After much deliberation between themselves, it was decided to accept the advice of the villagers. 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. After dodging bombs from Japanese planes and machine gun fire which had left the starboard lifeboats holed, the ship eventually received three direct hits it was 2pm on the 14th of February. She was able to get ashore by hanging onto the side of one of the life boats. She then told us the shocking story which remained a deep secret until the end of the war. The need for tact, as Lloyd would see it, no longer existed so he was more frank and included more detail in the later report. There is no record of these diaries in the National Library of New Zealand, nor in the National Library of Australia.
They had been shot and then bayoneted. One possible conclusion might be that this massacre could have taken place at Mentok which was already occupied by the Japanese and the local population either interned or killed or at another village — in other words, that it was a different massacre. You will have realized that there are incidents in the body of this book that I might have pursued, were I seeking sensationalism, and I did not. Finally the search party found some fresh water springs at the end of the beach. They were taken into captivity and Cecil was sent to a camp in Muntok in the in the Indonesian province of Bangka-Belitung where he died from his wounds within a few days.
A sleeping space was made for her on the sloping concrete slab, but we had no bedding. Just cleaned it up enough so that it wasn't sticky and stiff. She told us what had happened and that was the end of that, we never spoke of it again for the rest of the time. But alas, the ship was destined to meet its end in these waters. This territory would eventually become known as Singapore in the coming years. Small internal courtyards and beautifully manicured gardens make pleasant outdoor areas for residents to enjoy. At that moment, she had another brush of death.
A patrol of about fifteen Japanese soldiers arrived from the coastal township of Muntok. There were 65 of us who embarked at Singapore, 32 were now in this gaol as PoWs, 12 had drowned after the ship sank and 21 had been killed by machine gun fire on the beach at Bangka Island. The next day, a search party, which included Vivian and five other nurses, was dispatched to a nearby village, but the men there, fearing Japanese reprisal, turned them away. The currents slowly washed her ashore. Social activities were always high on Vivian's agenda. She was terribly pleased with herself for having kept afloat for three hours, and as she was no swimmer I quite agreed with her.
Harsh Years of Incarceration February 28, 1942. These same feet would carry her barefoot through three and a half years of captivity with the Japanese! They sat down in front of the women, cleaned their bayonets in silence, then motioned them to stand up once the cleaning of their weapons were done. Date of honour or award 06 March 1947 Royal Red Cross 2nd Class. Civilians were struggling and fighting to keep themselves alive, and if they could only walk on water, they would. They lay at intervals of a few yards — in different positions and in various stages of undress. Meanwhile those nurses who were massacred on Bangka Island continued until death to exemplify the best traditions of nursing. She later came to, disoriented, parched, and with only one thing in her mind.
The nearest village to Radji Beach, where the Bangka Island massacre took place, was some four miles inland. There was no turning back. She retained her position at Heidelberg Military Hospital when it was taken over by Repatriation, and as assistant matron continued to care for Australian servicemen. Furthermore, if Vivian was raped, then it follows that the other nurses were probably also raped. At around 2 pm of February 14, the ship started receiving attacks from above.
The mothers, children and other civilian women started to press on, leaving behind Matron Drummond, the 21 nurses Vivian included tending to the injured, and an elderly woman who wished to stay with her injured husband. Bullwinkel and many others made it to shore. The relevancy lay in the precise positions of the entrance and exit holes. These formed part of a group of nurses who had come from a ship bombed and sunk near the coast. Now large in number, the group decided to surrender themselves to the Japanese and a small group left in search of the Japanese. Earlier survivors, including Matron Drummond one of the senior nurses , had lit a fire on the beach and it was this fire that acted as a beacon for the others still in the water.
They then ordered our girls to walk into the sea, where they shot them, the bodies being left where they fell; the ones who could not walk were shot where they lay on the sand. Bleeding and in a state of shock, she drifted ashore and hid in the jungle. He told of how he had come across the bodies of twenty-four nurses who had been bayoneted and shot on Bangka Island. They were accompanied by civilian women and their children. Bullwinkel was reunited with survivors of the Vyner Brooke. They knew what was to happen.
It was the only other survivor of the massacre, a wounded British Army Private named Cecil Kinsley. There was no safe place to land. Vivian also insisted upon her young trainee nurses attending Church Parade. When it became apparent that they could not survive there permanently and Cecil's wounds were becoming badly infected, the pair made the difficult decision to attempt a second surrender. In the dark, the captain of the Vyner Brooke inadvertently directed the ship into a minefield, causing them to halt their progress and stay in the dark for hours until daybreak. 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. One man refused to do this and a Japanese officer struck him heavily on his head with his sword.