Mark Hobbs, Subject Specialist, Gulf History Project – British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership, explains that “the use of Chinese manpower was widespread during the First World War. The British Government recruited nearly 100,000 Chinese labourers to support their frontline troops on the Western Front. As many as 6,000 Chinese were bought to Basra to help construct some 200 steamers, other vessels and pontoons that were shipped in flat-packed form from Britain. These labourers, and the vessels they reconstructed, supported the Indian Expeditionary Force D in Mesopotamia.”
During the First World War, Basra became the base of the Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force. A number of cemeteries were used by the MEF in and around Basra. The Basra War Cemetery now contains 2,551 burials of the First World War, 74 of them unidentified.
The cemetery also contains the Basra (Tanooma Chinese) Memorial, commemorating 227 unidentified casualties of the Chinese Labour Corps who were attached to the Inland Water Transport during the First World War. A panel in their memory was added to the screen wall when it became evident that their graves in Tanooma Chinese Cemetery could no longer be maintained.
Directly opposite Basra War Cemetery is the Basra Indian Forces Cemetery containing burials of both wars, and the Basra Cremation Memorial commemorating Indian casualties of the Second World War whose remains were cremated in accordance with their faith.