It’s 80 years since the Bangka Island massacre, one of the darkest chapters of World War Two when 21 Australian Army nurses and 60 Australian and British soldiers and crew members were slain by Japanese soldiers on Bangka Island in Indonesia.
On 16 February 1942, the merchant ship Vyner Brooke was part of the mass evacuation of Singapore carrying wounded troops, civilians and nurses from the Australian Army Nursing Service. It was bombed and sunk.
The survivors made it to shore on Radji Beach. The Japanese were in control of the island and the group surrendered - only for the troops to be rounded up and executed, while the nurses were ordered to walk into the sea where they were machine gunned.
The only survivors were 26-year-old Australian nurse Sister Lt Vivian Bullwinkel, British sailor Ernest Lloyd and American Eric Germann.
Sister Bullwinkel was wounded but kept still in the water until it was quiet, then crawled into the bush and lay unconscious for several days. She surrendered, spent three years in a prisoner of war camp and later gave evidence at a war crimes trial in 1947 that was crucial to uncovering the truth about what had happened on Radji Beach.
They were remembered in the Last Post Service at the Shrine of Remembrance on 20 February.
Reviewed 22 February 2022