Vivian Bullwinkel
18.12.1915 - 3.7.2000
Survivor of the Bangka Island Massacre
Written by Dorothy Angell

Another "Brave Women" page

Vivian Bullwinkel was the sole survivor when the Japanese massacred 21 army nurses and one elderly civilian woman on Bangka Island, now part of Indonesia. She was taken POW and survived the hell camps of Sumatra, going on to become one of Australia's most distinguished women. New information has emerged regarding this and other possible massacres at the time of Bangka Island, published 2011.

Read below under Appendix B.


Early days:
Whilst she was born in Kapunda, South Australia, Vivian Bullwinkel was educated and did her nurse training in Broken Hill, where her father (George) worked for one of the mining companies. She had one brother - John. Vivian completed her general training at the Broken Hill and District Hospital in 1938 and following completion of her Midwifery in 1939, worked as a Staff Nurse at the Kiaora Private Hospital, Hamilton, Victoria. From 1940 - 1941, she worked as a Staff Nurse at the Jessie McPherson Hospital in Melbourne and it was here that she met up with Wilma Oram.

As WW2 progressed, Vivian and Wilma both made the decision, separately, to volunteer their services to the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS). Vivian had originally applied to nurse with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), but had failed the medical because they said she had flat feet. These same feet would carry her barefoot through three and a half years of captivity with the Japanese!

In 1941, both Vivian and Wilma found themselves members of staff in the newly formed 13th Australian General Hospital (13th AGH) and in September of that year their unit sailed on the Hospital Ship Wanganella for an unknown destination, which eventually became Singapore.

The Fall of Singapore
On their arrival in Singapore, Vivian was sent to Malacca, for some weeks, to work with the 2/10th AGH, and Wilma went to Johore Bahru to join the 2/4th Casualty Clearing Station (2/4th CCS). After a few weeks, the 13th AGH took over in Johore Bahru and Vivian and the other nurses returned from Malacca - members of the 13th AGH now reunited.
Book Cover

Barb Angell's Biography of
(Soul-mate of Vivian Bullwinkel in the Camps)

3rd Edition released January 2011, a previously unpublished Appendix contains NEW research into the Bangka Island Massacres.

Click on cover photo

To view all Angell Productions

©Although Angell Productions is a Commercial Company, the "Brave Women" segment of its website is voluntary. All material thereon is copyright to the contributors and must not be reproduced, downloaded or otherwise replicated without written permission from Angell Productions.

The nurses worked under the most primitive conditions, as the hospital was ill equipped, and although there was no enemy action at this time, they had many medical and some elective surgical cases to attend to. In December 1941, on the same December morning that the Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbour (7th December), General Yamashita's 25th Army invaded Malaya, Singapore was bombed and the Japanese began fighting their way down the Malaysian Peninsula towards the island of Singapore. The fighting was fierce and the casualties heavy and by the end of January 1942, the 13th AGH was forced to evacuate to Singapore Island, where at great speed the nurses had to transform St. Patrick's School into a hospital.

Here the nurses had to work under constant bombardment and it became obvious that matters were working up to a climax. On the 8th of February, with either surrender or annihilation facing them, Colonel A P Derham, Assistant Director for Medical Services for the Australian 8th Division, and another officer, Lt. Colonel Gly White, decided to try and remove the nurses, and as many casualties as was possible, from Singapore. This would be aboard whatever seaworthy vessels they could find.

By the 10th of February, the ships had been found. Six nurses were ordered (with only one hour's notice) to evacuate, along with a number of patients, aboard a Chinese vessel the Wah Sui. A further sixty nurses sailed the next morning, together with some patients, aboard the Empire Star. The remaining 65 nurses in Singapore were finally ordered to be evacuated on the SS Vyner Brooke. And just after 5.00 pm, on 12th February, these nurses boarded the small dark grey vessel, which was once owned by Sir Charles Vyner Brooke, the Rajah of Sarawak.

The Sinking of the Vyner Brooke
Originally built to carry 12 passengers, the Vyner Brooke soon became terribly overcrowded with over 265 frightened men, women and children, plus the 65 AANS nurses. Short of food and water, the ship finally set sail just as darkness set in. It was to be a never-to-be-forgotten scene: huge fires were burning along the whole front of Singapore and a heavy pall of black smoke hung over the island. In the gathering darkness, the captain unwittingly steered the vessel into a minefield and was forced to stop for the night.

The next day (Friday the13th February) was spent hiding behind islands and avoiding detection. The day was hazy and hot, the sea was calm and the captain knew that he would be foolish to attempt to breakout in these conditions. That night, the Vyner Brooke attempted to slip out to freedom, and eventually it reached the Bangka Strait. After dodging bombs from Japanese planes and machine gun fire which had left the starboard lifeboats holed, the ship eventually received three direct hits (it was 2pm on the 14th of February). One bomb went down the funnel, while another exploded on the bridge, the third hit the aft section injuring scores of civilians. The vessel began to pitch and soon the frightened passengers heard the sound of pouring water. The Vyner Brooke was sinking and the captain gave the order to abandon ship. The ship was to sink in approximately 15 minutes.

Some of the nurses helped to move the wounded topside, while others lent a hand getting everyone up on deck. The civilians were ordered to go over the side first, and Vivian Bullwinkel was later to recall that ".those that weren't too keen to leave, we gave a helping hand to!" They were no sooner in the water, than enemy pilots returned and began strafing the human flotsam. There was utter pandemonium, one lifeboat holding the elderly and children turned over and two empty lifeboats, with bullet holes in them , dropped into the sea.

Bullwinkel helped to see to the casualties and eventually evacuated the ship by climbing down a rope ladder. She was able to get ashore by hanging onto the side of one of the life boats. Though the lifeboat was overcrowded, they were able to reach Bangka Island by late afternoon. Earlier survivors, including Matron Drummond (one of the senior nurses), had lit a fire on the beach and it was this fire that acted as a beacon for the others still in the water.

Book Cover

Our thanks to the Department of Veterans' Affairs
for its grant to enable the writing of
"A Woman's War" - biography of Wilma Oram Young under the project banner
"Their Service Our Heritage"
A prisoner under the Japanese
she went on to turn every negative in her life to a positive. One of Australia's great heroes!
Click here for further details of this book
3rd Edition released January 2011 Available now!

Appendix contains NEW research into the Bangka Island Massacre
New Holland Publishers



Viv with WilmaPals forever!
Vivian with Wilma Oram Young.
Click here for a tribute from PhyllisWilson
RAANCA & RSNC of Vic (HonLibrarian)
Click here for Brave Women
Webpage services

The Bangka Island Massacre

All night long, exhausted survivors from the Vyner Brooke and other shipwrecks, kept coming ashore and by morning almost sixty men, women and children and 22 members of the AANS were gathered on Radji beach. They needed food and they needed water. The next day, a search party, which included Vivian and five other nurses, was dispatched to a nearby village, but the men there, fearing Japanese reprisal, turned them away. They urged the survivors to surrender themselves to the Japanese. Finally the search party found some fresh water springs at the end of the beach.

That night, huddled together on the sand, the group watched a fierce gun battle out to sea and later a large lifeboat carrying British servicemen came ashore. Their numbers were now swelled to almost 100 people gathered on the beach.

Now large in number, the group decided to surrender themselves to the Japanese and a small group left in search of the Japanese. In the meantime, the children, hungry and cranky after forty eight hours without food, were beginning to annoy people. Matron Drummond, in a move that would soon turn out to be a fated one, suggested that the mothers, children, and other civilian women start making their way toward the village. All agreed, except one elderly woman who wished to remain at her husband's side. Whilst the nurses remained with the injured, the women and children organized themselves and left.

Vivian Bullwinkel was sitting quietly on the sand when the Japanese troops arrived. They ordered half of the men to stand and a detachment marched them at bayonet point down the beach and out of sight behind a headland. A few minutes later the Japanese returned and gathered up the remaining men, heading them off in the same direction.

Left on the beach were Matron Drummond, her twenty one AANS nurses and the one remaining civilian woman. Vivian heard one of the nurses utter in disgust " There are two things I hate the most, the sea and the Japs, now I've got them both. "As the women laughed at this remark, there suddenly came the report of rifle fire from beyond the headland.

Minutes later the Japanese detachment reappeared, they sat down in front of the women and began to clean their rifles and bloodied bayonets. When done, they ominously motioned for the women to stand up. Not one woman cried, not one woman whimpered and not one of them tried to run away. They had no weapons and they knew that the men from the beach were dead. They also knew that they would not be rescued. It was pointless to run and, besides, where could they go?

Soon, the soldiers began pushing them towards the knee-high surf. They stood in a straight line - twenty-two nurses and one elderly civilian woman - facing the horizon. The nurses still wearing their Red Cross emblems on their sleeves, the symbol which, supposedly, should have protected them. Again, no one spoke, no one wept, and when they reach waist deep water, the Japanese opened fire with a machine gun.

They were machine gunned from behind. " They just swept up and down the line and the girls fell one after the other," Bullwinkel was to recall. She watched Matron Drummond disappear beneath the waves, and then, one by one, her friends. The bullet that was meant for her, struck her in the flesh above her left hip. The force of the round threw her into the waves, where she floated. She began to swallow salt water, then became nauseous, but she was not dead.

For a full list of female victims of the massacre
Click Here.

Though wounded, Vivian Bullwinkel was the sole survivor of the massacre of the women. She knew that if she vomited, or showed any movement whatsoever, that the Japanese would finish her off. She held her breath, stealing a little air here and there and, although she couldn't swim, she floated and slowly the current brought her closer to the shore.

"Finally," she was to say later, ".I plucked up enough courage to sit up.I looked around and there was no sign of anybody.there was nothing. Just me". Vivian came ashore and walked up a narrow path, away from the beach and into the jungle. Some twenty yards in, she lay down. "I don't know whether I became unconscious or whether I slept," she was to muse later.

At daylight she awoke, she was hot and thirsty. She thought of the springs, but fortuitously stopped herself from moving, for just at that moment she spotted a line of Japanese back on the beach. "My heart went to the bottom of the feet again" she said. Another escape.

Later when the Japanese were gone, she abandoned her hideout and made for the springs. The water was cool and she gulped it greedily. Suddenly she heard an English male voice say "Where have you been nurse?" It was Private Pat Kingsley, a British soldier who, although badly wounded, had survived when the men had been shot and bayoneted Vivian and Kingsley remained hidden in the jungle for 12 days, during which time Vivian, while injured herself, attended to Kingsley's wounds and procured whatever food she could from the local inhabitants.

Vivian realized that they could not go on like this, which led her to the inescapable conclusion that they would have to give themselves up again. Kingsley agreed, but asked her to wait twenty - four hours. "I'll be thirty nine tomorrow and I'd like to think I had my thirty- ninth birthday free", she remembered him saying. "Time is no object" she said, and the next day they celebrated his birthday in the jungle.
Read also The Tol Plantation Massacre

Click here for tribute from Phyllis Wilson
RAANCA & RSNC of Vic. (Hon Librarian)
Click here for Brave Women
Top of Page
Webpage services
The Prisoner-of-War Years
On February 28, Vivian Bullwinkel and Private Pat Kingsley once again gave themselves up to the Japanese and were brought into the camp where Vivian was reunited with the thirty-one nurses who had survived the sinking of the Vyner Brooke. Shortly after their arrival, Vivian was to hear that Kingsley had died of his wounds.

Wilma Oram was later to describe Vivian's arrival in the camp:
"When we first saw Vivian we were overjoyed and hoped that there were more of our colleagues to come. Vivian was sun burnt, tired and hungry. Her bloodstained uniform was taken from her and some of the blood washed out and, although clothes were not plentiful, Vivian was given something to wear to cover her wound. A little cooked rice was found and a small amount of water. A sleeping space was made for her on the sloping concrete slab, but we had no bedding. It was then that we heard what had happened to her, it was accepted quietly and was never to be spoken of again whilst we were prisoners."

For a full list of the Sumatra POW nurses
Click Here

Vivian just merged in as one of our group of 32 Australian nurses who now faced the prospect of being prisoners of the Japanese for many months or even years. During the 3½ years of the nurses' captivity, Vivian Bullwinkel endured the hardships and the brutality of the camp life and was determined to survive to bear witness to the massacre of her twenty-one nursing colleagues. She took her turn in performing all of the camp duties such as cooking, nursing, and working on the hygiene and burial parties. And she and two other nurses were to earn 80 cents a day, from the other internees, baling out the clogged toilet drains with half a coconut shell and carrying the human excreta a half mile into the jungle.

She lived, she told herself, To return home and tell her story, for without her, her friends would be forgotten, just another wartime statistic.Viv in Singapore

Of the original sixty-five nurses who boarded the Vyner Brooke in 1942, only twenty four reached Australian shores following the declaration of peace in the Pacific. Twelve were (believed) drowned at the time of the shipwreck, twenty-one were massacred on Radji beach and eight died as POWs in the camps.
Vivian (L) in hospital in Singapore
shortly after her release as a POW
Photograph: © Sydney Morning Herald

The Post-War Years
On their return to Australia, Vivian Bullwinkel and Wilma Oram worked together at the Heidelberg Military Hospital until June 1946. However during this time, restlessness and a need to be with their POW colleagues sent them touring to all parts of Australia.

After Wilma's marriage in December 1947 (at which she was bridesmaid), Vivian retired from the AANS and returned to civilian nursing. Subsequently she was to become a much loved Director of Nursing at the Fairfield Hospital in Melbourne. Vivian honoured the memory of her fallen colleagues by remaining active on veteran, nursing and philanthropic committees.

She joined her POW colleague, Betty Jeffrey, in a fundraising tour of the whole of Victoria in order to raise monies for a Nurses' Memorial Centre to be built in Melbourne. The Centre was not only to honour the memory of the nurses from the Vyner Brooke, but all other nurses, in WW2, who had lost their lives. In all, Vivian and Betty raised over £240,000. However, the Nurses' Memorial Centre was also established for the welfare and advancement of the nursing profession and it is in this arena that Vivian Bullwinkel has, perhaps, left her greatest legacy.

In the 1970s, as a Council Member and later the President of the College of Nursing, Australia (later  the Royal College of Nursing, Australia), Vivian became heavily involved in the establishment of the 'Goals in Nursing Education,' a task which heralded in the move of Australian nurse education from the hospital to the University sector. It was at this time, that her position on the Nurses Wages Board was also to help improve the salaries and working conditions for all Victorian nurses.

In honour of the people who had helped the nurses during their captivity, Vivian supported a scholarship fund for Malaysian nurses to pursue post-graduate studies in Australia.

She became a regular figure at memorial services, and after marrying Colonel Frank Statham in 1977, she continued to give interviews and attend memorial events. Each time she accepted an honour - the Florence Nightingale Medal, MBE, AM etc. - she did it to keep alive the memory of those cut down in the surf and those who died in the POW camps. "I would like .[people].to appreciate that the lives, opportunities, sports and freedom for our young were bought at a price," she said recently.

Fifty years after she came ashore on Bangka Island, Vivian Bullwinkel was to return, with some of the other nurses, to pay one last tribute to their colleagues. The island seemed unreal to her, not part of her history. She found the fresh water springs again, visited grave sites, and one of the POW camps, but she could not locate the actual spot where the massacre had taken place. What was once so unforgettable had, with time, faded in memory and Bangka Island now looked like any other island.

In the end she, and her fellow POWs, stood on a beach which they felt to be near the site of the murders, and here they unveiled a shrine to the forty-one nurses from the Vyner Brooke who did not return.

In her later years, Vivian Bullwinkel suffered a series of strokes but, with her incredible strength of willpower, she learned to overcome many of her disabilities. She became the patron of the National Service Nurses' Memorial and, in October 1999 (commemorating 100 years of military nursing), she attended the dedication of this Memorial in Canberra. The memorial is located alongside other military memorials in Anzac Parade.

Vivian in front of her portrait
Australian War Memorial 1999
Vivian Bullwinkel died on July 3, 2000 and the whole of the Australian nation went into mourning. In the end, this naturally reserved woman, with the gentle smile, had helped her friends achieve a measure of immortality

has established a chair
of Palliative Care
in memory of
A woman of the times!
Vivian with astronaut Andy Thomas
October 1999














First published in the 3rd edition of my book “A Woman’s War” ISBN 9781742570846 (2011)

Although the information was available at the date of the first edition, I chose not to publish it until the last of the POW nurses of the 13th AGH and the 2/10th AGH were no longer living.

I apologise for distress caused by this article to the families of those women who were massacred and hope that publication of these new facts will eventually lead to a full apology by the Japanese for their

total disregard for the Geneva Conventions during WW2.











NOTE: All this research is copyright


Barbara Angell









The following information puts the infamous Bangka Island Massacre, a subject for investigation by the War Crimes Board of Enquiry in 1946, into a different light from that which emerged from the Enquiry. The massacre has become a legendary event of the second World War which allowed very little dirt to rub off on the faces of the perpetrating Japanese. The picture that now emerges is different from Vivian Bullwinkel’s description of how she and her twenty-one nurse companions marched into the surf with their heads held high while the Japanese machine gunned them from the beach, performing what the perpetrators might later be able to excuse as a necessary wartime execution. There also emerges evidence of a possible second massacre of nurses who have, until now, been presumed “lost at sea”. All people referred to in this Appendix appear as part of the book “A Woman’s War”, so no further expansion of them as characters is necessary here.


It is important, however, to stress that information and conclusions within this Appendix were arrived at by research and investigation. At no time did any of the PoW nurses break what I shall term the “code of silence” mentioned in “A Woman’s War” regarding the Bangka Island massacre, nor did they break silence about any other incidents that occurred as part of the women’s period of internment, and about which they seem to have agreed not to speak. Any comment about those additional incidents would now be pure conjecture, but of the Bangka Island massacre(s) a remarkable amount of material has been waiting until now to be collated.


The following is Vivian Bullwinkel’s official statement to the Board of Enquiry, AWM54 (1010/4/24)


“They then took half the men away down the beach behind a bluff, came back and took the other half away. The ships officer tried to explain to them that we were army personnel and were giving ourselves up as prisoners of war, but they just ignored him and took the two ships officers away.

“After the second party they came back and cleaned their rifles and bayonets in front of us, and then lined us up and signed to us to march into the sea. They then started machine gunning from behind.

“Matron Drummond, Sr Casson and Sr Wright were killed before they reached the water’s edge. The rest of us got quite a distance out to sea, nearly up to our waists, before any of the bullets hit us. I was towards the end of the line, and the bullet that hit me struck me at the waistline and just went straight through. The force of the bullet knocked me over into the water where I stayed stunned for a few seconds, and then being more or less too frightened to get up again I stayed lying there and the waves washed me back onto the sand, where I remained lying for another 10 minutes.”


During the course of my research for the book “A Woman’s War” I was intrigued by the number of times interviewees, throughout the country and from all walks of life, made remarks with reference to the PoW nurses like:

“They’re still hiding something, you know…” or “There’s more to the story but you’ll never get it out of them…” or “They’ll take that secret with them to the grave…


I had already guessed that some details about one or more experiences were  being kept secret. For instance, (Ken Brown 18/9/1997) Ken’s Wife said to me: And there's some story that they all know that none of them have told”.


Tangible evidence to support this arrived when a friend of mine was driving Wilma, with Betty Jeffrey and Vivian Bullwinkel, to a function. It was during what transpired to be the last year of all three remarkable lives. While the group was travelling, they started to discuss the fact that I was writing Wilma’s biography. After a while, a silence fell. It was broken abruptly when Betty Jeffrey said to Wilma, stressing the words: “You won’t tell our story, will you.” Wilma replied with a short, “No” and a brisk shake of her head.  So what my friend and I both suspected was confirmed: that Wilma knew something that she was not telling.


I did not set out on this course of investigation to cause mischief. My intention is to present a hypothesis which may help to put history straight. In doing this, what is already a shameful slur on Japanese history during WWII may be exposed for what it really was: one of their worst acts of savagery. You will have realized that there are incidents in the body of this book that I might have pursued, were I seeking sensationalism, and I did not. As an important part of recorded Australian history, what is known as “the Bangka Island massacre” has special significance, but I now believe that Vivian Bullwinkel and her fellow victims went through an experience which was even more horrific than has yet been fully described. The evidence presented in this Appendix has existed for many years but has never before been brought together.


The uniform clue…


The first time that I saw Vivian Bullwinkel’s uniform, on display at the Australian War Museum, gave me a hint. I was puzzled as to the position of the exit bullet hole. It is not where it should be. The entrance bullet hole is in the correct position: on the left side of her back, just slightly above the waistline. The exit hole, of what has always been described as a superficial wound, indicates that the bullet came out at the front and centre of her torso. I checked my records.


Let us first look at some separate statements by Wilma Oram Young, the nurse most closely associated with Vivian throughout their internment:



Varying quotes from Wilma Oram Young regarding Vivian’s wound:

Wilma was the nurse who continuously tended Vivian throughout imprisonment, who guarded her during critical illnesses and who looked after her when she first came into camp.


1.   Source: Hooper tapes (1989)

“It was while we were in this camp that we heard what had happened to the girls on the beach (the Bangka Island massacre) but of course we said nothing. Yet word came into the camp that it had happened.   Then Vivian came into the camp late one afternoon. We were all overjoyed to see her.  She told us what had happened and that was the end of that, we never spoke of it again for the rest of the time. We never mentioned it in any way whatsoever. The pair of blue silk pyjamas that Colonel Wynn had given me that day, which I was looking forward to sleeping in that night, I handed them over to Viv and let her have them because they did cover up the wound on her back and her ribs.”


2.   Source: Wilma to Barb Angell 27/12/1997

“She had it (the water bottle) over so that the Japs wouldn't see the hole in her uniform. But the hole's not very big. The only trouble was there was a lot of blood around it. When she came in I gave her those blue pyjamas. I gave her the blue pyjamas that one of the espionage men had given me  and that covered up her wound, and I took her uniform and washed the blood out. But it's still very stained. I couldn't get it all out, there wasn't much water and it didn't really matter. I wasn't too worried about blood at that stage. Just cleaned it up enough so that it wasn't sticky and stiff. But that wound never looked back.”


3.   Source: Wilma’s Warrnambool talk, 1960

The bullet that hit Vivian went in just under her ribs and came out just the other side. It didn’t apparently hit anything terribly vital, (the wound) didn’t really worry her. She’s fortunate that she’s just that bit taller than the average girl, and they were shooting, it was just a bit lower than it was on the others. Although she was badly shocked, of course, she didn’t really look bad.”


4.  Source: Wilma Young in personal conversation with Barb Angell, 2001

“Vivian was shot here, like this...” (and Wilma used her thumb and forefinger to pinch a small area on her left side, just above the belt).



Sundry additional  sources:


5.   Source: Papers of Vivian Bullwinkel AWM54 1010/5/24

“I can still see Vivian now, standing by a table in the doorway of our gaol, speaking with the Japanese guard. She was firmly holding a shoulder strap type water bottle to her side and waved to us as we gathered in the doorway. She hurried towards us and we took her into our “dormitory” (containing only concrete sloping shelves upon which we slept) sat her down on the bed space and removed her water bottle, then we saw the burnt part of her uniform where she had been shot. She then told us the shocking story which remained a deep secret until the end of the war.”


6.   Source: Veronica Clancy diary MSS1086 (AWM), quoting Viv.

 “Next morning I examined my wound and realized I had been shot through the diaphragm and it would not prove fatal.”


7.   Source: Elizabeth Simons While History Passed, Ch 4

“In spite of their protests the men were separated from the nurses and taken out of sight; the Japs returned a short time later wiping their bayonets. They then ordered our girls to walk into the sea, where they shot them, the bodies being left where they fell; the ones who could not walk were shot where they lay on the sand. Viv was wounded by a volley which killed most of the others... Later the Japs returned to the scene and finished their ruthless work, bayoneting those who were not already dead from the shooting.... Most of the sixty-five AANS were now accounted for in one way or another...”


8.   Betty Jeffrey (notes to Gwen Friend as extra information for the writing of the radio version of  “White Coolies”) “It had shot straight through and out the front.”


9.   Unknown author, found amongst the personal papers of Vivian Bullwinkel (AWM 54 1010/5/24): “Vivian was hit just near her left hip and was flung headlong into the water by the impact.”


10.    Nursing History Review, Vol. 7, 1999 (Author Elizabeth M. Norman/Dorothy Angell)

“Her wound was clean; none of her vital organs or blood vessels had been hit.”


Some of the discrepancies can be explained. For instance Statement No. 6 purports to be a direct quote by Vivian Bullwinkel, as recorded by Sister Veronica Clancy in her diary. This was not written during the war. It is in the form of the first draft of a possible book. Given the close secrecy that surrounded the presence of the wound, it is likely that nobody saw it other than Wilma, who did the nursing. Perhaps Vivian decided that the placement of the exit wound on her damaged uniform might best be explained by saying that she had been shot through the diaphragm? Apart from this one quote plus some generally inaccurate newspaper articles, there are no other mentions of a diaphragm wound. In any case, had she been hit in the diaphragm, it is unlikely that she would be to be able to “hurry”, as described in quotation number 5. The reference, also in quote No. 5, to “the burnt part of her uniform” might indicate that she was shot at close range but, if this were so, then not even a poor shooter could fail to kill her - and the Japanese were not poor shots. The “burn” was more likely to be dried blood, as described by Wilma in her quotes.


I decided to take a closer look. Standing, as Vivian’s uniform is in its glass display case, it was not possible for me to clearly see the entrance hole. This was partly hidden by the angle at which the dummy was positioned. I also wanted to check that what I was reading as an exit hole was not some other sort of damage, such as moth. The inscription on the display case made reference to a bullet hole that had been mended, and I could not see this. I requested, and got, permission to inspect the uniform out of its glass case. The following are my findings:





Bullet hole just above waistline above 3rd button (down) on left hand side of button hole (exit hole).


  This would have come through Stoker Lloyd, who was already in the camp hospital. See below.

Top of Page
Brave Women
Home Page
A tribute from Phyllis Wilson
Webpage services

Brave Women  .  The Wah Sui Incident  .  Wilma Oram  .  Vyner Brooke  . The prisoners of Rabaul
Civilian nursing teams in Vietnam  .  Betty Jeffrey  . J.E. Simons  . Lest We Forget . Vunapope Mission Prisoners  . 
Royal College of Nursing  .  Australian Women's History  . Long Xuyen nurses
Australian Nursing Memorial  .  Australian War Memorial  .  Women in World History

Further reading and other references
Norman, E. and Angell, D. (1999) Vivian Bullwinkel: Sole Survivor of the 1942 Massacre of Australian Nurses. Nursing HistoryRreview,No 7:pp 97 - 112
Goodman, R. (1988) Our War Nurses - The history of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps 1902-1988. Brisbane, Boolarong Publications
Jeffrey, B. (1954) White Coolies.Melbourne, Angus and Robertson.
Kenny, C. (1986) Captives-Australian Army Nurses in Japanese Prison Camps. St. Lucia, University of Queensland Press.
Manners, N.G. (1999) Bullwinkel. Carlisle, WA. Hesperian Press
Simons, E. (1954) While History Passed.  Melbourne, Heinemann Ltd. reissued as In Japanese Hands: Australian Nurses as POWs.
Vivian Bullwinkel,"I could never ever trust them" interview by Tim Bowdin Episode 5 in Talking History, the Survival Series. Audiotape. Australian Broadcasting Corporation Archives.
Nesta Gwyneth James, Statement to the Australian War Crimes Board of Inquiry, 1 November 1945, Australian War Memorial, Canberra, Australia 1010/4/78: 1.
Vivian Bullwinkel, Statements to the Australian War Crimes Board of Inquiry, 29 October 1945, Australian War Memorial Canberra Australia. 1010/4/24:4.
A true Anzac Angel. New Idea, 27 April 1996, 33.
ANJ Australian Nursing Journal November 1999, Vol. 7 No5 (Feature articles P.6 & 7, also the front cover).

Click Here to Generate Traffic to Your Site!

Her "girls" remember.
A tribute to Vivian Bullwinkel
Written by  Phyllis Wilson
(RAANCA & RSNC of Vic.; Hon. Librarian)

PRO HUMANITATE is the motto of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps (RAANC)  "In the Service of Mankind".   Vivian Bullwinkel exemplified this motto in dedicating her extraordinary life to Nursing, and in doing so became one of the most loved and revered Nurses of her time. 

After the war.
While many people are aware of her war service, fewer are aware of her subsequent long and devoted service to her country and the Nursing Service after the War.   In 1955 Vivian was appointed Matron of the RAANC 7th Company, and later 3rd Training Unit, a position she held for some years.  Assisted by Regular Army nursing personnel and senior Sisters from various hospitals, she was responsible for the training of nurses in all aspects of Army Nursing. 

Each year she attended camps at 3 Camp Hospital Puckapunyal, Scrubb Hill, Healesville Army School of Health, Jamieson Army Camp, and the Heidelberg and Alfred Hospitals. As Matron of the Training Unit, Vivian's care for the young nurses in her charge was unequalled.  She was always approachable and encouraged a strong feeling of community amongst the Company, which lives on in the Returned and Service Nurses Club.

"Her Girls" remember.
"Her Girls", as she called her Nurses, also remember the other community interests and activities in which Vivian became involved beyond the realms of Army Life.  There were many of these: the firewood deliveries to the needy around inner Melbourne on Army Trucks, Christmas Luncheons and gifts for the elderly, clothing and toys for the needy children.  These events were always a feature of the nurses' year while Vivian was Matron.  Often after a social or dinner, Vivian would arrange for the Gill Memorial residents to have any left over food. 

Vivian also insisted upon her young trainee nurses attending Church Parade.  The young women were thrilled on these occasions to meet some of her World War 2 colleagues, who were very special to her.

Another of her passions was sport, and at every opportunity she would organize her nurses for a game of softball.  They later found out that she would have loved to have been a Phys. Ed. teacher had she not become a nurse.

Social activities were always high on Vivian's agenda. She attended dances at the Drill Hall and Scots Church Hall, car trials and barbecues, picture nights, and on one occasion a concert in which the 7th Company performed the Can Can.  Vivian was so impressed that she booked the dancers for a guest appearance at a Medical Ball in Melbourne! 

Her encouragement and faith.
At a Reunion Luncheon with Matron in 1997 she was keen to learn what "Her Girls" had achieved in their lives.  So many of her Nurses, after finishing Military Training, had gone on to do their General Nursing through her encouragement and her faith in their abilities.

We will all remember her for her wonderful sense of humour, her vivid blue eyes and her most beautiful smile which she bestowed on all who met her.

A shining light has left us, but the Lamp will still remain bright.
because of the special bond that exists between nurses, and the legacy of  care and service that Matron Vivian Bullwinkel established for nurses now and for future generations.

This page is maintained by
Angell Productions Pty Limited
For a full list of the Vyner Brooke nurse-victims Click Here.
 SubmitFree: Submit to 25+ Search Engines for free !!!!