We were delighted to have a presence at the exclusive screening of the documentary film “The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru” at the British Film Institute on the South Bank in London back in August.
Company founder Peter Turvey and our Regional Head Eileen Lavelle were in attendance, alongside other specially invited guests including relatives of those who perished during the sinking. In total, there were 450 exclusively invited guests in the audience, amongst them the Chinese Ambassador to the UK, on the day of the 78th anniversary of VJ Day.
As Consultant Genealogists for the film, we traced the living relatives of some of the Prisoners of War from the boat, some located as far afield as New Zealand.
The documentary tells the story of the Lisbon Maru, a Japanese transport ship carrying over 1,800 mainly British and Commonwealth prisoners of war (POW). On October 2, 1942, the ship was tragically sunk by a U.S. submarine in the waters off Zhoushan, China. The Americans were unaware of the human cargo on board.
Rather than assist the POWs, the Japanese shot many who were trying to escape. Plenty of others drowned. In all, 828 lives were lost during the incident.
However, this amount would have been higher but for the heroic efforts of the local Chinese fishermen who risked their own lives to save 384 British soldiers from the water. The heart of the film is based around those hero fishermen and the risks they took to assist.
Further screenings of the film took place after the exclusive screening, mainly to military audiences in the days after. Upon completion of final editing, the film will go on general release, though a date has yet to be confirmed.
There is a memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire marking the incident. A memorial to the Chinese fishermen is being discussed and could be built soon.
We were honoured to play in part in this moving and worthy project.