Memorial honours Kapunda born nurse

File photo of staff Nurse Vivian Bullwinkel before being posted to Malaya.

File photo of staff Nurse Vivian Bullwinkel before being posted to Malaya.

South Australian Parliament this week honoured a Kapunda-born nurse caught up in the horrific Bangka Strait Massacre of 1942.

Speaking in Parliament, Light MP Tony Piccolo acknowledged the extraordinary hardships Vivian Bullwinkle endured, from the historic fall of Singapore to the harrowing events which followed.

The honour means the construction of a permanent memorial to Ms Bullwinkle at the SA Women’s Memorial Playing Fields in St Marys.

“Having disembarked from Singapore on 12 February, … [her] ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft in the Bangka Strait near Sumatra and quickly sank. Many did not survive this attack,” Mr Piccolo explained in Parliament.

“22 of the Australian nurses made it ashore on Bangka Island, joined by a group of British soldiers.”

Having decided that there was no choice but to surrender, the party was soon ambushed by Japanese Imperial forces who separated the soldiers from the nurses. The nurses were pushed back into the ocean and machine gunned.

But, as Mr Piccolo explained, Sister Bullwinkle miraculously survived the attack.

“She was able to float in the water, pretending to be dead, until she had an opportunity to escape ashore and into the jungle”, he said.

Sister Bullwinkle was the only survivor of the massacre, and was later taken prisoner by the Japanese.

“On arriving at the prison camp Sister Bullwinkel found 31 other nurses who had survived the sinking of the Vyner Brooke. She and her fellow nurses remained prisoners of Japan until the end of the war, enduring unthinkable hardship,” Mr Piccolo informed Parliament.

Vivian Bullwinkle later gave evidence about the Bangka Strait Massacre at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial, which provided much needed answers to the loved ones who perished on that day. 

Parliament’s motion, which honoured Vivian Bullwinkle, was moved by Waite MP Sam Duluk.