Vivian Bullwinkel

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Vivian Bullwinkel
Vivian Bullwinkel.jpg
Studio portrait of Vivian Bullwinkel, taken in May 1941
Born 18 December 1915 (1915-12-18)
Kapunda, South Australia
Died 3 July 2000(2000-07-03) (aged 84)
Allegiance Australia Commonwealth of Australia
Service/branch Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps
Years of service 1941 – 1947
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Battles/wars Second World War
Awards Officer of the Order of Australia
Member of the Order of the British Empire
Associate of the Royal Red Cross
Efficiency Decoration
Florence Nightingale Medal

Lieutenant-Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel, Mrs. Statham, AO, MBE, ARRC, ED, FNM (18 December 1915 – 3 July 2000) was an Australian Army nurse during the Second World War. She was the sole survivor of the Bangka Island Massacre, when the Japanese killed 21 of her fellow nurses on Radji Beach, Bangka Island (Indonesia) on 16 February 1942.

Personal life[edit]

She was born as Vivian Bullwinkel on 18 December 1915 in Kapunda, South Australia to George Francis and Eva Bullwinkel (née Shegog). She had a brother, John. She trained as a nurse and midwife at Broken Hill, New South Wales, and began her nursing career in Hamilton, Victoria, before moving to the Jessie McPherson Hospital in Melbourne. Post-war, she was Matron of Melbourne's Fairfield Hospital.[citation needed]

Bullwinkel married Colonel Francis West Statham in September 1977.

Death[edit]

She died on 3 July 2000 in Perth, Western Australia as Vivian Statham.

World War II and the Banka Island Massacre[edit]

In 1941, wanting to enlist, Bullwinkel volunteered as a nurse with the RAAF but was rejected for having flat feet. She was, however, able to join the Australian Army Nursing Service; assigned to the 2/13th Australian General Hospital (2/13th AGH), in September 1941 she sailed for Singapore. After a few weeks with the 2/10th AGH, Bullwinkel rejoined the 13th AGH in Johor Baharu.

Japanese troops invaded Malaya in December 1941 and began to advance southwards, winning a series of victories.[1] and, in late January 1942, forcing the 13th AGH to evacuate to Singapore. But the short-lived defence of the island ended in defeat, and, on 12 February, Bullwinkel and 65 other nurses boarded the SS Vyner Brooke to escape the island.[2]

Two days later, the ship was sunk by Japanese aircraft. Bullwinkel, 21 other nurses and a large group of men, women, and children made it ashore at Radji Beach on Banka Island. Others on board either went down with the ship or were swept away and never seen again. The group were joined the next day by others making a total of about 100 including about twenty English soldiers from another ship sunk earlier. They elected to surrender to the Japanese. An officer from the Vyner Brooke walked to Muntok, a town on the north-west of the island, to contact the Japanese. While he was away Matron Irene Drummond, the most senior of the Australian nurses, suggested that the civilian women and children should start off walking towards Muntok.[2]

In an action that later became known as the Banka Island Massacre, Japanese soldiers came and killed the men, then motioned the nurses to wade into the sea. They then machine-gunned the nurses from behind. Bullwinkel was struck by a bullet which passed completely through her body, missing her internal organs, and feigned death until the Japanese soldiers left.[2]

She hid with British Army Private Cecil George Kingsley RAOC for 12 days, tending to his severe wounds, only then realizing the extent of her own wound, before being captured. They were taken into captivity, but Private Kingsley died soon after due to his having sustained such serious wounds, including a gunshot wound in his abdomen.[2]

Bullwinkel was reunited with survivors of the Vyner Brooke. She told them of the massacre, but none spoke of it again until after the war lest it put Bullwinkel, as witness to the massacre, in danger. Bullwinkel spent three and half years in captivity; she was one of just 24 of the 65 nurses who had been on the Vyner Brooke to survive the war. Another surviving nurse was Pat Darling, who died in 2007.[3]

Fellow internees[edit]

Whilst in captivity, some notable fellow internees included:

Later life[edit]

Vivian retired from the army in 1947 and became Director of Nursing at the Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital. She devoted herself to the nursing profession and to honouring those killed on Banka Island, raising funds for a nurses' memorial and serving on numerous committees, including a period as a member of the Council of the Australian War Memorial, and later president of the Australian College of Nursing.

Honours[edit]

OrderAustraliaRibbon.png Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) 1993 [4]
Member of the Order of Australia (AM)
Order of the British Empire (Civil) Ribbon.png Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) 1973[5]
Royal Red Cross (UK) ribbon.png Associate Member of the Royal Red Cross (ARRC) 1947[6]
39-45 Star BAR.svg 1939–45 Star
Pacific Star.gif Pacific Star
War Medal 39-45 BAR.svg War Medal 1939–1945
Australia Service Medal 1939-1945 BAR.svg Australia Service Medal 1939–45
Efficiency Decoration (NZ) ribbon.jpg Efficiency Decoration (ED)
ICRC Florence Nightingale Medal BAR.svg Florence Nightingale Medal (Red Cross)

Legacy[edit]

The Vivian Bullwinkel Wing at Hollywood Private Hospital, Perth (the former Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood) was renamed in her honour.

Monash University (Melbourne) has named the chair in palliative care nursing after her.

Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE redeveloped the old nurses quarters on its Fairfield campus in 2010 for residential student accommodation. A common room is named after Vivian Bullwinkel, who was the Director of Nursing for many years at the Fairfield Hospital.[7]

Family[edit]

She married in 1977, changing her name to Vivian Statham. She returned to Bangka Island in 1992 to unveil a shrine to the nurses who had not survived the war. She died of a heart attack on 3 July 2000, aged 84. She was a distant cousin of country music singer Kevin Shegog.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Klemen, L; Bert Kossen, Pierre-Emmanuel Bernaudin, Dr. Leo Niehorster, Akira Takizawa, Sean Carr, Jim Broshot, Nowfel Leulliot (1999–2000). "Seventy minutes before Pearl Harbor - The landing at Kota Bharu, Malaya, on December 7th 1941". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942. 
  2. ^ a b c d Klemen, L (1999–2000). "The Bangka Island Massacre, February 1942". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942. 
  3. ^ Sydney Morning Herald, 12 December 2007
  4. ^ Officer of the Order of Australia
  5. ^ Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)
  6. ^ Associate of the Royal Red Cross
  7. ^ NMIT, Launch of new student accommodation honours one of Australia's most famous nurses, Media release 12 April 2010, Retrieved 12 August 2013

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]