Seeking Inspiration: Vivian Bullwinkel
This is part of a series on JustB about women who inspire, motivate and challenge us.
These posts are supported by Seek Learning.
A while ago, I re-watched the TV series Tenko. Have you seen it? I remember watching it when it first aired and being agog at the way women endured prisoner of war camps, the harsh conditions and their difficult relationships with the Japanese forces.
Hungry to know more, I went on to watch other things about World War 2, Paradise Road and Changi amongst them. I did some reading too (Betty Jeffrey’s ‘White Coolies‘ and a few others), which lead me to Vivian Bullwinkel:
A favourite inspiring lady: Vivian Bullwinkel
Her work: Australian Army nurse (and Captain)
Lives: Vivian grew up in Broken Hill. She died in July 2000, aged 85 and received a State Funeral.
The things I love most about this person: Bravery, dedication, intelligence, tenacity, amazing work ethic.
Notable achievements: Sole survivor of a terrible wartime incident on Bangka Island, Indonesia. OAM, MBE and ARRC amongst others.
My takeaway: There’s always hope. Never give up. Remember to buy this book.
Sometimes, you have tough times in your life, right? It happens to us all. Difficult periods that require all kinds of careful navigation, deep breaths and persistence. I’m a big believer in trying NOT to get overwhelmed. I like to at least TRY to hang on to some semblance of perspective. Whatever you’re going through, there’s probably someone who’s endured worse and battled their way to the other side.
Like Vivian Bullwinkel, for instance.
Vivian lost many of her friends and colleagues when the overloaded ship she escaped in after the Fall of Singapore sank. Making it to shore, she became the sole survivor of a terrible massacre by the Japanese troops, surviving by pretending to be dead. Lying in the water after being shot on the beach at Bangka Island, she waited for the soldiers to leave. She then hid in the jungle for days, nursing a wounded soldier, who sadly died. Alone and facing certain starvation, she surrendered to the Japanese and then spent three and half years in captivity as a prisoner of war. Gosh.
Despite all that, she did not give up. After an unfathomable period in her life, she just moved on, excelling in her Army nursing career for another 5 years and later giving evidence at the War Crimes Tribunal about the treatment of prisoners-of-war. When she retired from the Army, she went on to become the Director of Nursing at Fairfield Hospital and was awarded the Florence Nightingale Medal for nursing.
People like Vivian survive serious life and death situations and rather than just survive, they go on to excel. They are fueled by, rather than defined by, the hard times. I want to be like that too, in my easy-by-comparison life. I want to bundle up adversity and turn it into wisdom. If I have one zillionth of Vivian’s adversity-to-wisdom skill, I’ll be in good stead.
People like this make me realise how much we sweat the small stuff, too. Slow internet, hot days, wet days, too much work, lost credit cards, parking fines. I mean REALLY?! These blips are NOTHING compared to the things some women (and men!) endure. Vivian reminds me that we probably need to get a grip.
Amazing. Brave. Inspiring. Rad lady.
Here’s a documentary about her, too.
Who inspires YOU? Comment below, Instagram, pin or tweet with the #SeekInspiration tag so we can all gather some EXTRA life inspiration.