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The Boat: Singapore Escape: Cannibalism at Sea Paperback – 15 Jul 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Monsoon Books (15 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 981058301X
  • ISBN-13: 978-9810583019
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 1.3 x 20.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 581,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

The Boat In 1942 a ship carrying 500 escapees from Japanese-occupied Singapore set sail from Padang for Ceylon. Halfway to safety she was torpedoed and sank. Only one lifeboat was launched-a lifeboat built to carry twenty-eight but to which 135 souls now looked to for salvation. One month later the boat reached land, there were only four survivors. Full description

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By jaki on 8 Aug 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was quite harrowing to read at times. What men are capable of doing to each other is mind boggling. This book describes real horror, being trapped in a boat with only the sea as a choice of escape - literally a choice of the devil or deep blue sea!! Yet, the author survived to tell the tale. I recommend reading this book as it shows that people had to survive the horrors of WW2 in more ways than I had been aware of.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I thought this was well written and in common with all the books about this subject, very humbling in all that these people had to go through in order to survive. Hopefully the families of some of those who did not survive would get some peace of mind by knowing what happened to their loved ones as truthfully described by the author.
On the issue of a small disappointment with the publisher - at the end the book shows extracts of other books on the same subject but they are not available as e-books as far as I can find. A minor frustration which did not spoil my enjoyment of the book itself.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I found out my grandfather ( Royal Artillery) was on board the Roosenboom and was one of those who lost his life. Thankful to Walter Gibson for his book. Rest in peace those unfortunate passengers and crew. I'm only sorry it had taken 70 years for records to be released enabling me to find out his fate, just too long for my grandmother to know. What a world we live in
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Quite an old book written in a very dated type format, very correct and to a degree should be anything other than what it is.

In years to come I would hope this would be considered a classic, its a very remarkable book in that it reads like fiction, but its not and blatantly so.

Gritty subject, beautifully told.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5 reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
a page out of my history 9 Mar 2008
By Patricia D. Startzman - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I may be a little prejudiced in my attachment to this book: my parents knew Doris Lim in Shanghai before she and they were forced to flee from the advancing Japanese army, my father to Hong Kong with B. F. Goodrich, my mother to Manila, where it was considered safer for her to deliver her baby--me. There, my mother again came across Doris, who arrived there among many other refugees enroute to a safer haven. My mother, though very pregnant at the time, shared her hotel bed with Doris (for a few days, I believe) before Doris left. We have a photo of a dinner party seated at a large table, at which also sat my mother and Doris.

When my parents first heard about this book (in 1963, I believe), they immediately bought it--it was the first that they learned what had happened to their friend Doris after she left Manila. So the events seemed somehow personal to me. However, if you are at all attracted to very human stories about what happens to individuas in wartime, when the social contract gets utterly rent, you'll find this book an absorbing read.
Quite ultimate survival story 1 Jun 2009
By Leo Nikko - Published on
Format: Paperback
There are many literary accounts of people fighting for their life in the most extreme situations. I'd say this belongs to the most ultimate category. Basically it's a sea story, but the writer also tells about the ordeals he went through on an escape march through the Singapore jungles - before his ill fated voyage ends up in a lifeboat of a torpedoed ship, in the Indian Ocean. After the gruesome weeks of fighting for one's life, the writer's purgatory-like experiences continue in a Japanese prison camp. The laconic and barren style with what the story is told can be seen as amateurish writing. On the other hand, the whole account is so utterly grim that this kind of writing kind of suits it. Considering the events described in the book, one wonders how it all can be contained in a mere one hundred pages. This could easily have been a book of some 250-300 pages. However, if you're interested to read how far a man's endurance and will to live goes, you better read this one.
A little disappointing 30 Jan 2014
By Michael Berger - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For starters, half of the book is about "The Boat". Cannibalism is mentioned once. The very misleading title had me expecting a long term "survival by eating people" story. Not the case. The second half of the book was about the things that happened after reaching shore. None of which was super interesting to read. It wasn't a total waste of time, but definitely NOT what I was expecting.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Twenty-six days adrift in the Indian Ocean 24 April 2013
By William S. Grass - Published on
Format: Paperback
Walter Gibson was a Scotsman who joined the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment of the British Army in 1929, when he was only fifteen years old. He was with the regiment on the Malay Peninsula when Japan invaded at the start of WW2. At the Battle of Slim River, the regiment was routed, and most of its remnant made for Singapore. Gibson did not go to Singapore, however. He made it to the coast, and then to Sumatra, where he, along with many others fleeing the Japanese advance, boarded the Dutch ship Roseboom in Padang, bound for Ceylon in the Indian Ocean.

A couple of days out of Padang, Roseboom was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, and sunk. A single life boat was launched. The lifeboat, designed for 28 people, now held 80. 135 others were in the water nearby. Attrition set in. The survivors' numbers dwindled steadily, due to thirst, hunger and exposure to what Gibson calls, "...that brassy, burning, blazing horror: the sun." For the next few weeks, the boat drifted slowly eastward. Meanwhile, those aboard the boat experienced the extremes of human behavior, both good and evil, that manifest in such a dire situation. After twenty-six days, only Gibson, a Chinese woman named Doris Lim, and two Javanese crewmen were still alive when the lifeboat ran aground on the island of Sipora, only about 100 miles from Padang.

Gibson goes on to tell about the ensuing weeks on the island, and his eventual capture by the Japanese. There is also a chronological digression where Gibson recounts the fate of his regiment after Slim River and how he made his way to Padang before Roseboom sailed. The real story, though, is about the lifeboat and the cast of characters therein. The time in the lifeboat occupies only 65 pages of an already short book of 121 pages, but it is compelling reading, regardless of what broader topics might interest the reader. Those interested in further reading about what happens aboard a lifeboat should read Owen Chase's Wreck of the Whaleship Essex.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The Boat by Walter Gibson 27 Dec 2011
By Troy Lynch - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a story of endurance. [This review refers to Walter Gibson, "The Boat", London: W.H. Allen, 1952.] It is a survival story different in the length of endurance to Slavomir Rawicz's The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz, in which Rawicz and his companions spent one year walking 4,000 miles to freedom. For Gibson and the other three survivors, it was around 30 days at sea; though it was a similar setting of physical endurance, the deprivations they suffered were food and water (and shelter from the effects of the sun).

The moral and psychological effects it produced were astounding, from hysteria, hallucination and madness to suicide, envy and murder. It is a story that brings out the basest in our human nature. There were occasions when the conduct of individuals, who knew their fate, produced a type of resignation to the inevitable and chose to end their life by swimming away or throwing themselves overboard. Gibson at one point threw his lot in with another and attempted to drown himself, until he came to his senses, reached the surface and swam back to the boat (page 45). Others ended their lot by similarly ending their life but under a state of madness or delusion.

Then there was Mrs Nunn, who attempted to show kindness to those who were left and, at the last, attempted to commit the rest to God by conducting a service, in which she read from a Bible, they sang hymns and prayed the Lord's Prayer. She soon quickly enter a coma and passed away (page 37-9).

There was the band of five, who attempted to drink the blood of those who had died: "I knew the dread things that had been happening to others who had died, and whose bodies had remained in the boat, ... They had, as we knew, tried to drink the blood of people who had died, ... Now they were trying butchery" (page 39). Gibson and his compatriots rushed this evil band who, after the struggle, were went overboard as one body of men, and were prevented from re-entering the boat: "It was, we told ourselves, a dozen times that night, either them or us" (page 41).

The four Javanese, only a day before sighting land, jumped on the second last remaining Scot, and pounded his head with rowlocks. One of their number, using a tin pressed to form a blade, tore at the Scot's body. He created a wound in which he plunged his hand and "pulled out something, dripping with blood, into which he dug his teeth like a dog snatching at a bone" (page 48); two others joined him. They offered their fare to Gibson and Lim, who could only shake their heads, refusing their offer.

An interesting aspect of human character, analyzed by Helmut Schoeck, in ENVY: A Theory of Social Behaviour is that those who decided to jump overboard, due to their hopeless state, and driven by hunger and thirst, were not content to do so quietly. They envied others who remained in the boat and who, in their eyes, still had the possibility of survival which they had given up (page 134). Schoeck (on page 134) cites Gibson: "That was a strange feature of every suicide. As people decided to jump overboard, they seemed to resent the fact that others were being left with a chance of safety. They would try to seize the rations and fling them overboard. They would try to make their last action in the boat the pulling of the bung which would let in the water. Their madness always seemed to take the form that they must not go alone, but must take everyone with them" (Gibson, The Boat, page 35).

Contrary to Schoeck and Gibson, though Schoeck does get close to the matter in his study on envy, one aspect of our nature is envy: "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:18-23). Envy is mentioned in Galatians 5:21 as an inherent part of human nature (the "flesh" noted in Gal 5:21). The Christian solution is of course a change of nature, a putting off the autonomous human nature and putting on the nature of God's Spirit; this, however, cannot be done by man but by Jesus Christ.

Gibson's The Boat is more than a test of human endurance, a story of 135 who survived the torpedoing of the Dutch ship Rooseboom, carrying 500 persons. It is a testimony to the nature of human endurance, wickedness and kindness.
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