughters.

The Secret Betrayal is their story. Watch it above or on our Facebook page.

If you have any information about what happened to the sailors or their families, please contact us:

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