Robert James Burnell

Service:                Army

Rank:                    Lance Sergeant

Service No:           1501972

Unit:                     1st Hong Kong Regiment 

Robert was born in Bristol in the first half of 1918; he was the son of William Burnell & Sarah Burnell (nee Weight), his younger brother Roland was born in 1919.

During 1941 Robert was serving with his unit in the Far East.

Hong Kong fell to Japanese forces on Christmas Day 1941 following a brief but intense period of fighting. Most of those buried or commemorated on the island were killed at this time, or died later as internees or prisoners of war during the Japanese occupation.

23 year old Robert died on the 1st October 1942, he was a POW aboard SS Lisbon Maru.


Image from Wikipedia now in public domain.

Lisbon Maru was a Japanese freighter which was used as a troopship and prisoner-of-war transport between China and Japan.

When she was sunk by USS Grouper (SS-214) on 1 October 1942, she was carrying, in addition to Japanese Army personnel, almost 2,000 British prisoners of war captured after the fall of Hong Kong in December 1941. Over 800 of these men died either directly as a result of the sinking, or were shot or otherwise killed by the Japanese while swimming away from the wreck. The ship should have carried appropriate markings to alert Allied forces to the nature of its cargo but did not do so.

Robert is remembered with honour on the Sai Wan Memorial, column 2.

The SAI WAN MEMORIAL forms the entrance to Sai Wan War Cemetery and bears the names of more than 2,000 Commonwealth servicemen who died in the Battle of Hong Kong, or subsequently in captivity, who have no known grave. Additional panels to the memorial form the SAI WAN CREMATION MEMORIAL, listing the names of 144 Second World War casualties whose remains were cremated in accordance with their faith, and the SAI WAN (CHINA) MEMORIAL, commemorating 72 casualties of both wars whose graves in mainland China could not be maintained.

Sai Wan Memorial is situated in Sai Wan War Cemetery which is located on Cape Collinson Road situated in the north-east of the island of Hong Kong, about 11 kilometres from the centre of Victoria. The cemetery is located on Cape Collinson Road, Chai Wan, Hong Kong Island.

SAI WAN WAR CEMETERY contains the graves of more than 1,500 Commonwealth servicemen who died during the Second World War, more than 400 of them unidentified.


"Sai Wan War Cemetery 1" by Kvasir at en.wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons -   


Commonwealth War Graves Commission