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Remembering the The Banka Island Massacre on this ANZAC day

banka island massacre

75 years since witnessing the Banka Island massacre, lone survivor nurse Lt Vivian Bullwinkel’s story of survival can be heard in a new podcast.

Released to commemorate the anniversary this ANZAC day, this free podcast recounts Bullwinkel’s tale as described in Betty Jeffrey OAM’s short story, The Girls on the Beach.

Narrated by Betty Jeffrey’s grandniece Emily Malone, The Girls on the Beach describes the first hand account of the massacre which saw the execution of 21 Australian army nurses and some 60 unarmed Australian and British servicemen, and civilians.

The victims had landed ashore the beach of Banka Island, (now part of Indonesia) after their ship the Vyner Brooke was destroyed while fleeing the soon-to-fall city of Singapore.

“There was 65 of us who embarked at Singapore,” wrote Jeffrey. “32 were now in this (Muntok) jail now as prisoners of war, 12 had drowned after the ship sank and 21 had been killed by machine gun fire on the beach at Banka Island.”

On 16 February 1942, Japanese forces fired on 22 Australian army nurses and bayonetted unarmed servicemen. Vivian Bullwinkel was hit near the left hip but survived. She spent nearly two weeks in the wilderness before her eventual surrender. Bullwinkel and Jeffrey would then spend more than three years as prisoners of war in Muntok, Banka Island.

The details of their time in captivity were published in Jeffrey’s 1954 book, White Coolies, which also served as inspiration for the 1997 Bruce Beresford film, Paradise Road.

Every year the Nurses Memorial Centre in Melbourne, of which Jeffrey and Bullwinkel were cofounders, remember the nurses of Banka Island.

Listen to The Girls on the Beach in Ausmed’s podcast, The Handover, narrated by Betty’s grand-niece, Emily Malone




Originally published on Ausmed and is republished here under Creative Commons.