Thursday, May 19, 2011

Amazing Women Rock:

‎(Daniel via Bill Koukmenides):

Matron Vivian Bullwinkel tried to enlist in the Royal Austrian Air Force during World War II but was denied because of her feet. She managed to get into the Australian Army as a Nurse in the regimental 2/13th Australian General Hospital in Singapore. Just before the fall of Singapore, she and the rest of the nurses, injured and some civilians were evacuated on the SS Vyner Brooke.

The ship was sunk on the 14th of Jan. 1942 by Japanese aircraft, even though it was clearly marked as a medical transport with red crosses. Some of the survivors, including 21 nurses, made it to land at Radji Beach on Banka Island. They found 100 British soldiers. They decided to surrender to the Japanese. Some of the civilian women and children went to find someone to surrender to, while the soldiers, wounded and nurses to care for them stayed and waited. The Japanese Army arrived and executed all the British soldiers including wounded. They then ordered the nurses into the sea. They machine-gunned the nurses from behind.

Although wounded; shot through the neck, Nurse Bullwinkel survived, along with 1 wounded British soldier. They again surrendered 12 days later. They were both suffering from sun exposure, and the British soldier died soon afterwards. Near the end of WWII the Japanese guards, locked the gates and fled. A week later the local Malays broke into the women's prison and turned it into a men's prison. They found bundles of dirty rags. My friend Bill notes that his *grandfather* was one of those human bundles. She along with other nurses and local Malays saved his life. Bill says, "If I am ever protective of women, nurses, doctors, indigenous peoples, or those smaller or less able to defend themselves, let me know, but at least you know one of the reasons."

What's not well known is Vivian's life after the war. She served my friend Bill Koukmenides' Australian community as a health care provider "for the rest of her life, looking after polio victims, using her knowledge of long term confinement to help them, at Fairfield Hospital where she became director of Nursing. And she did a great deal to support the locals where she had been incarcerated. And she forgave her tormentors. I repeat she forgave her tormentors." Thank you for this beautiful tribute, Bill.

No comments: