Australian Women's Register

An initiative of The National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW) in conjunction with The University of Melbourne

Skip to content
  • Click to view this Image

    Group portrait of Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) nurses, who were former prisoners of war (POWs, 18 October 1945, courtesy of Australian War Memorial.
    Details

Exhibitions

  • Faith, Hope and Charity Australian Women and Imperial Honours: 1901-1989
  • Unbroken Spirit: Women in Broken Hill
  • Where are the Women in Australian science?

Use Trove to find more resources by/about this Woman

  • Trove

Bullwinkel, Vivian (1915 - 2000)

AO, MBE, ARRC, ED, FNM, FRCNA

Born
18 December 1915
Kapunda, South Australia, Australia
Died
3 July 2000
Perth, Western Australia
Occupation
Nurse, Servicewoman and Health administrator
Alternative Names
  • Statham, Vivian (married name, September 1977 - )

Summary

Vivian Bullwinkel was the sole survivor of the 1942 Banka Island massacre. Post-war, she was Matron of Melbourne's Fairfield Hospital.

Details

Vivian Bullwinkel grew up in Broken Hill, New South Wales, and Adelaide, South Australia. Her father had migrated to Australia from Essex in 1912 and worked as a jackaroo on a station near Broken Hill before he married and took on a clerical post with Broken Hill South Pty Ltd. Vivian's grandfather was William John Shegog, a member of the South Australian Police Force. At the age of nine, she moved to Adelaide to live with her grandparents but returned to attend Broken Hill High School when she was thirteen. In 1934 she began nursing and midwife training at the Broken Hill and District Hospital. From February 1939 she was working at the Kia-Ora Hospital in Hamilton, Victoria, but moved to Melbourne to enlist at the outbreak of war and worked for a time at the Jessie MacPherson Hospital.

In May 1941, Bullwinkel volunteered for the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) and sailed for Singapore, assigned to the 2/13th Australian General Hospital. In February 1942, she boarded the SS Vyner Brooke with 65 other nurses to flee Singapore following an invasion by Japanese troops, but the ship was sunk by Japanese aircraft two days later. A large number of passengers, including 22 nurses, made it ashore to Radji Beach on Banka Island and decided to surrender to the Japanese. They were joined the following day by about 100 British soldiers. Upon being discovered by Japanese soldiers, however, the men were killed and the nurses ordered to wade into the sea where they were machine-gunned from behind. Bullwinkel was struck by a bullet but feigned death until her persecutors had left. The sole survivor of the massacre, she hid for twelve days before surrendering and spent a further three and a half years in captivity.

Bullwinkel served in Japan in 1946 and 1947 before resigning from the Army as Captain, but she rejoined the Citizen Military Forces in 1955 and served until 1970, when she retired as Lieutenant Colonel. Post-war, Bullwinkel spent 16 years as Matron of Melbourne's Fairfield Hospital and continued as Director of Nursing there until 1977. In that year, she married Colonel F.W. Statham and moved to Perth. She was a member of the Council of the Australian War Memorial, and president of the Australian College of Nursing. In 1992, she returned to Banka Island to unveil a shrine to the nurses who died there.

Vivian Bullwinkel was appointed to the Order of Australia (AO) on 26 January 1993, appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) on 1 January 1973 and awarded the Royal Red Cross Medal on 6 March 1947 for service to the veteran and ex-prisoner of war communities, to nursing, to the Red Cross Society and to the community. She was also the winner of the Florence Nightingale Medal.

Photographs, newspaper articles and memorabilia relating to Vivian Bullwinkel were exhibited at the RSL in Argent Street, Broken Hill, in 2000 and the foyer of the Broken Hill Health Service has been named in her honour.

Events

1939 - 1940
Staff member of the Hamilton Private Hospital, Victoria
1940 - 1941
Staff member of the Jessie McPherson Hospital, Melbourne
1941
Staff member of the 13th Australian General Hospital, Australian Infantry Forces
16 February 1942
Sole survivor of Banka Island, where 21 Australian army nurses were massacred by Japanese soldiers
6 March 1947
Royal Red Cross Medal
1956 - 1960
Assistant Matron of the Repatration General Hospital, Victoria
1961 - 1977
Matron of the Fairfield Hospital, Victoria
1963 - 1977
Trustee of the National War Memorial, Canberra
1964 - 1973
Deputy Principal of the Commandant Australia Red Cross Society
1972 - 1974
President of the Soroptimist Clubs, Victoria
1 January 1973
Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)
1973 - 1974
President of the College of Nursing Australia
1973 - 1977
Member of the Council College of Nursing Australia
1973 - 1978
Member of the Council of Directors of the Royal Humane Society
September 1977
Married Col. F W Statham OBE, ED
1988 - 1989
Warden of Western Australian State War Memorial (first woman to be appointed)
1992
Honourary Life Member of the Australia Red Cross Society
26 January 1993
Order of Australia (AO)

Sources used to compile this entry: Best, John, Portraits in Australian Health, MacLennan and Petty, Sydney, 1988, 223 pp; Bullwinkel, Vivian, Filing system by name; Outback Archives, Broken Hill City Library; Neto, Maryanne (researcher) (ed.), Who's Who in Australia 1998, 38 edn, Information Australia Group Pty Ltd, Melbourne, 1997, 1720 pp; http://www.angellpro.com.au/Bullwinkel.htm (accessed 03/04/2002)); http://www.awm.gov.au/people (accessed January 2009).

Related entries

Membership

Related Organisations

Related Cultural Artefacts

Related Women

Archival resources

Australian War Memorial Research Centre

  • [Campaign in Malaya and Singapore - Escape before and after capitulation and evacuation of civilians:], 1942 - 1945, AWM54; Australian War Memorial Research Centre. Details
  • Group portrait of Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) nurses, who were former prisoners of war (POWs), 18 October 1945, P01701.003; Australian War Memorial Research Centre. Details
  • List of Awards for Services rendered whilst Prisoners-of-War, 1946 - 1948, AWM119; Australian War Memorial Research Centre. Details
  • Official Historian 1939-1945 War, biographical files, 1947 - 1968, AWM76; Australian War Memorial Research Centre. Details
  • [War Crimes and Trials - Affidavits and Sworn Statements:], 1945 - 1948, AWM54; Australian War Memorial Research Centre. Details
  • [War Crimes and Trials - Affidavits and Sworn Statements:], 1945 - 1948, AWM54; Australian War Memorial Research Centre. Details

National Archives of Australia, Melbourne Office

  • Bullwinkel, V Sister - International Military Tribunal, 1947, MP742/1/0; National Archives of Australia, Melbourne Office. Details
  • Bullwinkel, Vivian, 1941 - 1997, B883; National Archives of Australia, Melbourne Office. Details

National Archives of Australia, Sydney Office

  • [Radio talk presented by ABC war correspondent Haydon Lennard], 1945, SP300/3; National Archives of Australia, Sydney Office. Details

Outback Archives, Broken Hill City Library

  • Bullwinkel, Vivian, Filing system by name; Outback Archives, Broken Hill City Library. Details

Digital resources

Title
Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial Nurses
Type
Image

Details

Title
Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial
Type
Image

Details

Title
Group portrait of Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) nurses, who were former prisoners of war (POWs
Type
Image
Date
18 October 1945
Control
P01701.003
Source
Australian War Memorial

Details

Anne Heywood and Barbara Lemon

Site-wide information and acknowledgements

National Foundation for Australian Women The University of Melbourne, eScholarship Research Centre

© Copyright in The Australian Women's Register is owned by the Australian Women's Archives Project
and vested in each of the authors in respect of their contributions from 2000

http://www.womenaustralia.info/biogs/AWE0362b.htm

The Australian Women's Register is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

The Australian Women's Register is published quarterly by the Australian Women's Archives Project
ISSN 2207-3124