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This page is extracted from the website

with the kind permission of Barb Angell  

All night long, exhausted survivors from the Vyner Brooke and other shipwrecks, kept coming ashore and by morning almost sixty men, women and children and 22 members of the AANS were gathered on Radji beach. They needed food and they needed water. The next day, a search party, which included Vivian Bullwinkel and five other nurses, was dispatched to a nearby village, but the men there, fearing Japanese reprisal, turned them away. They urged the survivors to surrender themselves to the Japanese. Finally the search party found some fresh water springs at the end of the beach.

That night, huddled together on the sand, the group watched a fierce gun battle out to sea and later a large lifeboat carrying British servicemen came ashore. Their numbers were now swelled to almost 100 people gathered on the beach.

Now large in number, the group decided to surrender themselves to the Japanese and a small group left in search of the Japanese. In the meantime, the children, hungry and cranky after forty eight hours without food, were beginning to annoy people. Matron Drummond, in a move that would soon turn out to be a fated one, suggested that the mothers, children, and other civilian women start making their way toward the village. All agreed, except one elderly woman who wished to remain at her husband's side. Whilst the nurses remained with the injured, the women and children organized themselves and left.

Vivian Bullwinkel was sitting quietly on the sand when the Japanese troops arrived. They ordered half of the men to stand and a detachment marched them at bayonet point down the beach and out of sight behind a headland. A few minutes later the Japanese returned and gathered up the remaining men, heading them off in the same direction.

Left on the beach were Matron Drummond, her twenty one AANS nurses and the one remaining civilian woman. Vivian heard one of the nurses utter in disgust " There are two things I hate the most, the sea and the Japs, now I've got them both. "As the women laughed at this remark, there suddenly came the report of rifle fire from beyond the headland.

Minutes later the Japanese detachment reappeared, they sat down in front of the women and began to clean their rifles and bloodied bayonets. When done, they ominously motioned for the women to stand up. Not one woman cried, not one woman whimpered and not one of them tried to run away. They had no weapons and they knew that the men from the beach were dead. They also knew that they would not be rescued. It was pointless to run and, besides, where could they go?

Soon, the soldiers began pushing them towards the knee-high surf. They stood in a straight line - twenty-two nurses and one elderly civilian woman - facing the horizon. The nurses still wearing their Red Cross emblems on their sleeves, the symbol which, supposedly, should have protected them. Again, no one spoke, no one wept, and when they reach waist deep water, the Japanese opened fire with a machine gun.

They were machine gunned from behind. " They just swept up and down the line and the girls fell one after the other," Bullwinkel was to recall. She watched Matron Drummond disappear beneath the waves, and then, one by one, her friends. The bullet that was meant for her, struck her in the flesh above her left hip. The force of the round threw her into the waves, where she floated. She began to swallow salt water, then became nauseous, but she was not dead.

Though wounded, Vivian Bullwinkel was the sole survivor of the massacre of the women. She knew that if she vomited, or showed any movement whatsoever, that the Japanese would finish her off. She held her breath, stealing a little air here and there and, although she couldn't swim, she floated and slowly the current brought her closer to the shore.

"Finally," she was to say later, "…I plucked up enough courage to sit up…I looked around and there was no sign of anybody…there was nothing. Just me". Vivian came ashore and walked up a narrow path, away from the beach and into the jungle. Some twenty yards in, she lay down. "I don't know whether I became unconscious or whether I slept," she was to muse later.

At daylight she awoke, she was hot and thirsty. She thought of the springs, but fortuitously stopped herself from moving, for just at that moment she spotted a line of Japanese back on the beach. "My heart went to the bottom of the feet again" she said. Another escape.

Later when the Japanese were gone, she abandoned her hideout and made for the springs. The water was cool and she gulped it greedily. Suddenly she heard an English male voice say "Where have you been nurse?" It was Private Pat Kingsley, a British soldier who, although badly wounded, had survived when the men had been shot and bayoneted Vivian and Kingsley remained hidden in the jungle for 12 days, during which time Vivian, while injured herself, attended to Kingsley's wounds and procured whatever food she could from the local inhabitants.

Vivian realized that they could not go on like this, which led her to the inescapable conclusion that they would have to give themselves up again. Kingsley agreed, but asked her to wait twenty - four hours. "I'll be thirty nine tomorrow and I'd like to think I had my thirty- ninth birthday free", she remembered him saying. "Time is no object" she said, and the next day they celebrated his birthday in the jungle.

During the 3˝ years of the nurses' captivity, Vivian Bullwinkel endured the hardships and the brutality of the camp life and was determined to survive to bear witness to the massacre of her twenty-one nursing colleagues. She took her turn in performing all of the camp duties such as cooking, nursing, and working on the hygiene and burial parties. And she and two other nurses were to earn 80 cents a day, from the other internees, baling out the clogged toilet drains with half a coconut shell and carrying the human excreta a half mile into the jungle








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