Hell Ship - Lisbon Maru
Unit/ Formation: Royal Marines
Location: Chinese coast
Period/ Conflict: World War II
Date/s: 1 October 1942
1942 Lisbon Maru, Japanese steamship carrying POWs mainly from Hong Kong sunk by US submarine Grouper off Shanghai, many died, but others escaped, some of whom died over the succeeding weeks.
On her final voyage she was carrying, in addition to 700 Japanese Army personnel, 1,816 British and Canadian prisoners of war captured after the Battle of Hong Kong in December 1941. The POWs were held in "appalling conditions ... [those] at the bottom of the hold ... showered by the diarrhea of sick soldiers above".
On 1 October 1942, the ship was torpedoed by the submarine USS Grouper. The Japanese troops were evacuated from the ship but the POWs were not; instead the hatches were battened down above them and they were left on the listing ship. After 24 hours it became apparent that the ship was sinking and the POWs were able to break through the hatch covers. Some were able to escape from the ship before it sank. The ladder from one of the holds to the deck failed, and the Royal Artillery POWs in the hold could not escape; they were last heard singing "It's a Long Way to Tipperary". Survivors reported that Japanese guards first fired on the POWs who reached the deck; and that other Japanese ships used machine guns to fire at POWs who were in the water. Later, however, after some Chinese fishermen started rescuing survivors, the Japanese ships also rescued survivors.
The British government insisted that over 800 of these men died either directly as a result of the sinking, or were shot or otherwise killed by the Japanese while swimming away from the wreck. The ship was not marked to alert Allied forces to the nature of its passengers. The Japanese Government insisted that British prisoners were in fact not deliberately killed by Japanese soldiers and criticised the British statement.
A memorial was placed in the chapel of Stanley Fort, Hong Kong, which was moved to the chapel of St. Stephen's College, Hong Kong, due to Hong Kong's change in sovereignty.
A reunion of survivors was held on board HMS Belfast on 2 October 2007 to mark the 65th anniversary of their escape. Six former prisoners attended, alongside many bereaved families of the escapees. (Wikipedia)
11 Royal Marines killed plus others died later of wounds as POWs
ALLEN, WILLIAM RICHARD Marine,
AMBROSE, FRED Corporal,
BALL, DENIS RONALD Corporal,
GREEN, WILLIAM HENRY Corporal,
HEWETT, EDWARD TUCKER Marine,
HORSLEY, ERIC Marine,
JONES, HERBERT CYRIL Marine,
METCALFE, ERNEST Marine,
RICHARDSON, JOSEPH HALLSWORTH Marine,
RUSHMAN, MERVYN FRANCIS Sergeant,
WALL, THOMAS M, Sergeant
We knew we'd been hit by a torpedo. And the ship started listing. That was it
It was at that time they battened us down. They meant us to go down with the ship - drown.
Dennis Morley a 22-year-old in the Royal Scots regiment. (BBC)