Lisbon Maru

Memorial planned for POW victims of Japanese hellship

Topic: PeopleRemembrance

Descendants and veterans groups are looking to raise £45,000 to build a monument to one of the worst tragedies of the war with Japan.

Troopship/prison ship Lisbon Maru was sunk about 70 miles southeast of Shanghai in October 1942, taking an estimated 828 British Servicemen with her.

Although largely regarded as a tragedy for the Army, 139 sailors – many from HMS Tamar, the naval base in Hong Kong – and eight Royal Marines also went down in the converted cargo vessel.

With the 80th anniversary of the tragedy approaching, former soldier Christopher Allanson, whose artilleryman uncle was lost in the Lisbon Maru, is leading the drive with the Queen’s Regimental Association to erect a granite monument at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, close to the Far East Prisoners of War building.

The ship had been ferrying 1,800 British and Commonwealth prisoners of war from Hong Kong to Japan, where they were to work in labour camps to support Tokyo’s war effort.

While all the Japanese troops aboard were rescued immediately, the prisoners were not merely left in the holds, but hatches were battened down to prevent their escape – and a small guard of Japanese left behind to prevent any escape.

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.

A breakout attempt resulted in some prisoners escaping – but many were machine-gunned either on the ship or once they entered the water.

Chinese fishermen began rescuing survivors, before the Japanese intervened and continued to pull men out of the water.

Just shy of 1,000 prisoners were eventually saved – but one in five would die before liberation in August 1945 either from injury and illness from their time on the Lisbon Maru, or due to inhuman treatment at the hands of their captors.

“The men who perished in this atrocity suffered a great deal for the freedoms we now enjoy and in many cases their families are still suffering from their loss. Those who died have been largely forgotten by the world and deserve to be remembered. This memorial will be a fitting tribute to them,” Mr Allanson added.

Donations can be made via or by cheque to the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment Benevolence Fund (the PWRR is a successor regiment to The Middlesex Regiment which lost 152 men in the Lisbon Maru).

Image courtesy of the National Army Museum

These 828 victims have been forgotten for far too long and they will in future be remembered by this memorial.

Christopher Allanson