Lisbon Maru

Coordinates: 30°13′48″N 122°45′54″E / 30.23°N 122.765°E / 30.23; 122.765
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Lisbon Maru
NameSS Lisbon Maru
NamesakePort of Lisbon
Owner Nippon Yusen Kaisha
BuilderYokohama Dock Company, Yokohama
Laid down15 October 1919
Launched31 May 1920
Completed8 July 1920
FateSunk by USS Grouper, 2 October 1942
General characteristics
Class and typeCargo liner
Tonnage7,053 GRT
Length135.6 m (444 ft 11 in)
Beam17.7 m (58 ft 1 in)
Depth10.4 m (34 ft 1 in)
Installed power632 nhp
Propulsion2 × triple expansion steam engines
Speed12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Capacity28 passengers

Lisbon Maru (りすぼん丸) was a Japanese cargo liner built at Yokohama in 1920 for a Japanese shipping line. During World War II, the ship was turned into an armed troopship. On her final voyage, Lisbon Maru was being used to transport prisoners of war between Hong Kong and Japan when it was torpedoed on 1 October 1942, sinking with a loss of over 800 British lives.[1]

Construction and commercial service[edit]

Lisbon Maru was completed on 8 July 1920 at the Yokohama Dock Company shipyard in Yokohama, Japan as Yard No. 70, entering service for a major Japanese shipping line, Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, and registered at the port of Tokyo.[2][3]

The ship was 445 feet (135.6 metres) long, with a beam of 58 ft (17.7 m) and a depth of 34 ft (10.4 m). It measured 7,053 GRT and 4,308 NRT. Twin propellers were powered by a pair of triple expansion steam engines with a combined rating of 632 nhp, giving a service speed of 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph). The engines and four boilers were made by the shipbuilder.[2][3]


On her final voyage, the Lisbon Maru was carrying 700 Japanese Army personnel and 1,816 British prisoners of war captured after the Battle of Hong Kong in December 1941. The POWs were held in "appalling conditions ... [those] at the bottom of the hold ... showered by the diarrhoea of sick soldiers above".[4]

On 1 October 1942, the ship was torpedoed by the submarine USS Grouper while travelling through the South China Sea.[5] The Japanese troops were evacuated from the ship but the POWs were not; instead the hatches were battened down above them and they were left on the listing ship. After 24 hours, as it became apparent that the ship was sinking, the POWs were able to break through the hatch covers. Some were able to escape from the ship before it sank. The ladder from one of the holds to the deck failed, and the Royal Artillery POWs in the hold could not escape; they were last heard singing "It's a Long Way to Tipperary". Survivors reported that Japanese guards first fired on the POWs who reached the deck; and that other Japanese ships used machine guns to fire at POWs who were in the water. Later, however, after some Chinese fishermen started rescuing survivors, the Japanese ships also rescued survivors.[4]

The British government insisted that over 800 of these men died either directly as a result of the sinking, or from being shot or otherwise killed by the Japanese while swimming away from the wreck.[6] The ship was not marked to alert Allied forces to the nature of its passengers. The Japanese government insisted that British prisoners were in fact not deliberately killed by Japanese soldiers and criticised the British statement.[6]


A Lisbon Maru memorial was placed in the chapel of Stanley Fort, Hong Kong. It was moved to the chapel of St. Stephen's College, Hong Kong with Hong Kong's change in sovereignty.

A reunion of Lisbon Maru survivors was held on board HMS Belfast on 2 October 2007 to mark the 65th anniversary of their escape. Six former prisoners attended, alongside many families of the escapees.

In 2021, a memorial for the Lisbon Maru was placed at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, and the unveiling was attended by over 600 family members and military personnel to remember those who died.

In popular culture[edit]

  • The album Tarot Sport by the British electronic band Fuck Buttons features a track named The Lisbon Maru. Band member Benjamin John Power's grandfather survived the torpedoing of the ship.[7]
  • The album "War, Peace and Diplimacy" by Tom Hickox features a track named The Lisbon Maru, in which a survivor of the sinking relays his tale to a barman.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru". Retrieved 8 December 2018.[unreliable source?]
  2. ^ a b "Lisbon Maru". Miramar Ship Index (subscription required). Wellington, New Zealand: R B Haworth. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Lloyd's Register of Ships: Steam & Motor Ships" (PDF). Plimsoll Ship Data. Lloyd's Register of Shipping. 1930. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  4. ^ a b Unia, Emily; Mulvey, Stephen (14 July 2018). "British POWs sank with the Lisbon Maru - should it be raised?". BBC News. Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  5. ^ "Lisbon Maru". Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  6. ^ a b Moore, Malcolm (30 September 2012). "The last survivor of the Lisbon Maru". Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 30 September 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  7. ^ "In Session 2 - Ben Power of Blanck Mass (Part 2)". Archived from the original on 12 December 2021. Retrieved 16 May 2020.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

30°13′48″N 122°45′54″E / 30.23°N 122.765°E / 30.23; 122.765