Vivian Bullwinkle

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Vivian Bullwinkle




Born in Kapunda, South Australia, 18th December 1915


Vivian completed her general nurse 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. In 1941, Vivian found herself member 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. 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 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.

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). 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.

Bangka Island Massacre:  At mid-morning February 16, the ship’s officer returned with about twenty Japanese soldiers. Having separated the men from the women prisoners, the Japanese divided the men into two groups, and marched them along the beach and behind 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. A Japanese officer, smaller than his men, told the women to walk into the water. A couple of soldiers shoved those who were slow to respond. Twenty-two nurses and one civilian woman walked into the waves, leaving ten or twelve stretcher cases on the beach. Vivian said that when the women were up to their waists in water the Japanese started firing up and down the line with a machine guns. She survived and was taken POW and survived the hell camps of Sumatra.

After the War she worked in Melbourne at both the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital and the Fairfield Hospital. She resigned from Fairfield Hospital in 1977 when she married Colonel F.W. Stratham. Vivian Bullwinkle died suddenly of a heart attack in a Perth hospital on Monday 3rd July 2000 after leg surgery she was 84 years old. She was given a State Government Funeral, which was held St George’s Anglican Cathedral, St George’s Terrace, Perth at 10.30 am on Monday 10 July 2000.

  • Bullwinkle - Vivan Bullwinkle was born in 1915 at Kapunda in South Australia and educated in Broken Hill she had 1 brother John. She was working as a nurse in Melbourne. 

  • Simpson Essay - Cations - Bullwinkle was on a ship that was attacked by the Japanese in WWII. Vivian doggie paddled to the shore.

  • Simpson Essay - de Sousa - One such Australian was Sister Vivian Bullwinkle who is spoken of in Appendix 1

  • Vivian Bullwinkel - AO; MBE;ARRC; ED; FNM; FRCNA (18.12.1915 - 3.7.2000.) Survivor of the Bangka Island Massacre. 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. 

  • VIVIAN BULLWINKLE ORATION - Vivian Bullwinkel Oration Latrobe University School Of Nursing And Midwifery Royal College Of Nursing Australia

  • Vivian Bullwinkel Memorial Fund - The heroic feats of World War II nurse Sister Vivian Bullwinkel (Mrs Vivian Statham) are the inspiration for the establishment of the Vivian Bullwinkel Chair in Palliative Care Nursing.

Last Modified: Thursday May 20, 2010

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