Plan to recover POWs sparks war memories

A drawing of the sinking of the Japanese ship, the Lisbon Maru
A drawing of the sinking of the Japanese ship, the Lisbon Maru

A Penicuik man who now lives in Northern Ireland has been recalling the Midlothian heroes who were on the Lisbon Maru when it sank in WW2.

James Melrose Reid (81) knew two people who were on the Japanese cargo ship carrying 1800 British Soldiers to labour camps in Japan when it was torpedoed by a US submarine in the East China Sea.

James’ memories were sparked by news that a Chinese-American businessman plans to recover the remains of 828 prisoners of war (POWs) who drowned on the Lisbon Maru on October 1, 1942. Around 1000 soldiers survived.

With James’s hearing not the best, his son Graeme Reid (47) relayed his tale about the two local men.

He said: “The first, Paddy Moore was in the Royal Scots, from Penicuik and lived not far from my Granny Reid.

“My dad recalls Paddy telling him that he managed to survive by bursting out of the hold and diving into the sea to avoid the Japanese suicide machine gunners in the ships rigging.

“The Japanese convoy scattered in fear of the US submarine and only returned when it thought it was safe.

“The Royal Scots who survived, were set to work in a Japanese sea port dock.

“Paddy and his mates survived by stealing food and anything with which they could trade with other prisoners.

“One story Paddy told my dad was that once they stole a load of chocolate, and unknown to them, it was laced for extra energy, as it was meant for the Japanese invasion troops.

“After eating the chocolate, the Scots could not sleep and could not rest. When the drug eventually wore off, they all felt like dead men, with no energy.

“The second person my dad knew was Dennis Morley, who was also in the Royal Scots. He worked with my father, at Tait the Builders’ in Penicuik.

“One other piece of information which my father recalls was that Paddy’s wife maiden name was Fairly and she may have came from a travelling family. They had a daughter, who could be around 70 years old now.”