Irene Melville Drummond

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Irene Melville Drummond (1905-1942) was a nurse in the Australian Regular Army who was killed in the Banka Island massacre.[1] She joined the Australian Regular Army in 1940.[1] She was called up for full-time duty with the 2nd/4th Casualty Clearing Station in January 1941, and in February of that year she went to Singapore to join the 2nd/9th Field Ambulance.[2] She was promoted to army matron on August 5 and posted to the 2nd/13th Australian General Hospital in September 1941.[2] In January 1942 the hospital she worked at was moved to St Patrick's School, Singapore, due to the Japanese invasion of Malaya.[2] On 12 February 1942 the Sarawak royal yacht Vyner Brooke left Singapore just before the city fell to the Imperial Japanese Army. The ship carried many injured service personnel and 65 nurses of the Australian Army Nursing Service from the 2/13th Australian General Hospital (including Drummond), as well as civilian men, women and children.[3] The ship was bombed by Japanese aircraft and sank.[3][2]

Drummond escaped the ship in a lifeboat and came ashore at Radji Beach, Banka Island.[2] Also on the island were 21 other nurses and 20 British servicemen from another ship that had sunk.[2] Once it was discovered that the island was held by the Japanese, an officer of the Vyner Brooke went to surrender the group to the authorities in Muntok.[3] While he was away Drummond suggested that the civilian women and children should leave for Muntok, which they did.[2] At mid-morning the ship’s officer returned with about 20 Japanese soldiers. They ordered all the wounded men capable of walking to travel around a headland. The nurses heard a quick succession of shots before the Japanese soldiers came back, sat down in front of the women and cleaned their bayonets and rifles.[3] A Japanese officer ordered the remaining 22 nurses and one civilian woman to walk into the surf.[3] As they marched into water, Irene - who was the matron of the group - told the women "chin up girls, I'm proud of you and I love you all." A machine gun was set up on the beach and when the women were waist deep, they were machine-gunned. All but Sister Lt Vivian Bullwinkel were killed.[3]

Drummond was mentioned in dispatches in 1946, and a memorial park, opened at Broken Hill hospital in 1949, commemorates her.[2][1] She worked at Broken Hill hospital before joining the Australian Regular Army.[2][1]


  1. ^ a b c d UBC Web Design. "Sister Irene Drummond - Monument Australia". 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Biography - Irene Melville Drummond - Australian Dictionary of Biography". 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Klemen, L (1999–2000). "The Bangka Island Massacre, February 1942". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941–1942.