Tag Archives: Lisbon Maru

Search for Relatives of BSM John Carley, 965 Defence Battery, Royal Artillery

by Brian Finch

A pre-war football medal awarded to John Carley has been found and the finder would like to return it to the family.

John Carley served as a Battery Sergeant Major with 965 Defence Battery, Royal Artillery, in the battle for Hong Kong in December 1941.  Philip Cracknell’s article about this battery can be read here

Following the surrender on Christmas Day 1941 all the defending forces were incarcerated in prisoner of war camps.  On 25 September 1942 1,816 prisoners of war were taken from Shamshuipo camp and put on an armed Japanese freighter, the Lisbon Maru

This ship set sail on 27 September, also carrying Japanese troops and not marked to show that it had pows on board.  It was torpedoed on 1 October by an American submarine, the USS Grouper.  During the 24 hours it took to sink, the pows on board were confined to the holds with the hatches battened down and with no access to food, water, fresh air or toilet facilities.  Since many of the men were suffering from dysentery the stale air soon became foul and suffocating, some men died during the night.  The condition in all three holds where the pows were confined were atrocious, but those in the third hold had the worst time.  This was where the gunners were held, and as their hold was filling with water they had the unenviable task of manning an inadequate hand pump to keep the ship afloat.  In the stifling atmosphere the men could hardly breathe and were only able to pump for a few minutes at a time.  As one man became exhausted another would take his place.  This went on all night until by the early hours of 2 October all the men collapsed out of sheer exhaustion.

Shortly after this the men in the second hold managed to break out and open all three hatches. Most managed to get out and jump into the sea to save their lives, but they were then shot at by the Japanese with rifles and machine-guns.  Tragically, in the third hold, where the gunners had worked so hard to save the ship from going down earlier, the only ladder broke, and most of the men then went down with the ship.  John Carley was almost certainly one of those brave men who kept the ship afloat for so long and then perished as they went down with the ship.  It is certainly known that he died in the sinking.  He was one of the 828 who tragically died in this terrible incident.

Bryher Bell has contacted Philip Cracknell to say that he has a 1936 football medal for John Carley when he was serving in Aldershot.  He would love to be able to trace the family so that he can return this medal to them.

If anyone knows of any relatives or descendants of John Carley, please can they contact Philip Cracknell at philip.g.cracknell@gmail.com to let him know.

Lisbon Maru Documentary: Call for information

A call for information from Laurel Films – please contact Major Brian Finch directly (details below) if you are have any information that may help.

Laurel Films are making a documentary film about the sinking of the Lisbon Maru on 2 October 1942 and we would like to contact relatives of all those British prisoners of war who were on the ship. Please get in touch if you are willing to share your memories, photographs, letters or any other material. We hope that your contribution will preserve and respect the memory of your relative and help us bring this terrible human tragedy to life.

Anything you share will be treated sensitively. Screenwriter and producer Fang Li, who runs Laurel Films, has a personal ambition to ensure that the 828 British prisoners of war who perished in the disaster are not forgotten, and nor are all the other British and allied servicemen who fought in the Far East – many sacrificing their lives and others facing terrible suffering – all in the defence of freedom.

Laurel Films is an established Chinese film company with a string of successful productions and the winner of international awards and plaudits. We have pulled together an award-winning team to produce a comprehensive and authoritative documentary about the sinking of the Lisbon Maru.

We will be collecting data, film footage, documents, photographs and other material from a wide range of sources in the UK, the USA, Hong Kong, China and Japan to compile the most complete record of the incident ever produced. Your contribution will help us produce the fullest possible account, fleshed out with individual human stories, many of which will be very moving. The event is not widely known about and our aim is to spread knowledge more broadly. The film will be produced in English for an international audience and will also be screened in other languages. Filming has already started and we plan to release the documentary in early 2020.

We have appointed Major Brian Finch as our UK liaison contact. Brian served with one of the Lisbon Maru survivors, and has recently published his English translation of a Chinese book on the subject, A Faithful Record of the “Lisbon Maru” Incident, published by Proverse Hong Kong in November 2017. He can be contacted at: bfinch@tiscali.co.uk.