Wu Xiaofei (1st left), a painter on Dongji Island, shows the picture she drew as a gift in return for a painting from Britain about the Lisbon Maru incident in Zhoushan City, east China's Zhejiang Province, Sept 6, 2023. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
HANGZHOU — After traveling nearly 10,000 kilometers, a package from Britain arrived at the memorial hall for the Lisbon Maru incident on Dongji island in Zhoushan city, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, early this month.
Inside the package was a painting depicting a scene in which British prisoners of war can be seen doggedly evading a Japanese attack during World War II.
The painting belonged to Graham Saxby, whose father was one of the POWs.
As a descendant of fishermen, I came up with the idea of reciprocating the friendship of our British friends with a painting.
Wu Xiaofei, painter
In October 1942, the Lisbon Maru, a cargo vessel requisitioned by the Japanese army to carry some 1,800 British POWs from Hong Kong to Japan, was torpedoed by a US submarine off the Zhoushan islands in Zhejiang.
In all, 384 British POWs were rescued by Chinese fishermen, for which the British government and people expressed their gratitude.
Saxby entrusted the painting to the Chinese embassy in London at a New Year's reception on Feb 19 for the relatives of Lisbon Maru survivors and other people involved in the incident, in the hopes of it being gifted to the fishermen on Dongji island.
A special screening of the documentary The Sinking of the Lisbon Maru was held in London on Aug 15.
Survivors of the Lisbon Maru incident recalled in the film that after the ship was hit, Japanese troops abandoned the vessel but left the POWs battened below deck. Some POWs managed to escape confinement and jumped into the sea, but were shot at by Japanese troops. Chinese fishermen risked their lives amid the shooting and rescued as many POWs as they could using their small sampan boats.
Retired soldier Brian Finch, who has been collecting historical documents concerning the Lisbon Maru, said the documentary exposed the cruelty of Japanese soldiers and showed "the incredible courage and humanity" of the fishermen.
The Chinese embassy handed the painting over to staff of the Zhejiang provincial government attending the event, and entrusted them with taking it to the fishermen on Dongji island.
The present was echoed in China. After learning that Saxby was going to gift the painting, Wu Xiaofei, a painter on Dongji island, drew a picture in return.
"My grandfather was one of the fishermen who took part in the rescue, rowing a sampan back and forth several times to rescue the POWs," Wu says. "As a descendant of fishermen, I came up with the idea of reciprocating the friendship of our British friends with a painting."
Wu finished her drawing, which shows the joy, unity and harmony of fishermen, in just three days.
The friendship between the Chinese and British, which has lasted for 81 years since the Lisbon Maru incident, continues.
To help bring the forgotten tragedy to light, Saxby is now commissioning a second painting to show the rescue, while another related to the incident by Wu has been completed and is ready for exhibition
Copyright 1995 - 2023. All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily. Without written authorization from China Daily, such content shall not be republished or used in any form.
HONG KONG NEWS