Sacrifice remembered


Applecross RSL president Denis Connelly and secretary Helen Pickering want to raise awareness of the 65 Australian Army nurses caught up in the Vyner Brooke tragedy. Picture: Matt Jelonek        www.communitypix.com.au   d449383
Vivian Statham and Wilma Young, who served on the Vyner Brooke, joined by Anne Leach at the unveiling of the Point Walter Reserve memorial in 1999.
Sacrifice remembered
Applecross RSL president Denis Connelly and secretary Helen Pickering want to raise awareness of the 65 Australian Army nurses caught up in the Vyner Brooke tragedy. Picture: Matt Jelonek        www.communitypix.com.au d449383 Vivian Statham and Wilma Young, who served on the Vyner Brooke, joined by Anne Leach at the unveiling of the Point Walter Reserve memorial in 1999.

The Applecross sub-branch of the RSL is urging residents to attend its annual February 14 ceremony held in honour of the brave women involved in the tragedy.

Stationed in Singapore during World War II, 65 Australian nurses were forced to evacuate the city under threat of imminent invasion by the Japanese.

On February 14, 1942, the small vessel Vyner Brooke, on which the nurses were evacuated, was attacked by bombers and sunk near the Indonesian island of Bangka.

A dozen nurses were killed in the air raid and another 21 were slain by a squad of Japanese soldiers after swimming to shore at Radji Beach.

The remaining 32 nurses, who came ashore elsewhere, were taken prisoner and spent the next three-and-a-half years in squalid Japanese prison camps where a further eight died of ill treatment, malnutrition or tropical disease.

Despite their condition, the survivors dedicated their time to helping the many civilian women and children interned in the camp, using improvised dressings and what little they could lay their hands on to provide medical treatment.

Among the 21 nurses shot in the massacre at Radji Beach, four were from Western Australia: Sisters Alma Beard, Peggy Farmaner, Minnie Hodgson and Bessie Wilmott. In addition, another WA Army Nurse, Sister Louvinia Bates, was among the 12 nurses who drowned when Vyner Brooke was sunk.

A memorial honouring all 65 nurses who left Singapore on board Vyner Brooke was established at Point Walter Reserve in 1999. The unveiling was attended by Vivian Statham (nee Bullwinkle) and Wilma Young (nee Oram), who both survived the bombing and subsequent imprisonment.

Mrs Statham was also the sole survivor of the shooting on Radji Beach. Struck by a bullet, she floated face down in the shallows pretending to be dead until the Japanese soldiers left. She then spent 12 days hiding with a wounded British private before deciding to surrender to the Japanese. The private died soon after in captivity.

The Applecross RSL has held a commemorative ceremony on the anniversary of the massacre every year since 2008.

An Attadale resident’s connection to Vyner Brooke here