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. Amidst the horror and confusion, only one lifeboat was launched—a lifeboat built to carry twenty-eight but to which 135 souls now looked to for salvation.
For twenty-six days she drifted across the Indian Ocean. For twenty-six days, cannibalism, murder, heroism and self-sacrifice drifted with her. When the lifeboat finally ran aground on the island of Sipora, off Sumatra, only four had survived: two Javanese seamen, a Chinese girl, Doris Lim, and Walter Gibson of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The Boat is Walter Gibson’s true account of that horrific event. He captures vividly the mental trauma, the physical pain, the decision to kill or be killed but above all, the determination not to die.
About the author
Born in 1914, Walter Gardiner Gibson enlisted as a young soldier with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. It was with their 2nd Battalion that he was sent to Asia, serving in India, China and Malaya for seventeen years. His remarkable experiences during World War II include fighting in the Battle of Slim River, escaping through the Malayan jungle and surviving in a lifeboat for twenty-six days amidst cannibalism, desperation and treachery. For two years he endured a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Medan until being liberated in Singapore in 1945. Often described as a colourful character, he wrote about his experiences in two books, The Boat and Highland Laddie. After leaving the Army, he emigrated to Ontario, Canada, with his family. Soldier, prisoner of war and author, Walter Gibson died on 24 March 2005, aged ninety.
Category Nonfiction / Memoir