- Contributed by
- People in story:
- John W. "Ramp" Owen
- Location of story:
- Hong Kong - Lisbon Maru
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 03 June 2005
From: Chris Pix
Hong Kong — The Lisbon Maru by John W “Ramp” Bowen
There are many tales of heroes, as there are in every war,
Stories of Men who turned the tide and died in the Battle’s roar,
But it’s easy to die a hero in a bombshell’s blinding light,
This is a tale of death that was slow, in the dark for a day and a night.
It was the morning Roll-Call on the Hell-ship Lisbon Maru,
On the first day in October nineteen-forty two.
Came a sudden dull explosion and the old ship lifted and lurched, a thousand hearts stopped beating and a thousand voices cursed.
The lights grew dim and faded, as the engines ceased to turn.
A whisper in the crowed hold: “Torpedoed, back in the stern”
The ship was already sinking, taking a gradual list,
We heard a whining hissing roar, a second torpedo had missed.
The guns were roaring above us, shooting at God knows what,
Rifles were pointing down in the hold, it was getting rather hot,
Then warships came alongside and took the Japs away,
They battened down the hatches, it seemed we were all to stay.
We listened to the tapping, that came from the hold ahead,
Report to the Senior Officer, that they had two men dead,
“For Christ’s sake stop that knocking” came a tortured, strangled cry,
We have one dead with us, and there’s plenty more to die”.
Hour after hour went slowly by and the list grew gradually worse,
Till the ship lay over and tilted back, like a tired, wounded horse,
And so we lay all day and night, no food, no water nor air,
Silent except for a bitter curse, or a muttered fervent prayer.
Down in the hold amidships, fighting the rising sea’
Were the men of the first and finest, the Royal Artillery’
Throughout the night the Gunners pumped, keeping a killing pace,
As one man fell unconscious, another jumped to his place.
The ship gave a sudden drunken lurch, as a bulkhead groaned and gave,
The pumping stopped as the sea rushed in, and the hold was a watery grave,
Meanwhile in the biggest hold the “Midds” were standing by,
The “Diehards” armed with butchers knives, decided not to die.
Came a sudden flash of sunlight, and a rousing, maddening shout,
Twelve hundred men were on the move, “By God! We are going out”.
There were screams and shouts and rifle shots, as hell broke loose on top,
But this was a British Army that the Japs could never stop.
They tore the hatch off number one, to set the Navy free,
And those boys climbed out on deck to join the jamboree.
The middle hold was nearly full when the door was opened wide,
A few men staggered to the deck, the rest were still inside ……
There were still a few Jap sentries, who were making a bit of a show,
But the boys soon put them on their way, to the place where Japs should go.
The stern of the ship was out of sight, the bow was standing high,
The deck was nearly upright, the call was “Swim or Die”.
That this was attempted murder was as plain as it could be,
There were seven ships around the wreck, shooting at men in the sea,
Japan had blundered once again, the British were hard to kill,
Many lived to tell the tale, and tell the tale we will.
When you tell the story, never forget to quote:
The Heroes of the middle hold who kept the ship afloat,
Remember those gallant Gunners who gave all that they could give,
True to their old tradition, they died that others may live.
Remember the yellow Niimori, and his murderous cowardly lot,
The rats that ran from the sinking ship, the droning men that were shot.
Remember the day we reached Shanghai, the comrades we never met,
Remember the strutting, grinning guards, remember, lest we forget.
Searching along that windswept quay, for well known friendly faces,
And there in the ranks where they should be, hundreds of empty places.
So, on the day of reckoning, if mercy be their cry,
The beast must be ruled by the rule of the beast, the rule of an eye for an eye.
We will look to the east in the morning and there we shall see in the sky,
The March of the murdered hundreds, the dead that shall never die’
We need not fear the Germans and to hell with the Japanese,
There will always be an England, while there are men like these.
By John “Ramp” Bowen — written in Kobe House, Kobe, Japan in 1943
Approximate Casualty figures:
Embarked Shamshuipo Camp, Hong Kong, 27th September 1942 — 1800 men (POW’s)
Died en route to Japan: drowned or shot — 900
. Embarked Died
Royal Artillery 355 255
Royal Scots ? 160
Middlesex Regt. 1st Batt. 300 150
Royal Engineers 189 100
Royal Corps Signals
Royal Artillery breakdown of Officers and Men who died:
Officers 5, Warrant Officers1 3, Warrant Officers11 18, B.Q.M.S’s 5, Sergeants 13,
Lance Sergeants 6, Bombardiers 11, Lance Bombardiers 16, Gunners 158.
This casualty list does not include all the N.C.O.’s and men who died during their incarceration — nor the Officers either.
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