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A favourite daughter's story inspires nation

Tuesday, 8th March, 2011

ONE OF THE GREATEST: Broken Hill's Vivian Bullwinkel in her World War II army nurse's uniform in 1941. ONE OF THE GREATEST: Broken Hill's Vivian Bullwinkel in her World War II army nurse's uniform in 1941.

By Gina Wilson

Vivian Bullwinkel, AO MBE, has been named as one of Australian history's most influential women in a new book released to coincide with today's centennial celebration of International Women's Day.

The former Broken Hill-trained World War II nurse, who was also the captain of Broken Hill High School, was listed as one of Australia's 100 most influential woman in the book, "The Power of 100."

The book, by Tess Livingstone, which goes on sale today, tells Vivian's amazing story. She survived the torpedoing of a ship she was aboard, a gunshot wound, 12 days living in a jungle and three-and-a-half years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.

The book tells of other great women, including former convict and entrepreneur Mary Reibey, philanthropist Dame Elisabeth Murdoch and Aboriginal activist Oodgeroo Noonuccal.

Vivian Bullwinkel's war survival story was extraordinary. In her mid-20s she was the sole survivor of a massacre in which 21 Australian nurses were gunned down after they were ordered to walk into the ocean by Japanese troops.

They had been marooned on Banka Island following the sinking by the Japanese of the freighter the Vyner Brooke as it evacuated civilians, soldiers and the nurses from Singapore on February 14, 1942.

Another Broken Hill nurse, Irene Drummond, was killed in the massacre.

For 12 days, Vivian lived in the jungle and nursed a British soldier who had survived a bayonet attack which killed all the other men aboard the ship.

He later died and Vivian Bullwinkel was sent to a prisoner of war on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

The movie, "Paradise Road", told the story of the women in that camp.

Vivian Bullwinkel donated her wartime diaries to the Australian National War Memorial. She died in Perth at the age of 84.

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