Onscreen text: 1 million Australians enlisted to serve in the Second World War. Nurse Vivian Bullwinkel was one of them.
When her boat was sunk by Japanese planes, Vivian and 21 other nurses made it to nearby Bangka Island.
But it was there that things turned really bad, leaving Vivian as the only survivor…
Vivian Bullwinkel: We were ordered up, and then we were ordered to march into the sea.
And then, as we got out to about waist-level, they started machine-gunning … behind. And I was hit just at the side of the back. The bullet came through – I wasn’t aware of it at the time.
And then I always sort of felt that once you were shot, you know, you’d sort of had it anyway. And what with the force of the bullet and the waves, I was knocked over into the water.
And, in doing so, you know, swallowed a lot of salt wat, and then I became violently ill. And … by this, you know … I sort of realised I was still very much alive. And then next thing I thought, “Oh, they’ll see me heaving, you know, as I’m vomiting.” So I tried to stop that, and I just sort of lay there … and I wouldn’t know how long.
And then I sort of did venture to sit up, you know, there was nothing. All my colleagues had been swept away. There were no Japanese on the beach. There was nothing, you know, just me.
Onscreen text: Vivian Bullwinkel AO, MBE, ARRC, ED 1915 –2000