Another year, it’s time to remember again, remember how precious peace is in our contemporary time.

On 15 August, multiple screenings of feature documentary The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru (2022) took place across the country, including a private full-house screening at the British Film Institute, as well as a public screening held at the Warminster Town Council in Warminster.

Sketch of Lisbon Maru Foundering by Lt WC Johnson US Navy. Image courtesy of the National Army Museum

On 1 October 1942, an armed Japanese cargo ship, the Lisbon Maru, was torpedoed by the Americans off the coast of China. The ship was transporting 1,816 British and Canadian prisoners of war captured after the fall of Hong Kong in December 1941. While the ship was sinking, the POWs were in holds that were battened down and left to drown; as they tried to escape, many were shot by the Japanese. Local Chinese fishermen saved 384 POWs from the water, but the ship sank with a loss of 828 lives. This story has been left untold for over 80 years.

Chinese filmmaker and geophysicist Fang Li, as a personal passion, located the wreck of the ship in 2016, he then wanted to dig up the hidden stories behind this unspoken war tragedy. After putting huge adverts in major British newspapers, the film crew got in touch with over 300 families who lost their loved ones on the Lisbon Maru. This feature documentary is the most in depth version to date, unveiling the moving details from this historical event from the World War II.

British veterans and family members who attended the event were overwhelmed by the heart-felt documentary.

What happened on the ship? Who were those young men that lost their lives in the East China Sea?

“Service of Dedication to Commemorate the Sinking of the Lisbon Maru”, a coverage by The Queen’s Regimental Association is available here and another similar one by The Royal Scots can be found here. More research also available, including those by Hong Kong War Diary and the Imperial War Museum.

The Royal Scots is now scheduled to hold another screening on Saturday 19 August in the Ellesmere Room at The Royal Scots Club, information can be found on the RSC’s website.

While the producer is visiting the country, the production company Laurel Films has organised several special screenings in the UK. They are still looking for a local distributor. For more information about this film or for screening booking, please visit Laurel Films’s official website.

We will continue to follow how the story unfolds and of course, by being who we are, some new creative ideas already started to emerge.


References

We are putting a list of reference together to help with future creatives who may be interested in the story (ongoing task).

UCFC, 2022 September 9, “Documentary series Asia-Pacific War Crimes Trial premieres in the UK”

BBC, 2018, July 14, “British POWs sank with the Lisbon Maru – should it be raised?”

The Queen’s Regimental Association, “Service of Dedication to Commemorate the Sinking of the Lisbon Maru”

The Royal Scots, “Lisbon Maru”

Hong Kong War Diary, “Hong Kong’s Defenders, Dec 1941 – Aug 1945”

Britain at War, The fall of Hong Kong which led to transportation of prisoners on the Lisbon Maru

Roll of Honour, The full roll of those who perished on the Lisbon Maru

Lisbon Maru, Sinking of Lisbon Maru

Zhoushan Government, Time to Unseal the Lison Maru Incident, an incomplete documentation of the rescue effort made by local Chinese fishermen

Imperial War Museum, IWM Interview with survivor George Bainborough

Imperial War Museum, IWM Interview with survivor Jack Hughieson

Imperial War Museum, IWM Interview with survivor Charles Jordan

Imperial War Museum, IMW Interview with survivor Andrew Salmon

Imperial War Museum, IWM Interview with survivor Montague Truscott

Imperial War Museum, IWM Interview with survivor Alf Shepherd