The Hell Ships of World War ll

You may remember that on Remembrance Day, I shared photos of family members who had fought and died in the second world war. I decided to do some research and found out that my mom’s brother Fred went down on the ‘Lisbon Maru’, one of the Japanese ‘Hell Ships’ which transported prisoners of war to be used as slave labour.

SS Lisbon Maru sunk on 2nd October 1942

SS Lisbon Maru sank on 2nd October 1942 (Photo Wiki)

This ill-fated ship set sail from Hong Kong on 27th September 1942 and was headed for Shanghai. I sent a copy of my post to Ron Taylor, a co-ordinator for the ‘Far Eastern Prisoners of War Association’, formed to establish a Remembrance Day for all those who were held as Japanese Prisoners of War in the Far East during the second world war. Overnight I had a reply, with the link to a page on the Roll of Honour, dedicated to my Uncle Fred and using the  photos I’d put in my post. Click the link to see how beautiful it is.

I’m so grateful that there are people such as Ron who have done so much to keep the memory of these brave men alive, so many years after the war ended. I just wish that my mom had lived to see her brother honoured thus.

74 comments on “The Hell Ships of World War ll

  1. What a sad story, but it’s such a lovely memorial. It is sad that your mother didn’t get to see this. What’s so sad too is that the boat was sunk by the USS Grouper, an American submarine, one of the Allies. It seems your uncle was doubly unfortunate to have been both a prisoner of war and collateral damage in a bombing by an Allied ship of the Japanese Hell Ship. (At least that’s how I understand it; am I right?)

  2. Wow. It’s both sad and humbling to have such deep connections to such terrible conflicts. It’s nice that you were able to find out so more information about the tragedy.

    I’m not aware of anyone in my family that died in either war. There’s an interesting tale regarding my great-grandfather though. He was a railway man. One day he was involved in an industrial accident where his finger got trapped between the buffers of two joining carriages. Obviously he lost the finger tip. No doubt terrible for him at the time. A few years later WWI kicked off though. He was of the age where he would have got called up, except it was the finger tip of his index finger that he lost: His trigger finger. So he couldn’t fire a gun. My Nan was born in 1923. If he’d gone and died then she wouldn’t have been born, neither would my Mum and neither would I. So perhaps I owe my existence to an industrial accident. Which is an odd thought.

  3. Isn’t it wonderful to find out information like this Sylvia, and the tribute to your uncle is so beautiful. Your post reminds me of how thrilled I was to find the official roll of hubby’s Uncle Stan who went down with HMS Hood, that too was so beautifully presented. Brave men remembered long after the war that took them so young…we will remember them. Thank you dear Sylvia for this post… ❤ xx

  4. A very meaningful and poignant post Sylvia . Isn’t marvellous though how much easier it is to research family history via the internet . I can imagine it was quite somehing to hear back from Ron like that and to be able to see the tribute to your Uncle x

  5. What a beautiful tribute, Sylvia. Fred was a Lance Bombardier. You must be so proud and you’ve done a lot to keep the memories of these loved ones alive. It’s wonderful to find someone like Ron as well. (p.s. I love the word “bombardier”) 😀

  6. devo dire che ti assomiglia molto! la guerra è un mostro che divora tanta gente, mi fa male sentire parlare della guerra, ma certamente ricordare chi vi è stato coinvolto e rendergli onore è stato molto bello da parte tua!

  7. Gave me chills reading your post Sylvia and a lump in my throat. So very moving. My great Uncle never recovered from the treatment he received in a prisoner of war camp where they were held on starvation rations. Such horrors. War is so very ugly. I won’t say futile but there has to be a better way to solve so many of the worlds ills.
    It is so right that the memory of soldiers from all sides are remembered and honoured. After all, it was governments and politicians that sent they to do what they had to do. The soldiers of our enemies didn’t have much choice in the role they played.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Adrian. My paternal grandfather died at the hands of the Japanese in Indonesia. I’m so sorry about your great uncle. Such horrific stories come out of war. I so agree with you about the governments and politicians being the true culprits who cause such misery to ordinary families such as ours.

    • Thanks so much, Ark. I’ve also spent a lot of time reading about what actually happened. It really makes for harrowing reading. In a way, I’m glad that I now know something of what he must have gone through in those last days. I feel a sort of peace knowing I’ve been able to do something for him, even though it’s a very small thing compared to his sacrifice.

  8. Such a shame to die as he did and at such a young age. And still, we learn nothing from the past! But a beautiful tribute!

  9. A profound and moving tribute!

    “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them.”

  10. Thank you for sharing. We had a family friend who was a Japanese prisoner of war. He was deeply affected by his experiences till his dying day. My father NEVER allowed us to buy anything manufactured in Japan…. Time goes by and we forgive and forget….

  11. Well done to you for being so proactive, and to Ron for the efficiency of that organisation. As you say, such a pity it didn’t all come together a bit sooner when your mom was still alive.

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