Born: 18 December 1915

Died: 3 July 2000


  • Image - Vivian Bullwinkel

    Studio portrait of Staff Nurse Vivian Bullwinkel, Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS), in service dress uniform. Bullwinkel is well known as the sole survivor of the infamous Banka Island massacre in which 21 of her AANS colleagues were killed by Japanese troops. Bullwinkel was born on 18 December 1915 at Kapunda, SA, and enlisted in the AANS in 1941. In September 1941 she embarked for Singapore as a staff nurse with the 2/13th Australian General Hospital (2/13th AGH). On 12 February 1942, three days before the fall of Singapore, Bullwinkel, along with 65 other Australian Army nursing sisters, was evacuated from Singapore on board the SS Vyner Brooke. On the 14 February, while on route to Sumatra via Banka Strait, the ship was sunk by Japanese aircraft. Twenty-two nurses, including Bullwinkel, and a large group of British soldiers, men, women, and children made it ashore at Radji Beach on Banka Island. The group decided to surrender and a group comprising of the civilian women and children, accompanied by some of the men, went to find Japanese troops while the rest of the group waited. When Japanese soldiers arrived, the men were executed and the 22 sisters were ordered to walk into the sea and were machine gunned from behind. Bullwinkel, struck by a bullet, pretended to be dead. She and the only other survivor of the massacre, a wounded British soldier, Private (Pte) Kinsley, hid for 12 days before surrendering. Both were taken into captivity, but Pte Kinsley died soon after. Bullwinkel spent three and half years in captivity and was one of just 24 of the 65 nurses who had been on the SS Vyner Brooke to survive the war. Her courage while a prisoner of the Japanese exemplified the bravery of Australian women in war, and her distinguished post-war career was marked by many humanitarian and career achievements. Vivian Statham (nee Bullwinkel) died on 3 July 2000. circa 1941-05

    Wikimedia Commons: File:Vivian Bullwinkel.jpg

  • References

    McLean, Christina. (1996, April 27). A True Anzac Angel. New Idea, 32-33.

    (1998). Vivian Bullwinkel. Mitchell, David (editor), This is Your Life: True Stories of Great Australians (92-94). Sydney: Prentice Hall.

    Ohlsson, Ingrid and Duffy, Helen. (1999). Women of Australia: their lives and times: a photographic gallery. Sydney: Pan Macmillan, p. 193.

    Heroic legend lived to tell. The Advertiser. July 5, 2000:19.

    Tributes for nurse. The Advertiser. July 6, 2000:15.

    Webster, Di. (2000, July 17). Matron of Honour. Who, 56-57.

    Camilleri, Jenny. (2002). Vivian Bullwinkle, War Nurse. Some Outstanding Women of Broken Hill & District (57-58). Jenny Camilleri.

    The Australian War Memorial. "Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel".

    The Australian War Memorial. "Fifty Australians - Sister Vivian Bullwinkel".

    The Australian Women's Register. "Bullwinkel, Vivian (1915 - 2000)".

    Wikipedia. "Vivian Bullwinkel".

    WikiTree. "Vivian (Bullwinkel) Statham AO MBE (1915 - 2000)".