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444' 11" x 58' 1" x 34' 1"
Built by Yokohama Dock Company in Yokohama. Laid down October 15, 1919 with Yard No. 70. Launched May 31, 1920. Completed July 8, 1920 as Lisbon Maru. Purchased by Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK) and used as a cargo vessel.
During the Pacific War, used as a military transport. During late September 1942 embarked 1,816 Commonwealth Prisoners Of War (POW) plus 700 Japanese Army personnel from Hong Kong. Aboard, the prisoners were held in the cargo holds in "appalling conditions ... [those] at the bottom of the hold ... showered by the diarrhea of sick soldiers above". The Lisbon Maru was not marked as carrying POWs.
On October 1, 1942 torpedoed by USS Grouper SS-214 off Dongfushan in the Zhoushan Archipelago off China and damaged. The Japanese aboard were rescued but the cargo hatches to the hold were battened down and left to die aboard. The prisoners managed to break the hatch covers and some were able to escape to the deck or that jumped overboard were fired on by the Japanese. The ladders from the cargo hold broke and other prisoners were unable to escape and last heard singing "It's a Long Way to Tipperary".
On October 2, 1942 the damaged Lisbon Maru sank. In total, the British determined that 800 Commonwealth prisoners died in the sinking or aftermath.
After the sinking, Chinese fisherman began rescuing survivors and Japanese ships rescued other survivors. In total, over 1,000 Allied prisoners were rescued by the Japanese.
A memorial plaque is located at Fort Stanley in Hong Kong. Later, this plaque was moved to St. Stephen's College in Hong Kong. On October 2, 2007 six former Prisoners Of War (POW) and family members held a reunion aboard HMS Belfast on the 65th anniversary of the sinking of their escape.
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