The Vivian Bullwinkel Project

A Great Australian; A Great Leader; A Great Woman and a Proud Nurse

Vivian Bullwinkel Painting of Vivian Bullwinkel
Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel AO, MBE, ARRC, ED, FNM sole survivor of the 1942 Banka Island massacre, was born on 18 December 1915 at Kapunda, South Australia. Trained as a nurse and midwife at Broken Hill, New South Wales, Vivian commenced her career in Hamilton, Victoria. Unable to enlist due to flat feet, her commitment saw Vivian volunteer to join the Australian Army Nursing Service and be posted to Australian General Hospital in Singapore.

In the face of the advancing Japanese Army, Vivian along with 64 other nurses boarded the SS Vyner Brooke to escape the Island. Two days later this ship was sunk by Japanese Aircraft. Survivors including a group of soldiers made it ashore at Radji Beach. Some Japanese soldiers came and killed the men and then ordered the nurses into the sea, where they machine gunned the nurses from behind. After being shot, Vivian feigned death and survived, only to be taken prisoner for the remainder of the War.

Retiring from the Army in 1947, Vivian continued to serve the Australian Community as a Director of Nursing and as a member of various committees including the Council of the Australian War Memorial and later as President of the Royal College of Nursing, Australia. In addition to her commitment to Nursing, she devoted herself to honouring those killed on Banka Island.

It is appropriate that we recognise the life of Lieutenant Colonel Vivian Bullwinkel with a commemorative sculpture in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial.

The Australian War Memorial has agreed (in principle) to locating a sculpture in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial and the Australian College of Nursing has committed to contributing to a fund to make this vision a reality. Whilst this is a great start, we are seeking assistance to make this happen.

Will you join us in making this vision a reality?

We are grateful for your commitment to make this commemoration a reality, please donate or contact the Foundation by email or by phone 02 6283 3460 to arrange to have a personal discussion.


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We are grateful for your commitment to make this commemoration a reality, please donate below.

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