The Australian Army Nurses (including many from WA) trapped in Singapore in WW2 stayed at their posts treating casualties in chaotic makeshift conditions, through heavy bombing and fighting, until they were ordered to evacuate just two days before the Fall of Singapore, having declined an earlier opportunity to leave.
On 14 February 1942, the small motor vessel ‘Vyner Brooke’, on which these Australian Army Nurses were evacuated, was attacked by Japanese dive bombers and sunk with heavy loss of life near the Indonesian Island of Bangka. It is for this reason that the commemoration service is held in February each year.
Of the 65 Australian Army Nurses on the ‘Vyner Brooke’, 12 were lost in the sinking including one of their beloved Matrons. Of the 53 nurses who were able to swim or float to shore, 21 were massacred by a squad of Japanese soldiers who captured them on Radji Beach, Bangka Island. Thirty two nurses who came ashore elsewhere on Bangka Island were taken prisoner and, of these, one in four died of ill treatment, malnutrition or tropical diseases during the next three and a half years spent in squalid prison camps.