The sinking of the SS Vyner Brooke and Sister Vivian Bullwinkel’s remarkable story of survival exemplify the spirit which Australians reflect on during moments of remembrance.
As the Second World War gripped the Pacific, the SS Vyner Brooke was called to evacuate medical staff and wounded from Singapore. Stalked by Japanese aircraft for two days in February of 1942, the SS Vyner Brooke was sunk in Banka Strait, east of Sumatra.
Many of the passengers on board, although scattered, miraculously survived hours in the water to make it to Banka Island. Later forced off Radji Beach into the sea by a hostile patrol, Sister Bullwinkel was shot in the back along with 21 other women of the Australian Army Nursing Service.
Having survived the bullet wound Bullwinkel later retreated into the jungle, nursing her own wounds and that of British soldier Private Kinsley.
The pair later surrendered themselves to a Prisoner of War camp. Bullwinkel was interned as a prisoner of war until 1945