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Hong Kong - Lisbon Maru Sinking/1icon for Recommended story

by ChrisPix

Contributed by 
People in story: 
George Stare RN
Location of story: 
Hong Kong/Shanghai
Background to story: 
Royal Navy
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
14 May 2005

News Editor
BBC Breakfast

WW2 - Sinking of the Lisbon Maru — off Shanghai

This story is one I have never seen on TV, although it is worthy of a full documentary programme.

It is the story of what happened to nearly 2000 PoW's that the Japanese were transporting to Japan:

The ship, a 4,000 ton freighter was taking British Prisoners of War, captured at the fall of Hong Kong to Japan.

The Lisbon Maru was sunk by the American Submarine Grouper near the Chusan Islands close to Shng Hai — the prisoners were battenned down in the holds and left to drown, fortunately they managed to break out — some were shot, hundreds drowned trying to swim to the islands and those that did make it were recaptured by the Japanese.

I do have more information if you feel you can use it

Yours sincerely — Chris Wood

This is a letter I wrote to family recently:

In your letter you put a question mark after Irene’s brother George Christopher, who indeed was killed in a Japanese prisoner of war camp somewhere near Osaka.

Strangely I can still remember his happy smiling face as, dressed in his Naval uniform, he bid us all “Good bye” in Victor & Hart’s home in Chafen Road, Bitterne Manor, Southampton — I could have not been much more than 3 years old at the time.

He was posted by the Royal Navy, possibly inspired by Terry’s father to join RN, to Hong Kong in November 1941, which was surrendered to the Japanese a month after he arrived on Christmas Day 1941. On September 27th 1942 George and nearly 2,000 other British prisoners were loaded on the 4,000 ton cargo ship Lisbon Maru to be taken to Japan to work in Prisoner of War camps.

Shortly after they set sail the Lisbon Maru was torpedoed by the American submarine USS Grouper off some islands near Shang Hai 1st October 1942 — the Japanese Troops on board were transferred to other ships, but the prisoners were battened down under the hatches in the holds as the ship slowly sank. Eventually the prisoners managed to break out, several were shot by the few remaining guards, until the prisoners overcame them. Those who survived, George amongst them, tried to swim to some nearby Islands (possibly the Chusan Isles) sadly probably less than half of them made it through the tide, which carried many away.

The local Chinese tried to look after them, but the Japanese returned and recaptured all but 2 or 3 of the surviving prisoners. George Christopher eventually arrived in Japan — but was killed on 10th April 1943, when an Iron Bar or Bucket dropped on him.

Irene, my mother, waited with me on the quayside in Southampton as the surviving prisoners returned at the end of the war — it took 3 days for one of them to pluck up the courage to tell her George had died.

I met one of George’s fellow prisoners a few years ago, “Pony” Moore in Gosport, he was one of those who managed to help break through the cover over the hold, he passed on this information to me — plus some newspaper cuttings from the trial of the Japanese responsible after the war.

All very sad, but George wrote to his family soon after he was captured in Hong Kong, his letter is an inspiration to me and anyone who might read it. I am enclosing a copy, your youngest daughter, Jo, might like to keep it.

Copy of a letter from George Stare, written between Christmas 1941 & September 1942:

G.C. Stare R.N. P/SSX31692

Prisoner of War, Camp C.

Hong Kong

My Dearest Family

To be fortunate enough to write a letter is in itself wonderful & beyond expression, with the allowance of 2 hundred words. Believe me dears life is sweet when one realises that one is quite fit and in moderate health, Able to wander around camp all day constructing, planning and building such grand hopes for the future when once again I am with you all;

Able to share in your happiness and help bridge troubles that may arise in the normal routine of life.

This enforced condition has taught me patience, tolerance and endurance. These three combined have brought about in me a condition where I can school myself to take life as it comes and not hope too much of the persons around me. But rely on self each and every time.

You have all appeared so often in vivid dreams that I have sometimes felt your presence.

I am fortunate enough to have four photographs with me to gaze upon and daydream. How I would love to see the babies growing, I miss children very much these days.

Here’s wishing you happiness and unity at home.

Oceans of love and kisses to all, George

George’s courage, humility and love for his family comes shining through in this letter, no wonder his death and that of so many young men who lost their lives in the World Wars was so absolutely devastating to their families.

We owe them all far more than we can ever imagine.

George was the last to bear the surname Stare in his line of the family tree.

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Message 1 - Lisbon Maru

Posted on: 23 May 2005 by tbanham


You may be interested to know that I just completed a book on the loss of the Lisbon Maru for which I intereviewed all the survivors from the ship, three surviving Chinese fishermen involved in the rescue, and the last survivor from the Grouper. It will be published by Hong Kong University Press around the end of the year.

I was also surprised that no one had done this before, and am currently storyboarding it for a possible documentary.




Message 2 - Lisbon Maru

Posted on: 01 June 2005 by ChrisPix

Hi Tony

I have a very long detailed description of the Lisbon Maru sinking - if you would like to contact me:

Cheers - Chris

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