Vivian Bullwinkel
Australia Crest

Nurse Vivian enlisted in the 2nd Australian Infantry Force (AIF) in 1941 and was posted to Malaya and Singapore to support the 8th Australian Division.

The fall of Singapore was imminent and she was shipped out two days beforehand on the SS Vyner Brooke. The ship was soon sunk by Jap planes in Banka Strait.

It took Vivian and 21 other army nurses 18 hours to swim ashore where they were rounded up by the Japanese and ordered back into the water and machine-gunned.

Somehow Vivian survived, alone, and later found herself, with a bullet wound in her side, in a prisoner-of-war camp where she told, in a whispering voice, her fellow prisoners of her dreadful ordeal. Many prisoners obliterated similar experiences from their minds until the war ended. It was their way of surviving until peacetime, when they could then tell all.

But almost as bad was to follow, the food was almost inedible, rice full of weevils and a glue made from rice sweepings with the occasional rat droppings mixed in.

Vivian and her fellow nurses looked after "Our Boys", often substituting for wives, mothers or sweethearts - they were certainly Sisters In Arms.

The heroic work done by nurses, medicos and doctors such as Weary Dunlop will never be forgotten by the Australian servicemen of past conflicts and these medicos will be ready if combat arises in the future.

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