Excavators donated by Staffordshire company JCB to the Chinese earthquake relief effort are helping to rebuild communities worst affected by the disaster.

Chairman Sir Anthony Bamford arranged for six of the machines, worth more than £300,000, to be shipped from Shanghai to Sichuan Province after the quake struck.

The company also arranged for a team of operators to travel to the region to assist in the training of locals in the use of the equipment.

The team comprises Joe Cook, aged 30, who works as product promotions manager at JCB’s factory in Shanghai where the backhoe loaders are manufactured, plus Chinese colleagues Terry Liu, Jules Zhu, Frank Shang, Craig Zhang and Peter Sun.

So far the tasks completed by the machines include clearance of blocked roads to enable soldiers to reach areas cut off by the quake; general earthmoving duties to help create camps for evacuated survivors; site clearance to enable temporary housing to be built; demolition of buildings and even repairing farmland irrigation systems damaged in the disaster.

The team has also been involved in clearing up operations at schools where they came into contact with parents who had lost children and children who had lost their parents in the disaster.

Sir Anthony said: “I’m very pleased that JCB and our machines have been able to help in some small way in the relief effort.”

Shortly after the donation the People’s Liberation Army also ordered 30 additional JCB backhoe loaders and the team of JCB employees in the area helped train operators in their use.

Mr Cook said: “The Chinese were genuinely very grateful for Sir Anthony Bamford’s donation and at one point I was invited by the Engineering Department of the Chinese Armed Military Police to their camp so they could personally thank JCB for the donation and the demonstrators for their assistance.

“This was extremely humbling. Despite being so busy with the aftermath of this terrible disaster and the acute shortage of food, the police still felt it important to lay on what was the best meal I’d had since arriving in the region just to say thanks to JCB.”

Mr Cook, who has just returned from the quake zone, saw first hand the devastation and the human suffering created by the quake with thousands of people choosing to camp in the street rather than return to their homes because of the fear of severe aftershocks.