From Tom Thorpe at the Western Front Association Service of Commemoration at the Cenotaph 11 November 2017

This year I was big in China at the Cenotaph! In my role as media organiser for this year’s WFA ceremony, I was interviewed by three Chinese press outlets; China Central Television, the Xinhua News Agency and the UK Chinese Journal. Their presence marked a first for our annual ceremony and they contributed to us getting the greatest level of media coverage for our Armistice Day event that we have probably ever achieved.

Raising the profile with the media of what we do at the Cenotaph on Armistice Day is important. It furthers our charitable aims to educate people about the Great War but also raises awareness of who we are, what we do and why it is important.

The big Chinese press presence was matched by a large domestic media turn out on the 11th November. Camera crews were present from the BBC and ITN and I counted at least twelve photographers there. This is a major contrast with previous years where we have typically had one TV camera crew and four photographers, three from the WFA and one from the armed forces.

The reason this explosion of press interest at our ceremony is a mystery. I had thought that media interest would have been very limited given that Remembrance Sunday was the next day and that many people were reportedly getting Great War fatigue with the centenary. However, I was wrong. The inclusion in the service of the Chinese Labour Corps had generated significant interest in the Chinese media but this alone does not explain why so many other photographers turned up.

As a result we got good coverage on broadcast, print and online media. In addition to my interviews, our chair Colin was interviewed by BBC News which was featured on their lunchtime, early evening and late night slots. ITN spoke to Cerys Matthews and John Chester.

We also got good reportage from domestic national and regional publications including the NWMail, Daily Mail (circulation 1.4m (November 2016)), Daily Telegraph (circulation 460,054), Grantham Journal and City AM (circulation 90,000 (November 2016).

Our ceremony was also featured on outlets across the globe such as China Central Television, China Global Television Network (viewers 85m), Global Times (China) and Arkansas Online (USA).

We also picked some kind comments from members of the Chinese community for including the Chinese Labour Corps in our ceremony. Marguerita Morton, Secretary to Tunbridge Wells Liberal Democrats and member of Chinese Liberal Democrats, wrote in Liberal Democrat Voice that she was ‘extremely grateful to the Western Front Association who has given honour back to these Chinese labourers because they need to be commended for their bravery in coming to a distant land to work in such harsh, dangerous conditions’.

Dr Tom Thorpe

18 November 2018