Life On The Job

Vivian Bullwinkel  - An Australian Nurse - 1915 - 2000

Vivian Bullwinkel

(Source: Vivian Bullwinkel - Australian Heroine: Documentary)

Early Career and World War II:

Vivian Bullwinkel, sole survivor of the 1942 Banka Island (Indonesia) massacre in World War II, was born on 18 December 1915 at Kapunda, South Australia.

She trained as a nurse and midwife at Broken Hill, New South Wales, and began her nursing career in Hamilton, Victoria, before moving to the Jessie McPherson Hospital in Melbourne in 1940. (Source: Australian War Memorial: Captain Vivian Bullwinkel, AO, MBE, ARRC)

Vivian completed 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 in the small country town of Hamilton in Victoria. She then moved to Melbourne and worked at Guildford Private Hospital and then in the Jessie McPherson wing of the Queen Victoria Hospital. (1940 - 1941).

"In 1941, wanting to enlist, Bullwinkel volunteered as a nurse with the RAAF but was rejected for having flat feet. She was, however, able to join the Australian Army Nursing Service; assigned to the 2/13th Australian General Hospital (2/13th AGH), in September 1941 she sailed for Singapore. After a few weeks with the 2/10th AGH, Bullwinkel rejoined the 13th AGH in Johor Baharu.

Japanese troops invaded Malaya in December 1941 and began to advance southwards, winning a series of victories.[1] and, in late January 1942, forcing the 13th AGH to evacuate to Singapore. But the short-lived defence of the island ended in defeat, and, on 12 February, Bullwinkel and 65 other nurses boarded the SS Vyner Brooke to escape the island.

Vivian Bullwinkel at Australian War Memorial in 1999

Vivian sitting in front of her portrait at the Australian War Memorial, 1999

Two days later, the ship was sunk by Japanese aircraft. Bullwinkel, 21 other nurses and a large group of men, women, and children made it ashore at Radji Beach on Banka Island. Others on board either went down with the ship or were swept away and never seen again. The group were joined the next day by others making a total of about 100 including about twenty English soldiers from another ship sunk earlier. They elected to surrender to the Japanese. An officer from the Vyner Brooke walked to Muntok, a town on the north-west of the island, to contact the Japanese. While he was away Matron Irene Drummond, the most senior of the Australian nurses, suggested that the civilian women and children should start off walking towards Muntok.

In an action that later became known as the Banka Island Massacre, Japanese soldiers came and killed the men, then motioned the nurses to wade into the sea. They then machine-gunned the nurses from behind. Bullwinkel was struck by a bullet which passed completely through her body, missing her internal organs, and feigned death until the Japanese soldiers left.

She hid with British Army Private Cecil George Kingsley RAOC for 12 days, tending to his severe wounds, only then realizing the extent of her own wound, before being captured. They were taken into captivity, but Private Kingsley died soon after due to his having sustained such serious wounds, including a gunshot wound in his abdomen.

Bullwinkel was reunited with survivors of the Vyner Brooke. She told them of the massacre, but none spoke of it again until after the war lest it put Bullwinkel, as witness to the massacre, in danger. Bullwinkel spent three and half years in captivity; she was one of just 24 of the 65 nurses who had been on the Vyner Brooke to survive the war."
(Source: Wikipedia)

ABC Splash
Watch this video about the Nurses return from Singapore
(Year 10 History)

After the War:

After the War she worked in Melbourne at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital.

In 1949, Vivian resigned from the army and continued her career as a civilian nurse. She retained her position at the hospital which had now become the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital and was transferred to the hospital's blood bank.

In 1950, she traveled to England with Betty Jeffrey. They were able to obtain positions at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington. Vivian later was employed as a sister-receptionist at the Department of Immigration at Australia House. They spent two years working in England but the highlight of their trip was being invited to tea with the Queen Mother who was eager to hear about their war experiences.

On returning to Australia, in 1953 she resumed her position at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital and in 1955 she became the Assistant Matron.

In 1959, Vivian completed a Diploma in Nursing Administration and was appointed Matron of Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital in Melbourne. She was to remain there for the rest of her career.

In 1975, Vivian would experience war again. As matron of Fairfield Hospital, she lead a team to Saigon to evacuate 80 Vietnamese war orphans - just weeks before the city fell to the North Vietnamese army. Vivian grew very attached to the children during the months they stayed at Fairfield under her care and she remained in touch with many of them as they grew up with their adopted Australian families.

As the President of the Royal College of Nursing Australia (1973-1974), she was a key player in the struggle to have nursing education moved to universities.

President of the Royal College of Nursing Australia

Death:

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.

Links:

Australian War Memorial: Captain Vivian Bullwinkel, AO, MBE, ARRC

AWM Captain V Bullwinkel


Australian War Memorial: Fifty Australians: Vivian Bullwinkel

AWM Fifty Australians

Wikipedia: Vivian Bullwinkel

Wikipedia

Nurse.info

Nurse Info
Vivian Bullwinkel - Australian Heroine: Documentary:
*
Biography of the Banka Island massacre;
*
Bullwinkel's Nursing Career.

Vivian Bullwinkel
Vivian Bullwinkel

Vivian Bullwinkel

Activities

Doc or Pin? How will Vivian be remembered?

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle  High SchoolSecondary

ICT Capability Australian Curriculum General Capability: ICT Capability

Critical & Creative ThinkingAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical & Creative Thinking

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

Documentary

Using the information provided in the websites, create a documentary about Vivian Bullwinkel, an Australian heroine, that students in Middle School would appreciate and understand.

How to create a good documentary
Pinterest

Create a pinterest display about the life of Vivian Bullwinkel.


Pinterest

 

Real Life icon


Read about Heather Machin, Nurse today
Heather Machin carry a child
Real Life icon

Read about Johnathon Molloy, Nurse today
Johnathon Molloy

 

Material sourced from:

Vivian Bullwinkel - Australian Heroine: Documentary

Australian War Memorial: Captain Vivian Bullwinkel, AO, MBE, ARRC

Wikipedia


side 5

side bar

side bar

sidebar

Jeweller side

side 5

side bar

side bar

sidebar

Jeweller side

side 5

side bar

side bar

sidebar

Jeweller side