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Robert William George Kingshott

Robert William George Kingshott was a Warrant Officer Class II with 7 Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery. His service number was 840146.

Robert was born in Bramshott, Hampshire in 1914 and was the eldest of three children born to William George & Ada Jessie Kingshott. Robert's father was also a military man and can be found at the time of the 1911 census, serving with the 1st Battalion Cameronian's, in Orange Free State, South Africa.


Robert is recorded as dying "at sea" on 2nd March 1942. Recent contact with Michael Pether in New Zealand has revealed that Robert was part of a small contingent of Royal Artillery soldiers on board a Dutch ship called the SS Rooseboom that sailed from Padang on the island of Java on 26th February 1942, bound for Columbo in what was then Ceylon. Padang was, at that time, the last port on the official escape route for Allied troops and civilians from Singapore and Malaya. 

On 1 March 1942 at 11.35pm the Rooseboom was steaming west of Sumatra when it was spotted by the Japanese submarine I-59 and torpedoed. It capsized and sank rapidly leaving one life boat (designed to hold 28) and 135 people in the water. 80 people were in the lifeboat the rest clung to flotsam or floated in the sea. Two of these survivors, one of whom was a Corporal Walter Gibson, were picked up nine days later by the Dutch freighter Palopo. Until the end of the Second World War they were assumed to be the only survivors. Sadly, Robert Kingshott did not survive and his body was never recovered. The reason that I mention Walter Gibson, is that he wrote an account of his survival, in a book called "The Boat", which demonstrates the conditions he, and others, endured in the days following the sinking.

According to Gibson in and around the lifeboat were an estimated 135 survivors, many with injuries, including Gibson himself who was in the lifeboat due to those injuries. By the time the boat had drifted for more than 1,000 miles, to ground on a coral reef, less than 100 miles from Padang, Rooseboom's starting point, only five of its 80 passengers remained alive, and one of those drowned in the surf while trying to land.


In Gibson's account the ordeal that followed the sinking showed the worst of human nature under some of the most extreme conditions. On the first night many of those in the water drowned or gave up. Some twenty men built a raft from flotsam and towed it behind the boat. The raft slowly sank and all twenty perished three days later. In the first few days discipline collapsed men and women went mad with thirst, some drinking sea water which sent them into hallucinations. Many threw themselves overboard rather than face further suffering, and a gang of five renegade soldiers positioned themselves in the bows and at night systematically pushed the weaker survivors overboard to make the meagre rations go further. Gibson claims to have organized an attack on the renegades with a group of others who rushed them and pushed them en masse into the sea. Brigadier Paris died, hallucinating before he fell into his final coma. The Dutch captain was killed by one of his own engineers. Towards the end Gibson realized that all who remained alive were himself, another white man, a Chinese girl named Doris Lin (who turned out to be a secret agent for the British) and four Javanese seamen. That night the Javanese attacked the other white man and started to eat him alive. Later the oldest Javanese died.


The lifeboat eventually landed on Sipora, an island off Sumatra and only 100 miles from Padang, where the Rooseboom started its journey 30 days earlier. One of the Javanese seaman drowned in the surf whilst the other two disappeared into the jungle and have never been found. After a period of being treated by some of the local population Doris Lin and Gibson were discovered by a Japanese patrol. Gibson was returned to Padang as a prisoner of war while Lin was shot as a spy soon afterwards. 


It is not clear at what point Robert died, but I would hope that his death was quick and as painless as possible.


Robert was my 5th cousin once removed. 

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