BANKA ISLAND MASSACRE 1942 – 80th Anniversary 2022 & West Australian Nurses Alma Beard, Peggy Everett Farmaner, Minnie Hodgson & Bessie Willmott & Survivors Vivian Bulwinkel & Ellen Hannah

2022 is 80th Anniversary of Banka Island Massacre, WW2 16 Feb 1942




This is Incredible and True story of Australian Nurse

Sister Lt. Vivian Bullwinkel


Above:  Vyner Brooke

Details  of what had happened to British Nurses in Hong King was known well before evacuation on ‘Vyner Brooke’  by those make decisions in Singapore. Although Australian nurses themselves were not eager to evacuate earlier, the decision makers said it would not be good for morale!
Shortly before the Allied surrender to Japan (15 Feb 1942) 65 Australian nurses fled Singapore on Friday 13 Feb 1942 by boarding British cargo ship SS ‘Vyner Brooke’.    Onboard were 181 passengers, mostly women and children with crew and support naval staff.
Two days days later SS ‘Vyner Brooke’ was bombed & sank about 2pm near Banka Island, Sumatra. Many passengers were wounded, some had been killed. AWM’s records confirm 150 survivors reached Radij Beach, Banka Island after swimming between 8 and 65 hours.
Gathered at Radij Beach survivors decided a small delegation would walk to the nearby town (Muntok) to surrender and advise the Japanese of the plight of the others which included the wounded and sick.
This departing group would be the only survivors.
A well armed Japanese patrol of 16 men arrived.  They immediately separated the officers from civilians and took them away past a headland.   The Japanese soldiers returned wiping their bloodied bayonets without  the officers.  The remaining survivors now knew their terrible fate –these Japanese soldiers intended taking no prisoners.
(It was two Companies of these very same bestial men from the very same 229th Regiment 229th Regiment (the ‘Tanaka Butai’) of the 38th Division of the Japanese Imperial Army on Christmas Day 1941, at St Stephens from Hong Kong were landing as the invasion army on Banka Island just as the survivors of the ‘SS. Vyner Brooke’ were struggling through the sea to reach land. Unbelievably, the specific Japanese troops that had been the cause of the urgent evacuation of all Nurses from Singapore had been transported hundreds of miles in the intervening few weeks from Hong Kong and were now waiting for them on Banka Island with a homicidal Officer in Charge Major Orita Masaru.)
The soldiers walked the nurses into the ocean at bayonet point. Behind them, they had set up tommy guns and a machine gun.  On reaching thigh deep water with their backs towards the beach, the nurses were mowed down with the soldiers aiming for their hearts.
Bullwinkel survived probably because she was taller than average height and had pitched forward into the water when hit by a bullet.  She would have lost consciousness and drifting away, was assumed to be dead.  Bullwinkel lay wounded in the water knowing her only way to survive was to remain motionless until the Japanese left the vicinity.
On 16 Feb 1942 at Radij beach, South Australian born nurse Sister Lt. Vivian Bullwinkel,  American Eric German and Stoker Ernest Lloyd RN found they were the only survivors of the massacre.  All three had been shot, wounded and survived.  They made their way away from Radij beach to Muntok where they surrended.  To ensure their anonymity and safety they carefully avoided roads to cover their earlier presence at the beach massacre.
Bullwinkel surrendered herself to the Japanese but hid all evidence of her being shot by holding her water bottle in front of her damaged uniform until she was able to join the other prisoners, and repair the bullet hole In privacy and safety.  With 23 other nurses she would remain in captivity (beginning at Bangka Island) until the end of the war Sept 1945.  They were held prisoners of war, suffered appalling living conditions, were bullied, starved and sometimes beaten in prison camps across Bangka Island and Sumatra for 3 ½ years until Set 1945.
Sister Lt.Vivian Bulllwikel testified the above story at both the Australian War Crimes Board of Inquiry in Oct 1945 and the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in 1946 in Tokyo.

Bullwinkel was ordered not to talk of the rape of nurses.
It would be distressing for the families of the nurses!
She abided by this official request and was forced to live with this knowledge throughout the following decades.
General Douglas MacArthur was the Supreme Commander at the Tokyo War Trials.

Please read story from AWM by Author Hank Nelson

We wish to pay tribute to four West Australian nurses who lost their lives at Bangka Island:


Alma May Beard from Toodyay
Minnie Ivy Hodgson from Wickepin
Peggy Everett Farmaner from Perth
Bessie Wilmott from Perth

Please read further about Alma Beard from ABC

Sisters of the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS), 2/4th Casualty Clearing Station, 8th Division. Left to right, back row: Hulda Millicent “Millie” Maria Dorsch (SFX10597), died Banka Island 14 February 1942; Bessie Wilmott (WFX3439), executed Banka Island beach 16 February 1942; Wilhelmina Rosalie Raymont (TFX6012), died of illness, Sumatra 8 February 1945; Elaine Balfour-Ogilvy (SFX10596) executed Banka Island beach 16 February 1942; Peggy Farmaner (WFX3438), executed Banka Island beach 16 February 1942.
Front row: Dora Shirley Gardam (TFX2183), died of illness, Sumatra 4 April 1945; Irene Melville Drummond, later matron of 2/13th Australian General Hospital, executed Banka Island beach 16 February 1942, and Ellen Mavis Hannah (SX10595) who survived the sinking of the SS Vyner Brooke and captivity as a prisoner of the Japanese.
Four of these nurses were among the twenty one Army nurses massacred by the Japanese on Banka Island after the SS Vyner Brooke was sunk off Sumatra. The photographer Warrant Officer John Delmore Emmett (VX38986) became a POW after the surrender at Singapore and buried the film for nine months. It was then handed to a Private Abbott who developed it in the x-ray room at the Changi hospital. After the war Warrant Officer Emmett recovered the film and had it printed.

Sisters of the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS), 2/4th Casualty Clearing Station, 8th Division. Left to right, back row: Hulda Millicent “Millie” Maria Dorsch (SFX10597), died Banka Island 14 February 1942; Bessie Wilmott (WFX3439), executed Banka Island beach 16 February 1942; Wilhelmina Rosalie Raymont (TFX6012), died of illness, Sumatra 8 February 1945; Elaine Balfour-Ogilvy (SFX10596) executed Banka Island beach 16 February 1942; Peggy Farmaner (WFX3438), executed Banka Island beach 16 February 1942.
Front row: Dora Shirley Gardam (TFX2183), died of illness, Sumatra 4 April 1945; Irene Melville Drummond, later matron of 2/13th Australian General Hospital, executed Banka Island beach 16 February 1942, and Ellen Mavis Hannah (SX10595) who survived the sinking of the SS Vyner Brooke and captivity as a prisoner of the Japanese.
Four of these nurses were among the twenty one Army nurses massacred by the Japanese on Banka Island after the SS Vyner Brooke was sunk off Sumatra. The photographer Warrant Officer John Delmore Emmett (VX38986) became a POW after the surrender at Singapore and buried the film for nine months. It was then handed to a Private Abbott who developed it in the x-ray room at the Changi hospital. After the war Warrant Officer Emmett recovered the film and had it printed.


Below:  Peggy Everett Farmaner

Peggy Farmaner was born Claremont 8 March 1913.  She attended Methodist Ladies College, St. Mary’s Church of England Grammar School.
‘[The last letters from the Australian Army Nurses, who were executed on Radji Beach, to their families in Australia are so very sad.
“Don’t worry about me mother” wrote Peggy Farmaner on 2 February 1942. Two weeks later she was cruely executed by Japanese soldiers on Radji Beach, Bangka Island.
Sister Peggy Everett Farmaner, WFX 3438, born in 1912 was a member of the 2/4th Casualty Clearing Station.
A newspaper article records that she” … was the daughter of George Frederick Farmaner and Flora Susan Farmaner of 9 Lapsley Place, Claremont, Western Australia and part of an old pioneer family well known in that area. She was educated at Methodist Ladies College and St Mary’s Church of England Grammar School, from where she matriculated. She did her nursing training at Perth Hospital.
“When war was declared she was in Sydney but immediately returned to her home State to enlist. In August 1940 she left on the ‘Queen Mary’ for Malaya. She worked with four other nurses at a Clearing Station in the most forward area of North Johore. The Nurses then moved to Kluang where they established a hospital on a rubber estate. On January 20, 1942 they were again evacuated at two hours notice, were moved to another place, which within 12 hours was found to be the wrong place. From here they moved to Singapore…
“The last letter her parents received from her was written on February 9, 1942. She was killed a week later, ’God knows the position is desperate but I am strangely unperturbed. Don’t worry about me, mother’ she wrote …”. (2)
“Her death was absolutely devastating for everyone,” says Peggy’s grandniece, Susan Thomson. Peggy completed her primary school education at MLC, and then attended St Mary’s Anglican Girl’s School for her senior years. After leaving school Peggy trained as a nurse, and when war broke out signed up to the 2/4th Casualty Clearing Station in Malaysia.
Tom Hamilton, the doctor who headed the 2/4th CCS, described her as “a pretty little Western Australian, who was full of fun.”
When war was declared on the Japanese on December 8, 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbour, the 2/4th CCS was relocated to the Oldham Hall School.
The newspaper article is accompanied by a photo of Peggy – a refined looking young woman proudly sitting for the photo in her nurse’s uniform. In happier times earlier in her life, a newspaper article and photo (‘West Australian’ 17.6.37) records her at the 9th Annual Ball of the Methodist Ladies College Old Girls Association at the Karra Katta Club.
After the ship sank Peggy reached the lifeboat with Matron Drummond and grabbed a trailing rope (p.169, On Radji Beach) and so reached Radji beach. She was one of the Australian nurses forced into a line facing the sea and murdered by Japanese troops at the beach.
Peggy Farmaner is included in the memorial to all the nurses unveiled in 1999 by Mrs Vivian Statham (nee Bullwinkel) and Wilma Young at Honour Avenue (at the lake near the tennis court of the Botanical Gardens), Kings Park, Bicton, WA. Her plaque is number M264.
Perhaps the best memorial to Peggy is reported to have occurred when the surviving nurses returned to Australia on the ‘Manunda’, “When the nurses spent the night at Hollywood Military Hospital, in Perth, the reception-rooms were banked with flowers.
“For each nurse was a special gift of a posy from the garden of the late Sister P. Farmaner, one of those who died on Bank Beach.’
Her mother brought the flowers to her daughter’s comrades …” (“The Australian Womens Weekly” 3.11.45)
Principal Sources
(1) Letter dated 9/2/42 to her mother
(2) (‘The Daily News’ Perth, WA. 19 Sept 1945)
Michael Pether Auckland New Zealand
On Radji Beach by Ian Shaw
Public records
We wish to acknowledge the Virtual War Memorial for the above information.

Below:  Sister Alma Beard

Below:  Toodyay War Memorial


“Bully, there are two things I’ve always hated in my life, the Japanese and the sea, and today I’ve ended up with both” said Sister Alma Beard who was one of the Australian Army Nurses, civilians and military personnel who suffered so appalling at the hands of Japanese soldiers on that fateful day on Radji Beach Bangka Island; 16 February 1942.
Sister Alma May Beard, 2/13th Australian General Hospital, WFX 11175, was born in 13 January 1913 to Edward William and Katherine Mary Beard of Toodyay Western Australia and had two siblings. She trained at Perth Hospital and then moved to one of the larger Sydney hospitals to gain experience.
After returning to Western Australia she enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service on 19 June 1941. In September 1941 she was sent to Malaya as part of the 2/13th Australian General Hospital. This was initially located at St Patrick’s School on Singapore Island. Between 21-23 November 1941 the entire hospital was moved across the Strait to Tampoi Hill on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. With the swift progress of the Japanese invasion force most of the hospital staff was evacuated back to Singapore in late January 1942.
The following was published in the ‘The West Australian’ newspaper on 30 October 1945. The article is accompanied by a photo of a most attractive young woman, which is shown below.
‘It is with sincere regret that we advise that Mr. and Mrs. E. W Beard, of “Pellnell,” Culham, have received advise to the effect that their daughter, Alma, sister in the A.A.N.S., is now reported “Missing, believed killed,” probably near Sumatra, on or after February 11th 1942, together with other unfortunate sisters of the Service by the Japs. We offer sincere expressions of sympathy to the bereaved parents, a well respected and popular couple, and also brother and sisters, as we feel sure all who knew this fine “Daughter of Australia” will also, trusting that they will find solace in the thought that she is out of the hands of a race that are most bestial than human, and that her sacrifice will not be in vain.’
In the same newspaper under the heading “Tribute Paid by Colleague” the following was written
‘…Recently her mother received a letter from Sister Vivian Bullwinkel one of 24 nurses who returned to Australia recently after spending over 3 years in Japanese POW camps in Sumatra, in which she wrote of Sister Beard and her other colleagues who perished at the same time.
‘Sister Bullwinkel wrote “Her brave conduct in an hour of crisis has added lustre to the service which she so nobly carried on”.
Somehow, Alma made it to Radji Beach, apparently uninjured, and with the other Australian nurses, proceeded to care for the wounded and injured on the beach.
Alma was on the far left of the line of Australian nurses facing the sea, next to Vivian Bullwinkel.
‘At the end of the line, Alma Beard leaned across and said to Vivian.
“Bully, there are two things I’ve always hated in my life, the Japanese and the sea, and today I’ve ended up with both”. ( p216, On Radji Beach).
As the women walked into the water, the Japanese soldiers then proceeded to execute all but one of the Australian Army Nurses and one civilian woman. Sister Vivian Bullwinkel was the only survivor.
Sister Alma May Beard is commemorated by the community she served so well by the Alma Beard Community Health Centre at Toodyay, Western Australia and like all the Nurses who died, on various commemorative walls around Australia and overseas.

Below:  Minnie Hodgson from Wickepin

Sister Minnie Ivy Hodgson WX11174, 2/13th Australian General Hospital was born at Leederville Western Australia on 16 August 1908, the 4th of seven children to John William Hodgson and Contrary Hodgson (nee Savage). Her relatives described her as “… a good country girl, used to standing up for herself …”
“…Minnie was from Yealering , coming to PLC in 1923 but leaving after one year. Her relatives describe her as a “good country girl, used to standing up for herself”.
She qualified as a nurse and enlisted in the Army on 14 July 1941. By February 1942 she was in Singapore; a Sister in the 13th Australian General Hospital. With the Japanese about to lay fall to the city, 65 nurses, including Minnie, and over 200 patients, military personnel and civilians were evacuated aboard the steamer Vyner Brooke.
Despite being clearly marked as a Red Cross ship, the Japanese bombed the Vyner Brooke between Sumatra and Borneo. As it was sinking, they flew over, again and again, strafing the survivors with machine guns. Most perished then.
…but not Minnie.
After drifting in the ocean for hours, some survivors made it ashore to Bangka Island where they were eventually joined by others – 22 nurses and about 70 civilians, allied servicemen, sick and wounded in all.
The next morning the nurses, including Minnie, remained on the beach under the red cross, treating the survivors while a small party set off to find some Japanese soldiers to organise for their surrender.
They ran into a Japanese patrol who refused their surrender, but let the civilians with them go free. The others returned to the beach and marched the able-bodied men over the hill. Those on the beach heard gunfire and saw the patrol returning and terrifyingly, wiping blood from their bayonets.
The Japanese then ordered the nurses into the water. Thigh deep, they were then fired on, and survivors bayonetted. This is when Minnie died…”
We wish to acknowledge the Virtual War Memorial for the above information

Below:  Bessie Willmott

‘A short life filled with sadness and tragedy’.
The story of Sister Bessie Wilmott’s short life is one of immense loss at a very tender age, more sadness as a young women, and then being herself the victim of one of the great atrocities involving Australians in World War 2.
WX 3439 Sister Bessie Wilmott was a member of the 2/4th Casualty Clearing Station. In the book On Radji Beach Bessie is incorrectly called ‘Peggy Wilmot’ and the Bicton Memorial in Western Australia also appears to have the surname spelt incorrectly as ‘Wilmot’.
Bessie was born on 24 May 1913 at Claremont, Western Australia and was raised at 6 Gardner Street, Como. Records indicate that she was the daughter of John Henry Wilmott and his wife Clarice Thompson who were married in 1912 in Perth.
She experienced a sad childhood. Her mother Clarice died in September 1919 when Bessie was only 6 years old. So at 39 her father was a widower with 3 young children, the youngest being just 2 years old. But then sadly, in 1939, Bessie’s younger brother Richard Wilmott aged 22 years was drowned at Albany in Western Australia.
Records indicate that Bessie’s father John remaried in 1923 and his new wife was Lilian Millard who was the same age as John, 43 years old. Bessie now had a mother to whom she seems to have developed a close bond. The Death Notice of her brother Richard in the The West Australian newspaper in Perth on 5 December 1939 notes the name of her mother as ‘Lilian Wilmott of Gardner Street, Como’.
Futhermore, Lilian is shown as her mother and next-of-kin on her enlistment form in 1940. There is no mention of her father John Wilmott who died some years later in 1957.
Bessie was a member of the Church of England. According to the Sunday Times newspaper in Perth on 2 October 1927 she played ‘one of Cinderella’s sisters’ in a play at the Anglican Hall, Como.
She trained as a nurse at Royal Perth Hospital. On records at the Australian War Memorial Bessie’s occuption is noted as ‘Sister in charge of “A” Ward in Perth Public Hospital”. There is also a group photo of her as a trainee nurse at the Metropolitan Infectious Diseases Hospital in 1939/40.
Bessie enlisted in the Australian Army Nursing Service at Como in Western Australia on 14 August 1940 and her enlistment photo shows a pretty women of 5 feet 5 inches in height. In 1941 she appears also as one of a large group of men and women from the 2/4th Casualty Clearing Station in Hobart Tasmania(AWM Archives).
Soon after enlistment she was appointed to the 2/4th Casualty Clearing Station of the Australian Army Nursing Service. In February 1941 Bessie embarked on the SS Queen Mary bound for Singapore and Malaya. She worked in various places on the Malay Peninsula, often with the 9th Field Ambulance, before being based with the 2/4th Casualty Clearing Station in Lampai, South Johore.
After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor the 2/4th Casualty Clearing Station was withdrawn to a makeshift theatre at the Kluang airfield. Once the fall of Singapore became inevitable the nurses began to be evacuated from the island, but Bessie’s station remained until 12 February, when it too was evacuated. Bessie was one of the 65 Australian Army nurses on the SS ‘Vyner Brooke’.
After the SS ‘Vyner Brooke’ was bombed and sunk by Japanese bombers, the lives of the survivors remained in the hands of fate. It seems that Bessie grabbed a rope that was trailing from Matron Irene Drummond’s lifeboat and it is presumed this is how Bessie came to be on Radji Beach. All on board or attached to the life boat, as was Bessie, were slaughtered 2 days later. Others who were not strong enough to grab a trailing rope from the lifeboat somehow made it to shore and survived.
So far as is known Bessie was not injured when she made it to Radji Beach and apparent safety. As with the other nurses she was very wet and tired, but nevertheless, attended to the increasing numbers of survivors as they made it to the beach.
Bessie saw the Japanese soldiers arrive, separate the men and then in 2 groups, marched them behind the headland were they were killed, with only 2 survivors. As the soldiers came back the second time and wiped their bayonets in front of the nurses, she would have known her fate.
Bessie Wilmott, a caring and career helper of others, was one of the 21 Australian Army Nurses marched into the sea at Radji Beach and brutally murdered by Japanese troops on that terrible morning of 16 February 1942.
Bessie is memorialised on plaque Number M270 in Honour, Bicton, Western Australia and in various other Memorials to the Nurses around Australia including at Ballarat Victoria.
Bessie’s younger brother John Wilmott also served in the Second World War, enlisting in the Royal Australian Air Force. He was Mentioned in Dispatches for distinguished service in New Guinea, but unlike Bessie, returned home to Perth when the war concluded.
The City of South Perth Library has handwritten wartime letters from Bessie together with more photos of her school and nursing days.
Apparently Bessie learned to swim on a’ white sandy beach’ at Como then very close to her home at 6 Gardner Street (now a motorway seems to have taken over most of the beach). Such pathos in that her life was brutally taken on another ‘white sandy beach’ so far from home. Anyone interested can see the file at the Library by contacting the ‘Local History Librarian’ named Farah.
Principal Sources:
On Radji Beach by Ian Shaw
Michael Pether Auckland New Zealand
Public records
We wish to acknowledge and express our gratitude to Virtual War Memorial for all the above information.


Sister Vivian Bullwinkel Reveals truth 2017

While Sister Vivian testified at both the Australian War Crimes Board of Inquiry in October of 1945, and the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in 1946, much still remains unknown about the massacre, and the conditions that Australian nurses experienced as prisoners of war (PoWs).  No Japanese soldier was ever prosecuted for the Banka Island Massacre!
In 2017 whilst Sister Vivian Bullwinkel was talking with journalist Tess Lawrence she revealed the true details of what took place on that fateful day including the rape of herself and most Australian nurses before being ordered into the sea and machine gunned by Japanese soldiers.

Please read this story,10040
Please read Australian Nursing & Midwifery Journal


and Australian College of Nursing


Of 65 Australian nurses who left Singapore in the Vyner Brooke
12 were drowned off Banka Island,
21 were massacred on the beach, and
eight died in the Sumatra prison camp
When Bullwinkel arrived at Muntok, she found 31 nurses
from ‘Vyner Brooke’ who had landed on other beaches
on Banka Island


Please read about the hideous murder and mutilation of British Nurses in Hong Kong.
Please read details from Muntok Peace Museum for further information about Vyner Brooke


Wednesday, 16th February 2022

Banka Island Massacre: 80th Anniversary

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the Opposition) (14:04):


‘Marched into the water at Bangka to be machine-gunned in the back’: there are many details in the Sydney Morning Herald original report on the Bangka massacre, but it is perhaps this line, unvarnished, unadorned, that jars the most.
The brutal murder of 22 Australian nurses and a civilian woman on Radji Beach 80 years ago still shocks us.
They were fleeing the Fall of Singapore with British servicemen only for their ship to be sunk by Japanese bombers. Washed up on the Indonesian island of Bangka, they were at the mercy of a ruthless enemy.  Japanese soldiers took away the men and killed them, and then they murdered the women. These were not troops who had taken up arms against them but members of the most selfless, humane profession that we can imagine.
As they waded into the surf and the fate that they knew awaited them, matron Irene Melville Drummond called out,

‘Cheer up, girls. I’m proud of you, and I love you all.’

Their courage is beyond imagining. They stood tall until the moment in which they fell, and yet one survived.
Shot but alive, Vivian Bullwinkel played dead among those from whom life had just been so savagely torn.  She eventually surrendered to a Japanese patrol because even after all that had happened Ms Bullwinkel knew that was her one chance of survival. She spent over three years in a prison camp, but survive she did.
Vivian Bullwinkel then took the truth to the world.
She took it to the families.
She took it to the Tokyo War Tribunal.
As she explained:
‘I have tried so hard all this time to drive these scenes from my mind.’
And yet she was resolute:
‘This story is one that must be told everywhere’
She was the only one who could, even when it must have been just so difficult. When Holocaust survivor Primo Levi performed his final weighing up of the burden of the witness, he turned to ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’:
Since then, at an uncertain hour,
That agony returns;
And till my ghastly tale is told,

This heart within me burns.

Historians would later say that Ms Bullwinkel wasn’t able to tell her full story—that the nurses were raped before they were killed.  Ms Bullwinkel was directed by the military to not reveal that detail in order to protect the families of those victims.  But Vivian Bullwinkel kept bearing witness, and she kept honouring the profession that they had all served together.  Indeed, as Vivian Statham, she became the matron of Melbourne’s Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital and helped turn it into a teaching hospital.
Today we think of the brave nurses working with this dreadful infectious disease that the world is dealing with at the moment and their bravery on all of our behalf.
Through her survival, so many more lives would be saved through her ongoing contribution as a nurse. Throughout it all, she made sure her friends who didn’t come home would never be forgotten, a great Australian who we once again honour here today.

Lest we forget.


From Borehole Bulletin January 1999


‘Former nursing sister and war heroine, Mrs. Vivian Statham (nee Bullwinkel) has been honoured with the naming of the Hollywood Private Hospital’s new wing as the Vivian Bullwinkel Wing.
The Governor of Western Australia, His excellency Major General Michael Jeffery, officially named the Bullwinkel Wing recently in a small ceremony at the 300 bed private teaching hospital in Nedlands, WA, attended by Colonel and Mrs. Statham  and their invited guests.
Mrs. Statham served during World War II and narrowly escaped death at the hands of the Japanese before being imprisoned in a Japanese Prisoner of War Camp.  Mrs. Statham began her nursing career when she graduated from Broken Hill hospital in 1938 and since then has had a life-long association with nursing – especially nursing associated with veterans.’

Below:  from The Australian Women’s Weekly 29 September 1945


The following is taken from the website Prisoners of War of the Japanese 1942-1945 which is maintained by Peter Winstanley. We acknowledge and thank Peter Winstanley

Nursing Sisters Account Of Life As A Prisoner Of The Japanese
Captain Ellen Mavis Hannah SX10595 – 2/4 Casualty Clearing Station



I first met Sister Hannah on the “Queen Mary” en route from Sydney to Singapore, she and other members of the 2/4 C.C.S; 2/10 and 2/13 A.G.H. would be known to, and remembered with gratitude and affection by lads hospitalised during training or as war casualties. I re-established contact with Sister Hannah (as I still think of her) and have learned something of her experiences as a Jap P.O.W:
‘There is no doubt that our women-folk had it worse, in many ways, than we did. The story in her own words:—’ (Fred Stahl).
“I was on the “Vyner Brooke” from Singapore on the night of 13/14 February 1942, 65 sisters without supplies other than one case of tinned food we ourselves had carried aboard, with insufficient crew, and no hope of getting through at that stage. The Japanese Navy were attacking Sumatra, we were bombed and sunk, and I spent three days in the water. Some of us, myself included, could not swim. We lost everything, and the lives of 12 sisters were lost by drowning, plus 21 who were shot by the Japanese on Banka beach when they swam ashore. I can see Lanie (Elaine Lenore) Balfour-Ogilvy calling out to me even now – she was a strong swimmer, and the fact I could not swim saved my life. If I had been able to get to her, I too would have been shot as she was. Fate plays many strange tricks in life. Why was I the only survivor of the 2/4 C.C.S Sisters?”
(Sister Hannah came ashore near Muntok and was first imprisoned on Banka Island. She was later moved to Palembang, where she was in two different camps and was then sent back to Banka. Subsequently she was transferred to Belalau camp at Lubeck Linggau, inland from the S.W. coast of Sumatra, and was there when the war ended.)
“When we travelled by rail we were in metal trucks, the same as your “F” Force travelled in. Ours was sealed. We also were moved by ship several times. This was humiliating, as on one occasion the only toilet facilities were wooden open slotted boxes on the side of the ship, in full view of the guards and everyone else. On other occasions the ships were small and we were herded below decks onto sacks of rice with no toilet facilities. We used tins on a string which were passed up top and washed overboard – we had no food, and people who died were thrown overboard.
Food was always a problem, and the Japs supplied us with rations which were quite unsuitable – very rough vegetables, mouldy rice, practically no protein content, one egg very occasionally between six, and rarely some very small fish, which we toasted whole. I note you were issued with tea and a little sugar. Except in the very early days at Palembang camp we never received any sugar, tea or milk of any kind in our rations, nor any Red Cross chocolate. Although you received small issues of Red Cross parcels we were given none at all.
After things had settled a little in the first few months in Palembang a bullock cart with some bananas, eggs, pineapple etc. was allowed in on Sundays. However money, of course, was a problem. For at no time during the whole time of our captivity, did the Japanese give us any pay. I came ashore with 2 Malayan dollars pinned in my pocket but I had given this to a Malay who had helped me over the last quarter mile to the shore. So I worked when I could, the Dutch women in the camp had money and I made hats from the bags that our rations were delivered in, and thus earned a little to buy extra food. The Dutch women gave cloth for binding and I borrowed a sewing machine for which I was charged so much per hour. The finished articles were bought by the Dutch and the money used for my “family”, Sisters Gardam (TX2183), Raymont (TX6012), Simons and myself, this was only possible in the first few months as we were moved back to Banka Island.
The only other money we ever received was that which some of the men generously sent us, via me when I was sent into Palembang for medical treatment. On a couple of occasions I had to hoodwink the Nips and carried the money and some letters in a sanitary towel, these donations were also used by us to buy a little extra food when possible.
I didn’t realise the mental anguish which would ensue from my defiance of the Japs, someone informed on me and they found out that I was the culprit, for over 18 months the threat of being interrogated by the Kempei-Tai hung over me, and I was eventually taken to the guard house, then to a house nearby where the Kempei-Tei bullied me, hit me and tried to make me implicate others. The others of course were not implicated, except insofar that I carried letters for Dutch and English women to their husbands and returned with answers and money.
My husband Joe, a POW also, told me that in your camps (male POW camps) military discipline was maintained as much as possible. Not with us. Try to make 1000 women, mostly civilians, toe the line! ‘Tis almost impossible and they were the ‘very devil’. Your camps had a big advantage, at no time did we receive any pay, we were made to carry rice and water for the Nips, chop trees down, mend and build new huts and a thousand other things without the ‘know how’ or the physical strength necessary.
We were hit by all the usual ills of POW’s in tropical areas – dysentery, beri beri, malaria, dengue fever, dermatitis, cardiac conditions etc. We suffered from a complete lack of news where, as in most of your camps you had radios, we had none at any time, our only news came from the black market people – being very garbled, and not much of it. We received no mail, no Red Cross parcels, no clothes issued, and never issued with any medicines or drugs for the sick people in our camp.
We were the scum of the scum in the Nip’s eyes, we were starved, beaten, neglected and allowed to suffer disease without help. We were not raped – though I met later some women from Hong Kong who were – but we suffered every other form of humiliation at the hands of the little yellow beasts. At one stage early 1942 we were nearly made to submit to Japanese bestiality, but by the grace of God and our own resourcefulness we were spared this final humiliation.
I was only 4st 6lbs (approx 28 Kg) when liberated and near the end of my tether, I will never forget in 1945 the desolation when Sisters Raymont (8/2/45) and Gardam (4/4/45) died. We were so neglected and burying bodies of people who died, was so revolting that I was determined not to die there, but return home. I then realised I had hidden strength and determination I never knew existed. The comradeship of our friends was a tremendous help, they were our only family and we meant a great deal to one another.
The Japs wouldn’t reveal the position of our camp, so it was the 24th August 1945 before we were found and liberated from a miserable airstrip in Lahat in Southern Sumatra. Carrying my pack of meagre belongings and helping to carry a stretcher with a very sick POW on it, we passed 2 Nip soldiers sitting nearby smoking and grinning. Japs hate sickness and are scared of it, so I made them put their cigarettes out, stand to attention and then carry the stretcher and my bug ridden pack, giving me a great feeling of satisfaction.”
Fred Stahl.
So there it is chaps – No drugs, no radios, no tea, no sugar, starvation rations, (diet gradually curtailed to two ounces of rice a day, plus small amounts of Kong Kong and beans), no Red Cross parcels, no pay, small wonder at liberation Sister Hannah was the weight of a 9 year old girl. Discipline was very important, without it no bargaining power. It was the magnificent discipline by our men that gave the officers the extra edge in negotiating with the Nips. That preserved our morale. Finally, they were women subject to the will of enemy soldiers, an unpleasant prospect at any time.
I think you will agree, that overall, they had it worse than we did.
Fred Stahl Captain RA Sigs 8th Div QX6306 1992
Mrs Elaine Stahl (widow of Fred Stahl) in 2005 said Mavis Hannah would have been “absolutely delighted” to know her story was published on the internet. First published 8th Div Signals magazine.  Vic Eddy 1992.
Captain Mavis Hannah (married name Allgrove) was born in Perth 12 October 1910. She enlisted in the AIF on 9 August 1940 at Goodwood Park , South Australia. Her discharge from the Army became effective on 2 December 1946. Her death occurred on 29 October 1993.
Article presented by Lt Col (Ret’d) Peter Winstanley OAM RFD JP. email website


Group portrait of men and women of the 2/4th Casualty Clearing Station (CCS). Identified in the second row are: (far left)TX5126 Corporal James Bevan Warland-Browne; (sixth from left) TFX2183 Staff Nurse Dora Shirley Gardam; (seventh from left) WFX3439 (W233412) Sister Bessie Wilmott; (fifth from right) SX10595 Captain Ellen Mavis Hannah; (third from right) TX3038 Sergeant (Sgt) Valentine Edward Alexander Bannerman. Before enlisting in the second AIF in 1940, Sgt Bannerman had served 16 years as an officer in the British Army. A reformed pacifist, Bannerman refused a commission in the Australian army, and elected to serve as a Non Commissioned Officer in a medical unit. The 2/4th CCS was in Singapore when it was invaded by Japanese forces in February 1942, the men and women of the unit being captured and spending the rest of the war as prisoners of war (POW). Staff Nurse Gardam, Sister Wilmott and Captain Hannah were three of 65 sisters of the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) who were on board the hospital ship Vyner Brook when it was sunk by Japanese bombers on 14 February, and were amongst the 22 who survived. Sister Bessie Willmot was killed by Japanese forces during the Banka Island Massacre on 16 February 1942, Staff Nurse Gardam being taken POW and dying in captivity on 4 April 1945. Captain Hannah was the only nursing sister from the 2/4th CCS to survive captivity and the war.


From Muntok Peace Museum
HANNAH Ms Ellen Mavis AANS Nursing Sister.  Married planter Joseph William Allgrove after the war. His first wife, Marjorie (née Walden), was lost at sea on the Giang Bee. Ellen was known as Nell Allgrove in England and Mavis in Australia. Returned to Malaya post war. Retired to Dedham, Essex.
Joseph Allgrove’s first wife, Marjorie Allgrove, British, was aged 41 years when she died following the sinking of the Giang Bee, 13.2.42. She was the daughter of Mr. & Mrs. H. E. Walden of Slough, Buckinghamshire and was in the Medical Aid Service at the start of the war.
J. W. Allgrove was Manager of the Muar River rubber estate, Segamat, Batu Anam, Johore. He obtained the rank of Lance Corporal in the Johore Volunteer Engineers and was a POW (MVDB).