Hundreds of British Prisoners of War perished when a Japanese prison ship was torpedoed by a submarine off the Chekiang coast while on the way to Japan.
These prisoners, nearly 2,000 officers and men, naval and military, of the Hong Kong garrison had been interned at Kowloon, the mainland part of Hong Kong territory, and left Hong Kong in the prison ship on 27th September.
Two hundred of the prisoners reached the Chinese shore when the ship sank. The first full story of this tragedy was told yesterday at the British Embassy at Chungking.
In their account, the survivors said - "When the Japanese battened down the hatches, there was no air and hour after hour the hold, in which we were huddled, became worse and worse." Several men died within a few hours.
"After hours of work we forced a hatch to the deck and saw the ship was being towed but there was not a single Japanese on board. The tow ship then cast off our ship which began to sink. We had no life-belts and began to jump overboard. Then the Japanese from ships nearby began to fire on us with machine guns. They continued to fire at men in the water."
"Some Jap boats began picking up a few men but never lowered their lifeboats. Some of those who survived the machine guns reached the Chinese shore where Chinese fishermen gave us food and clothing."
"We hid for days, then began a long trek inland to Free China travelling in small groups. We heard that the Japanese captured a number who were too weak to make the trek."
The facts reached Chungking from three of the survivors - Mr J C Fallace, former Chief Inspector of the Tientsin Police, Mr W C Johnstone, formerly accountant of the Shanghai Municipal Police and Mr A J W Evans of the British American Tobacco Company. They were serving with the Hong Kong Naval Reserve and were taken prisoner at Kowloon.
Tokyo announced on 7th October that more than 1,800 British and Australian war prisoners were on board the 7,152 ton Lisbon Maru when she was torpedoed and sunk 'by an American submarine' on 1st October. More than 900 were saved and taken to Japan.