Memorial service honours nurses massacred on Bangka Island

Remembering: Port Macquarie RSL sub-branch president Greg Laird OAM, with members of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps Association Barbara O'Keefe, Marie Hatchwell and Sandra Hawkins. Photo: Peter Daniels
Remembering: Port Macquarie RSL sub-branch president Greg Laird OAM, with members of the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps Association Barbara O'Keefe, Marie Hatchwell and Sandra Hawkins. Photo: Peter Daniels

Port Macquarie hosted the only memorial service on the eastern seaboard of Australia to remember the World War II Bangka Island massacre.

The service, on Tuesday February 14, was hosted by the Port Macquarie RSL sub-branch.

Members from the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps Association were joined by NSW Nurses and Midwives Association members along with local former serving nurses.

The Bangka Island massacre included the killing of twenty-one Australian nurses along with some 50 men who had originally survived a Japanese attack on their ship as they sailed from Singapore.

Japanese soldiers initially killed the men before ordering 22 nurses into the water where they were shot. One nurse, Vivian Bullwinkel, survived the ordeal and went on to a decorated nursing career. 

She became a key witness in the Tokyo war crimes trial in 1947.

RAANC member Barbara O'Keefe praised the sub-branch for hosting the event.

"There is something special about a regional city such as Port Macquarie hosting this event," she said.

"Personally, I think it is fantastic to see this event held here.

"It is the only memorial service for this day on the eastern seaboard and has been held here since 1992.

"Members from the RAANC are here today while, for the first time, members from the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association also attended and laid a wreath.

"Post World War II nurses also attended the memorial service."

Mrs O'Keefe also said former servicewomen - representing the air force and the navy - also attended.

While the RAANC was established in Sydney and eventually reached each state and territory, NSW is now the sole remaining branch of the association still functioning.

Remembering: Port Macquarie RSL sub-branch president Greg Laird OAM, with former services nurses Jean Lacey and Irene Treweeks and Gary Spencer. Photo: Peter Daniels

Remembering: Port Macquarie RSL sub-branch president Greg Laird OAM, with former services nurses Jean Lacey and Irene Treweeks and Gary Spencer. Photo: Peter Daniels

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