British POWs sank with the Lisbon Maru – should it be raised?

A Chinese film-maker wants to raise a Japanese ship that was sunk in 1942 with hundreds of British prisoners of war on board. Some of the victims’ families back the idea, but one of the survivors says it’s a war grave, and should be left where it lies.

“We knew we’d been hit by a torpedo. And the ship started listing. That was it,” says Dennis Morley, now 98 but then a 22-year-old in the Royal Scots regiment.

“It was at that time they battened us down. They meant us to go down with the ship – drown.”

On 1 October 1942, Morley was one of more than 1,800 British prisoners of war being taken from Hong Kong to labour camps in Japan in the hold of a cargo ship, the Lisbon Maru.

Conditions were appalling. At the bottom of the hold, Morley remembers being showered by the diarrhoea of sick soldiers above him, “swimming in excreta, virtually”. After the ship was torpedoed they were given no food or water – and once the hatches were covered by planks and canvas they sat in the dark, running short of air to breathe.

Image caption Dennis Morley as a young man

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