On 12 February 1942, the merchant ship Vyner Brooke left Singapore just before the city fell to the Imperial Japanese Army. The ship contained many injured service personnel and 64 Australian nurses of the 2/13th Australian General Hospital. The ship was bombed by Japanese aircraft and sank. Two nurses were killed in the bombing, nine were last seen drifting away from the ship on a raft and were never heard from again, and the rest reached shore at Bangka Island, in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia).
These nurses joined up with a group of men and injured personnel from the ship. 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. A small group of women and children headed off after him. The Australian nurses stayed to care for the wounded. They set up a shelter with a large Red Cross sign on it.
At mid-morning the ship’s officer returned with about twenty 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. A Japanese officer ordered the remaining twenty two nurses and one civilian woman to walk into the surf. 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.
Shot in the diaphragm, Bullwinkel was unconscious when she washed up on the beach and was left for dead. She evaded capture for ten days, but was eventually caught and imprisoned. She survived the war and gave evidence of the massacre at a war crimes trial in Tokyo in 1947.
- L, Klemen (1999-2000). "The Bangka Island Massacre, February 1942". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942. http://www.dutcheastindies.webs.com/bangka_massacre.html.
- Banka Island Massacre (1942)
- L, Klemen (1999-2000). "Massacres of POWs, Dutch East Indies, 1941-1942". Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942. http://www.dutcheastindies.webs.com/massacres.html.
- Lionel Wigmore The Japanese Thrust - Australia in the War of 1939 - 1945, volume 20 (pdf), Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1957.
- White Coolies, Betty Jeffrey, Eden Books, Sydney, 1954, ISBN 0-207-16107-0
- Shaw, Ian W. (2010). On Radji Beach. Sydney, NSW: Pan Macmillan Australia. ISBN 978-1-4050-4024-2. OCLC 610570783.
- The sinking of the Vyner Brooke
- Vivian Bullwinkel
- Fall of Singapore website of the Australian Government Department of Veteran's Affairs
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