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Letter: To the Memory of the Forgotten Who Died Harder Than Others

Published on: 8 Nov, 2020
Updated on: 7 Nov, 2020

From: Charles King

In response to comment on: Dragon Interview: Col Patrick Crowley, On His Book ‘Infantry Diehards’

Some died harder than others. My memory as a six-year-old was being told by my adoptive brother Jack Riches never to forget to clean the back of my shoes, and he was off to Hong Kong with the 1st battalion of the Middlesex Regiment. That was 1937.

I never saw him again. He was a WO, wounded in the battle for Hong Kong, taken prisoner then, a year later, drowned in the sinking of the Lisbon Maru off China while being transported to Korea.

This was a war crime. The Japanese guards and crew took to the lifeboats and survived but left the prisoners from Hong Kong battened down below.

Eventually, the Japanese paid compensation to my mother, £100.

I have long ago forgiven the Japanese, but deeply feel my brother is one of the really forgotten men along with all his comrades who died. Maybe it was not a victory but they still died for their country.

See BBC story: British PoWs sank with the Lisbon Maru – should it be raised?

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Responses to Letter: To the Memory of the Forgotten Who Died Harder Than Others

  1. Mark Fielding-Smith Reply

    November 8, 2020 at 11:08 pm

    My grandfather was also on the ship but survived. I have been out to visit the islands where the ship sunk with the intention of honouring the fallen by placing a poppy on the wreck. I also arranged a reunion of the survivors on HMS Belfast in 2007.

    If Charles King would like to talk about it, he can drop me a line [via The Dragon] and I can point him at some good material.

  2. Pearl Catlin Reply

    November 9, 2020 at 9:25 am

    What a sad story. A tear was shed as I read this as I remember seeing so many injured men selling matches on the London streets when I was a child. My mother always gave a few coins and seldom took the matches.

    Why oh why do we never learn?

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