Newbattle at War a history of the Parish at war   

 Now featuring Scots in the Great War Living History Society.    




Jim Crossan, who was a comrade of Stan Gowrie from Newtongrange in the Royal Army Service Corps, spoke about his time as a POW after the fall of Singapore in 1942 and the brutality he suffered. 

Sgt John Calder, Eskbank, Royal Corps of Signals (L)

Pte Andrew Buchan Jeffrey, 2nd Royal Scots, Penicuik (R)

Track 03

In December of 1941 the Empire of Japan began an all out war in the Pacific with the infamous attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. Within weeks they were steamrolling their way all over the Pacific within a week they had attacked Hong Kong and it fell on Christmas day.


Many allied soldiers including the 2nd Royal Scots were carted off into captivity, the Japanese in keeping with their behaviour elsewhere committed a series of atrocities. Singapore suffered the same fate the following February, falling with ignominy with the biggest surrender of British led troops (80,0000) in history. In Burma too the Japanese crushed all opposition before being held at the Indian frontier. Many Scots were unfortunate enough to fall into the hands of Japanese, suffering barbaric and inhuman treatment beyond the comprehension of most decent people.

Following the fall of Hong Kong in December 1941, the Japanese occupying force was left with the problem of where to keep and feed their prisoners. At first they were held in Hong Kong for several months but eventually it was decided that the PoWs were to be transferred to Japan where they would be put to work as forced labourers.
On September 27, 1942, the armed merchant ship Lisbon Maru sailed from Hong Kong. On board she had Japanese soldiers and around 1800 prisoners, who were crammed in to three separate holds. These included many local men from the 2nd Royal Scots. Crucially, and contrary to the Geneva Convention, she had no markings whatsoever to indicate she was carrying Allied PoWs.
On October 1, the American submarine Grouper was on patrol. A ship came into view. It was the Lisbon Maru. Lt Commander Duke sounded ‘General Quarters’ and his men sprang into action. Duke decided that the moon was too light to mount a surface attack and opted to wait for daybreak. About 6.30am the Royal Scots were roused from their sleep. Some decided to take advantage of the quietness to visit the latrines. Many of them were suffering badly from dysentery. At 7.04am precisely Grouper fired three torpedoes – all of which missed. A fourth was fired and a loud explosion was heard. Grouper came up to periscope depth and saw the Lisbon Maru, dead in the water and listing. She fired off a fifth torpedo which missed. Then a number of small shells landed around Grouper’s periscope.
On board the merchant ship, the Japanese went into a frenzy, screaming and shouting at the PoWs who were forced at bayonet point back into the hold. The sick men lying on deck were picked up and thrown down into the hold. The American sub then fired a sixth torpedo and dived. Shortly afterwards there was a loud bang, which they assumed was the torpedo hitting home. Incredibly a Japanese gunner had fired at and hit it. A miraculous shot.What followed next is horrific. For seven hours the prisoners were confined below deck, the air becoming foul with the sheer numbers of men and inability of them to go to a toilet.

Around 7pm a Japanese officer ordered the hatches to be battened down and covered in tarpaulin. Below in complete darkness it was dawning on the PoWs what was happening. The ship was slowly sinking and they were being left to die. The men in the hold behind the Royal Scots confirmed that the ship was taking in water and that they were unable to pump the water out now as there was hardly any air left to breath.
By the following morning men began to die from asphyxiation and sickness. The ship was groaning and starting to list more noticeably. Captain Shigeru, the captain of the ship, requested permission to abandon ship. This was granted but he was ordered to leave the prisoners to perish and blame it on the Americans.

Colonel Stewart of the Royal Scots, gave an order to attempt escape. It was evident to everyone that if they did not get out soon they would drown. At 9am the ship gave a dreadful lurch and settled down by the stern, coming to rest on a sandbank.
The terrifying noise of the men drowning in No 3 hold could be heard clearly. Two Royal Scots officers managed to force a way to the deck up a rickety staircase. They were spotted by the Japanese, who opened fire on them, killing Lt Potter.
The Japanese were then taken off the ship leaving the prisoners to fend for themselves. Col Stewart ordered the frightened men to abandon ship and make for land. It was over three miles to the nearest island in dangerous currents. Many would not make it. Japanese ships were in the area, but they stood by watching the soldiers drown, or even worse still, tormented the men with ropes.
Despite this, many men made it ashore helped by Chinese fishermen.

Days later Roll Call was called. Of the original 1816 prisoners, 846 had perished. Amongst the dead were L/Cpl Andrew Cornwall from Dalkeith, L/Cpl Peter Burnett from Easthouses, and Andrew Jeffrey from Penicuik. The survivors were transported to Japan, where sadly at least another 10 local lads were worked to death in the infamous Kobe and Amori work camps.


In recent times there has been an attempt by the Japanese to 'airbrush' away this part of their history, and play it down at Government level , they must not be allowed to deny their War Crimes or rewrite history which appears to be their intention.


I have come across a number of local men from Newbattle Parish and the rest of Midlothian who were POWs in the hands of the Japanese, in contrast with the men taken prisoner by the Germans many of them died of sickness, neglect and cruelty, some were murdered. 

I will try and record the men here so we do not forget.


Royal Scots

Pte William Webster, (27) Lothian Terrace, Newtongrange, held at Kobe Camp

Pte Thomas McIntosh, (29) 19 Fifth Street, Newtongrange,held at Kobe Camp

Pte Peter White Purves, 16 Fifth Street, Newtongrange, held at Kobe Camp

Pte Ian Gray,(23) 69 Back Street Dalkeith, held at Kobe Camp, Osaka died in captivity 3rd March, 1943 buried Yokohama.

Pte Nathaniel Forrest, 56 Gibraltar Gardens, Dalkeith, held at Kobe Camp

Pte George McCorquindale, Bonnyrigg, held at Kobe Camp

Pte John Robertson, 1 Hunterfield Terrace, Gorebridge, held at Omori (Amori?)  Camp

Pte Thomas Rae, 12 Park Crescent, Bonnyrigg, held at Omori (Amori?) Camp

L Cpl Peter Burnett, Easthouses,  believed to have died on Lisbon Maru when she was torpedoed by American submarine Grouper.

Pte Andrew Cornwall, Dalkeith, believed to have died on Lisbon Maru when she was torpedoed by American submarine Grouper.

Pte Andrew Buchan Jeffrey, Penicuik,  believed to have died on Lisbon Maru when she was torpedoed by American submarine Grouper.

Pte Hugh Allan (28), Bonnyrigg

Pte William Doyle, Gorebridge

Royal Artillery

Gunner James Elder ,(34) Dalkeith, died in captivity 19th April,1943 buried Yokohama

Lance Bombardier Robert Thomson, (27) Dalkeith was posted missing for 16 months.

Sgt William Henry Brown, (25) Rosewell

Gunner Alexander Muir, (25) Rosewell


Royal Army Medical Corps

Sgt Thomas Cruickshanks 13 Park Road, Newtongrange, Captured in the fall of Singapore



Federated Malay States Volunteer Force

Pte William R Dickson, (35) 48 Eigth Street, Newtongrange, died in captivity after being slightly wounded 17th February,1942

Sgt Michael Vivian Stephens, (41) Midfield Dalkeith, died in captivity 18th July,1943 buried Kanchanaburi war cemetery

Captain James Cadenhead Walker, Cranstoun Manse, died in captivity Soukrai, Thailand 1943.

Captain Frank Warrack Walker MC, Cranstoun Manse, Served in WW1 when he won the MC, survived.


Royal Army Service Corps

Sgt George A Baxter, The Square Pathhead, captured in Malaya February 1942.

Driver Charles M Gowrie, (25)10 Ninth Street, Newtongrange, captured at Singapore att Royal Scots, held in Borneo died 7th June,1945

Driver John Hastings, (38) Dobbies Road, Bonnyrigg



James King, resident Singapore, 30 Abbeygrange Newtongrange, held at the infamous Changai Civilian Camp

William K S Muir,  Turniedykes, Ford,held at Panigoran Camp, Sumatra

Emily Lucy Walker nee Ballantyne,Ford lost at sea.


Gordon Highlanders

Cpl George Elliott ex Newbattle, held at Malai Camp


Royal Corps of Signals

Driver James Anderson, (30) Loanhead, died in captivity  19th June,1943 buried Kanchanaburi war cemetery

L Sgt John Calder, 17 Jane Place, Eskbank, held at Thai Camp

Cpl John Rankin, Third Street, Newtongrange, regular soldier captured at Singapore

Signaller Sinclair Darling from Arniston, captured at Singapore

Signaller John R Jenkinson, (32) Lasswade.

Hong Kong Naval Volunteers

Sub Lt Robert Millar,(41) Rosewell, served in Dandy Ninth in WW1

Royal Air Force

Leading Aircraft Man John A L Ruthven, Heriot posted missing for 16 months

Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

Lt John H Smith, Bonnyrigg, brother was a German PoW


I have absolutely no doubt there were many more men who fell foul of the Japanese. I will add them as I come across them