One or two of you will recall me mentioning the sinking of the Lisbon Maru in previous posts. Here is an update. To recap:-
On 27 September 1942, the Lisbon Maru, a Japanese armed freighter with Japanese troops onboard, sailed from Hong Kong bound for Japan. It also carried 1,816 British P.O.W.s held in atrocious conditions. Cramped, airless and in unimaginable squalor, they were incarcerated below deck in three cargo holds. The ship bore no markings to indicate their presence.
On 1 October an American submarine, U.S.S. Grouper, on patrol off the Zhoushan archipelago in the East China Sea, engaged the Lisbon Maru, holing it below the waterline. Although initially taken under tow, the line snapped and the ship drifted and foundered. The Japanese evacuated their troops, battened the hatches on the holds and left a guard force to prevent the prisoners from escaping. For 24 hours the prisoners were held in sub-human conditions in darkness with no food, water, fresh air or sanitation - and dysentery was rife.
There was a breakout before the ship sank the next day and many of the prisoners escaped from the two forward holds, some of whom were cut down by machine gun fire. Tragically, most of those in the third hold, by then below the waterline, drowned.
Those who did not escape were shot at in the water as they attempted to swim ashore. Many were killed or wounded but local Chinese fishermen, at great risk to themselves, courageously rescued 384 of the survivors. Later, the Japanese recaptured all but three, with most prisoners surrendering themselves in case the fishermen should suffer Japanese retribution for feeding and sheltering them.
Of the original 1,816 men on board , 828 died in this terrible atrocity and a further 200 or more succumbed from their wounds and ordeal within a few months.
Among the victims was my wife's uncle, John C. Wilson, Leading Telegraphist, Royal Naval Volunteer Wireless Reserve. He is listed as serving at HMS Tamar, the Hong Kong Shore Station, but we understand his ship was HMS Thracian, the only destroyer defending Hong Kong. According to one source, this ship was heavily involved in the Battle of Hong Kong before running aground and the crew served as infantry thereafter. He was taken prisoner when the colony fell and would have been no older than his mid-twenties when he died less than a year later.
Last Sunday my wife and I attended the unveiling ceremony of a memorial to the victims of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru. It was held at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire and attended by relatives of the victims, clergy and other representatives from the Army, Navy and service associations, including Ushers from The Household Division, buglers from The Royal Marines, pipers from The Royal Scots and the band of The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment. It was a very moving and fitting service with the sun shining through on occasion and the wind gently waving the branches on the trees. We were most fortunate that the wet weather held off throughout. The unveiling was planned to have been made by the Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Boyce, but he had to call off due to illness - unfortunately I can't recall the name of the Vice-Admiral who stood in for him.
The above description of the sinking was borrowed from the Service of Dedication programme. Of course, there were many individual and more detailed stories told by survivors to relatives (and in a few cases, directly to researchers) of bravery, sacrifice and survival and re-told by them to the researchers. There was also a "Roll of Honour" provided, listing the names of the dead by unit. If anyone knows or has good reason to believe they have a relative who was lost in the sinking, I can check to see if his name is on the Roll. In addition to Royal Navy and Marine personnel, there are 17 categories including The Royal Scots, The Middlesex Regiment, Royal Artillery, Engineers, Signals, Medical, etc. as well as Hong Kong units including 3 civilian and 5 Hong Kong policemen. Please post the name, rank and unit of your relative below, if interested.
Thank you for inserting the photograph of the Memorial, Leon.
By way of an addendum, I have found another "Roll of Honour" on this website should anyone wish to conduct their own search:-
Not only does this site include a listing for the Lisbon Maru, but several other listings which readers may find useful should they wish to search for their own relatives who died in the Far East during World War II.