Advertising Campaign Searching for Relatives of Lisbon Maru POWs

In News by Jim Anderson3 Comments

Dear Friends

I am writing to all those I know who have an interest in The Lisbon
Maru Incident.  Most of you know that Laurel Films is producing a
Documentary aimed at letting the world know about this generally forgotten
incident and what the prisoners of war endured, and in particular to tell some of
the individual stories so that those who suffered – and the families they
left behind can be remembered.  The working title for the film is “The
828 Unforgotten”.

The reason I am writing now is to let you know that Laurel Films are
mounting a nationwide advertising campaign to encourage relatives of
these pows to get in touch so that they can be interviewed and tell their

The first advert will appear on the back page of the Daily Telegraph
tomorrow, Saturday 23 June.  I am also expecting to be interviewed on
BBC World News at 1.40 pm on Friday 29 June and we are trying to get more
TV coverage.

Many of you have already been most helpful in putting us in touch with
Some of the relatives, for which Laurel Films and I are most grateful.
Indeed, many of you are relatives and some have already been interviewed.  But
if, by chance, you can think of other relatives who have not yet contacted
us, or close friends who would have known the pows or their families,
please can you encourage them to E-mail me, or ‘phone me.  I am hoping that a
concerted effort will generate some momentum behind this current campaign so
that we will hear from many more relatives.

Thanks again for all your help in recent months and for anything more you can do now to help this project.

Kind regards

Brian Finch
Roundelay House
Chulmleigh EX18 7HT
T:  0136383078
M:  07740844666


  1. Hi I knew about the sinking sometime ago. I am also in the throes of trying to finish a film/documentary based on survivors accounts from the Lancastria 17th June where figures are between 5-10,000 men women and children plus pets of those lost on the day. Please find below our short film and my Internet contact details. I have come across relatives and people connected to the sinking of the Lisbonmaru but that was sometime ago. I am trying to make sure that this country recognises the loss of so many onboard the Lancastria. Yours Sincerely David Dalrymple

  2. I’m doing my family tree, and found my great uncle Thomas Mcdermid burns Royal Scots lance corporal service number 3055018 sadly lost his life on the Lisbon maru lost at sea, frank fairgrieve

  3. I am the daughter of Rodney Giddins (Formerly Royal Artillery) who aboard the Lisbon Maru and survived. I wrote this account of his experience just after his death in 2012.
    I would be most happy to talk to you about my father who was such a lovely man and did a lot of good with his life. I would like to say that I (and the rest of his family) would be strongly opposed to any plans to raise the Lisbon Maru. It is a war grave and should remain undisturbed with all the poor souls who did not escape together in death as they fought in life.
    Thank you. I’m not sure that this website will take all of my account. If it doesn’t you can contact me on 01638 601551 or 07770666069.

    This is some of what my father told us about his wartime experiences. He didn’t ever actually say much but a fair bit of interrogation resulted in us finding out at least part of the story!

    In 1935, Rod was 16 and desperate to leave Magdelene College School at Brackley, which, with the exception of playing rugby, he loathed – and decided he wanted to join the army. The fact that he was too young did not inconvenience him – he simply lied about his age, telling the authorities he was born in 1917 – a date which featured on all his subsequent military records.

    After basic and gunnery training at Catterick and Aldershot, 850842 Bombardier Giddins RW of the Royal Artillery was sent to Hong Kong, despatching a cheery ‘sailed today’ message to his mother on September 1st 1938.

    He loved the army life and found Hong Kong fascinating but storm clouds were already gathering over the region with the Japanese having occupied large areas of eastern China and, early in December 1941, they launched an offensive against targets across Asia. However, when the attack on Hong Kong came, it was almost as unexpected as the better-remembered attack on Pearl Harbour which took place on the same day – December 8.

    150,000 soldiers of the Imperial Japanese army overwhelmed the 10,000 defenders of the colony and two and a half weeks later, on Christmas Day, it was all over, the surrender was signed and Dad became a prisoner of war.

    Conditions in the camps in Hong Kong were dreadful, food was awful, work was hard and the death rate was very high so when Rod heard he was due to be transported to Japan, it was not just to keep up spirits at home that he wrote to his mother saying he had heard Kobe was ‘a decent camp’ and he was looking forward to the move.

    The Lisbon Maru set sail for Japan on September 27, 1942 carrying Japanese troops and more than 1,800 prisoners of war in its three holds. As the allied soldiers were being put on board, a friend of Rod’s suddenly decided he didn’t like the look of the hold which had been allotted to the Royal Artillery and called to Rod and another pal, who quickly broke ranks and followed him instead into the hold where infantry soldiers of the Middlesex Regiment had been put.

    It proved a very fortunate decision.

    On the morning of October 1, the ship was torpedoed in the South China Seas by the crew of a US submarine who had no idea the ship was carrying prisoners of war. For more than 24 hours, the prisoners manned a few hand pumps as the water sloshed around their ankles before their captors battened down the hatches and abandoned ship, leaving the prisoners to their fate in the dark and almost airtight holds.

    As the ship slowly sank, it was those in the hold containing Royal Artillery personnel which went under the water first, with next to no survivors. Those in the hold with Rod managed to force open the hatches before the ship sank and a number of them swam away from the vessel.
    Their ordeal was far from over as patrol boats fired on survivors in the water and many who had not drowned were shot, bayonetted or run down by boats – more than 900 prisoners perished in what has been called the war’s forgotten tragedy.

    Rod swam more than four miles before he was picked up by Chinese fishermen but was eventually recaptured and finished his journey to Kobe, where he worked on the docks for the rest of the war. He always acknowledged that it was the softer option, compared to those, for example, who were put to work on the infamous Burma railway. Although conditions were pretty awful and disease was rife on the docks there was always something you could steal either to eat or to swap for something you could eat – but the menu wasn’t up to much and, as far as I know, he only ate rice again on one occasion for the rest of his life. He was also never able to become a blood donor because, when tested, his blood had retained various remnants of the diseases he had suffered from while a captive.

    Rod, who stood a good six foot tall, weighed about seven stone when he was liberated by the Americans on September 6, 1945, his relieved parents receiving a telegram on the 17th and a letter swiftly following saying he was safe in Australian hands.

    A period of recuperation in the Philippines was followed by a frustratingly slow voyage home. The ship docked en route at various ports including Columbo where, Rod wrote home, they were treated like Lords.

    The final stop, at Port Suez on October 14, to pick up winter clothing and supplies, produced a wonderful surprise when Rod’s brother John – himself travelling home from India – came aboard after seeing the name Giddins on the passenger manifest. A letter was quickly despatched to their parents Jack and Gladys in Hemingford Grey, Huntingdonshire (now Cambs) – both brothers writing that they were well and would be home soon.

    As Rod was a regular soldier as opposed to a wartime volunteer, he continued in the army until the 11 years he had signed on for were completed just before his marriage in May 1947.

    Tina Murray
    14th May 2012

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