1942: Japanese Massacre of 100 ABDA Command

Feb 15

The Banka Island Massacre

Japanese Massacre of 100 ABDA Command

Today in 1942, 360 paratroopers of Japanese 1st Airborne Division landed at Pangkalanbenteng airfield near Palembang, Sumatra, Dutch East Indies. In response, ABDA (American-British-Dutch-Australian) command sent 5 cruisers and 11 destroyers to transport troops to Palembang. Dutch destroyer HNLMS Van Ghent in this force ran aground on the next day and would be scuttled.

japanese paratroopers 1942

Japanese paratroopers descending on Pangkalan Benteng airfield or Pladju refineries in southern Sumatra, Dutch East Indies,1942

Meanwhile, the British ship Vyner Brooke, escaping from Singapore with 300 on board, was bombed off Sumatra. Around 100 survivors, including 22 Australian nurses, reach shore on Banka island. The men were marched away by the Japanese and bayoneted and shot, the wounded were bayoneted where they laid, and the nurses were herded into the sea and machine gunned.

British ship Vyner Brooke

The British ship Vyner Brooke

One, Sister Vivian Bulwinkel, was wounded but survived to tell of the atrocity. “The girls fell one after the other.” Sister Bullwinkel, badly wounded and feigning death, was the only survivor.

After a long while Bullwinkel got back to the now empty beach. There she found a wounded British soldier from another massacre. They hid out for 12 days, and she cared for the man until he died. Eventually, she surrendered again to the Japanese, but made no mention of the massacre. She was interned with other nurses and endured a further three years of hardship and brutality before her release enabled her to tell her harrowing story.

Sister Vivian Bullwinkel

Sister Bullwinkel reunited with her mother at Heidelberg hospital following her release from captivity in 1945.


Source: Dutch East Indies Campaign, Sumatra

Source: Fifty Australians – Sister Vivian Bullwinkel