Hell Ships


Ron Taylor

When the Japanese attacked and captured countries in the Far East there was an abundance of prisoners, what to do with them was quickly worked out, they would be transported to be used as slave labour. Many of the destinations were over seas, the Japanese used unmarked freighters for these sea voyages.

In Southeast Asia, the British, Australians and Dutch prisoners were transported from Keppel Harbour in Singapore. Americans taken in the Philippines were transported from Manila.

Early on the freighters did not form part of a convoy but as the Allies made hits, the Japanese used concentrated convoys for their transporters.

The freighters were unmarked and therefore slow easy targets for submarines and bombers, the prisoners stood little chance of survival as the Japanese battened down the hatches when attacked, leaving the prisoners below in the holds.

The threat of death was not always by Allied shipping, starvation, suffocation and disease accounted for many fatalities in the holds. In the Dainichi Maru 80 prisoners died on the voyage from Singapore to Japan.

The Japanese who were in the rescue boats at the Lisbon Maru sinking used prisoners in the water for target practise while prisoners from the Shinyo Maru were machine gunned in the water.

The Japanese set their own regulations for the prisoners aboard these vessels, the penalty for not following them was death.

Japanese figures released state, 50,000 POW’s were transported by sea, 10,800 of these prisoners died at sea.

A new up to date list is now available, which also includes the trains to Thailand

Japanese Transports Japanese Transports

Please use Japanese Transports link above, which is kept up to date.


Names Hell Ship Names

Departure Departure Dates

Sunk Sunk

Hell-Ship Hell Ship Rolls

Hell-Ship Hell-Ship - Singapore Maru by A.G.James

Lisbon Maru Lisbon Maru by Ron Taylor

Regulations Regulations for Prisoners

Map of Far East Map of Far East



A Light from the Lisbon Maru


Bert Garradley


They were prisoners held by Japan,

All stout defenders of Hong Kong;

They were there since the war in the East began,

Closely knit but a fragile throng.


They went to the land of the Rising Sun,

Unfed, bewildered and forlorn,

Compelled by the whim of the eager gun

To wish that they had never been born!


Once they were armed and neatly furled like flags,

Bonded to fight with dignity.

But later they cringed tattered in rags,

Defenceless from malignity.


Some were the survivors of a ship

That was sunk by a torpedo crew,

Who were all determined to make that trip

The last of the Lisbon Maru


They were battened tight within their holds

Despairing, no longer proud,

And those that died, though grom separate moulds,

Were buried in the same grim shroud.


Those who lived were drawn like floating dross

To the crowded surface of the sea,

But later others died upon the cross,

And the rest survived like me!


Years on in thought I take a longer pause

To stem the tears I always shed,

When I perceive the frequency of wars,

And then relive the pain of dread.


A light descends on those with swords ungirt,

Advancing beyond all thought

A warning beam of love that eases hurt,

And clings as friend help is sought.


My prayers for all concerned who lived and died,

For comrades and for foes alike

Are offered now, all fully sanctified

With love, the Godly essence of my Psych.



May they rest in peace




Thanks to various sites which helped with information particularly:

West Point Organisation




Part Of







Honorary Life Membership





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