Review of Stoker Munro, Survivor – David Spiteri

Posted: May 11, 2015 in action, adventure, nonfiction, war
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Stoker Munro, Survivor

Some people go through war with nothing major befalling them. Others include Stoker Lloyd William Munro, HMAS Perth. He survived two shipwrecks (once by the Japanese, once by the US Navy), several Japanese prisoner of war camps and the infamous Burma Railway. Naturally, we need to understand how someone can survive this chain of harrowing circumstances.

Spiteri interviewed Munro approximately 60 years after the war, with the story starting in mid-February 1942 and ending approximately three years later. The story is mainly told in the first person, with Munro recounting life as a POW under the Japanese. Conditions were highly variable, depending exactly where a prisoner was: Changi in Singapore was quite good until late in the war, as was Cambodia and Saigon. I got the impression that generally speaking, the Japanese allowed the POWs a fair degree of liberty if they were involved in work gangs, if only because of the paucity of Europeans in SE Asia.

Munro seems to have accepted what was happening to him as not being personal, but naturally he was upset by the loss of many friends, most of whom died from disease – tropical medicine was still not great during the 1940s, especially without modern drugs. He was also determined to return home. This determination helped him survive the two shipwrecks, especially the second. Surprisingly, Munro persisted with the RAN even after being shipwrecked a third time (this time by the RAN).

I enjoyed this book, with its harrowing tale told simply. It was passed around at work, and given good comments by all who read it. Well done, David Spiteri.

HarperCollins

Supplied by HarperCollins New Zealand

Reviewed by Steve

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