Kapunda, South Australia, 18th December 1915
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.
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.
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.