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Last survivor of torpedo tragedy recounts fatal day

A former Scots Guard who may be the last survivor of the torpedoing of a Japanese prisoner-of-war ship, has spoken about the horrific truth behind the incident in which nearly 1000 PoWs were killed.

Today is the 70th anniversary of the sinking of the Lisbon Maru and Dennis Morley, 92, has told his own story in a new book.

Mr Morley was one of nearly 2000 British and Canadian prisoners on the Japanese cargo ship when it was sunk off the Chinese coast. It was taking the men who had been captured after the surrender of Hong Kong to work in Japan.

When it was spotted by an American submarine, the USS Grouper, their Japanese guards sent the prisoners down into the ship's cargo holds and then battened down the hatches.

"We firmly believed the Japanese would not let us drown," Mr Morley says.

But when the ship was hit by a torpedo Japanese vessels began to ferry off their soldiers while a machine-gun post was set up to shoot any of the prisoners who did manage to escape. "The first lot that got out were shot by the Japanese on the bridge," says Mr Morley, "but eventually they managed to get over and kill them."

When the prisoners made it into the water they were shot at by the Japanese.

Some 846 prisoners were killed in the incident.

Mr Morley was picked up by a Japanese craft. Others were picked up by Chinese fishermen but were recaptured. Mr Morley and his fellow PoWs were taken to Shanghai. He spent the rest of the war in forced labour.

Mr Morley now lives in Stroud in Gloucestershire.

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