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4 corrections, most recently by stanj - Show corrections

MASSACRE OF NURSES ON BANKA BEACH

Australian POW Demand Japs Be Brought to Justice.

By ROHAN D. RIVETT, formerly of THE ARGUS, who was sole British

war correspondent among the prisoners in Burma and Siam, and who has just returned after three and a half years in the hands of the

Japanese.

The story of the massacre of 20 Australian nurses on the beach of Banka Island has been one of the most carefully guarded secrets of the prison camps. Even after the Japan- ese capitulation, when we contacted our own authorities, we felt that no publicity could be given to the story until we knew that Nurse Bullwinkel, the sole survivor, was safe in British hands and able to tell her eye-wit-

ness story.

Since the day when she gave her- self up at Muntok, Banka, it has been realised that Japanese know- ledge of her identity would probably lead to her immediate execution, so this story had been the "hush hush" story of the prison camps of Java, Malaya, Burma, and Thailand. Detailed statements by Nurse Bull- wlnkel were taken down by senior Allied officers, and smuggled to Changl, where secret files of all kinds were kept hidden from the Japan-

ese.

No incident among the thousands which have befallen those in Japan- ese hands has aroused such fury among the Australian prisoners, as this cold-blooded and senseless mur- der, and every man of the 8th Divi- sion joins in the demand that all offi- cers and NCO's in charge of Japan- ese operations on Banka should be rounded up and brought to account This is something which will have to be done immediately, and action by Australian military authorities is  

demanded at once.

I was on Banka Island a few miles from where this atrocity was per- petrated on February 16, 1942, and have since talked to many who were captured on Banka by the Japanese

at that time.

Our vessel, Siang-Wo, was one of more than 40 which were sunk or ren- dered useless by Japanese bombing at- tacks in Banka Strait, or its ap-

proaches, between February 13 and

18.

On Friday, February 13, we were bombed by waves of Japanese air- craft, from dawn until we were hit; the steering gear was crippled in the middle of the afternoon. The Siang- Wo was then beached, not far from Muntok lighthouse, on the north- west corner of Banka Island. The 17 women on our ship were put on board a trader's small boat with the idea of getting them to Java. But the boat developed engine trouble, and finally only two of them could be got away in a tiny RAF yacht. The rest of the women were placed in the Muntok Hospital, under the Red Cross, in charge of some Dutch nurses and sisters, where it was felt they would be safest from Japanese molestation. This proved correct.

The two hundred men on our ves- sel - evacuated soldiers and sailors —were placed in a building in Mun- tok, while the 40-odd officers spent   the night in the one hotel. A Japan- ese landing had been expected hourly for some days, and. virtually all Dutchmen had fled to Java, leaving

only the Resident, who had orders to hand over to the Japanese. We could not even find a small rowboat in which to try and get the remain- ing women to Java.

On the next night, February 14-15, our pickets down at the jetty re- ported the arrival of several war- ships and other vessels in Banka Strait, shortly after midnight, and about three in the morning the first Japanese landing parties started to come ashore. The naval commander in charge, Commander Vickers, or- dered all officers to throw away their revolvers and prepare to surrender to

the Japanese.

Some of us protested and just as day dawned seven of us obtained permission to make a break for it. Commander Vickers said that we were mad, as we knew nothing of the island, which was largely swamp and unbroken jungle. He said that if we stayed and surrendered in or- derly fashion the Japanese might take us prisoner, but that otherwise we would inevitably be caught by their patrols and shot out of hand. We said we thought it our duty to

escape, and five naval officers, Nor-   man Carter, of Singapore Radio, and myself, took to the jungle just after dawn on Sunday, February 15.

Twice in the next few days we missed Japanese patrols by a hair's breadth. On one occasion we were getting a meal in a native hut at half-past five, when the woman who was cooking blurted out in Malay that her friends had gone to fetch the Japanese to round us up. A Japanese patrol was in the village 500 yards away, had eaten its mid- day meal where we were sitting, and was due back at six. We left the hut so fast that the woman must have thought we were genii.

It was on the day after this that the survivors of the Vyner Brooke struggled ashore on the Banka Beach, only 15 or 20 miles from where we were battling our way through a swamp, waist deep in mud

and water.

We heard nothing of their story until three weeks later, after we had rowed down to Java, and had been captured by the Japanese and taken to Serang, where we learned from other captives of the atrocities com- mitted by the Japanese commando on the Muntok Beach.

We knew from the natives on Banka that the Japanese were shoot- ing every white man they found, and we had expected this, but the cold- blooded murder of helpless, stranded girls, who had already given them- selves up, seemed like a fantastic nightmare. In the succeeding months we came to realise that the Japanese were capable of any bar- barity regardless of age, sex, or cir-

cumstances.

I believe that the Australian mili- tary authorities should begin the man hunt for these Banka murder- ess, and particularly for all navy and army officers concerned in the Banka landing—TODAY!

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