Australian Army Nurses Return Home

On 23 October 1945, the hospital ship Manuanda arrived in Fremantle. On board were 24 Australian army nurses, survivors of the Vyner Brooke who endured over three years as captives of the Japanese army.

On 14 February 1942 when the Vyner Brooke sank, 12 of the 65 army nurses on board died in the water. The rest who swam to shore on Banka Island were later captured by Japanese soldiers. One group of 22 nurses were gunned down and killed while the remaining nurses were held as prisoners by the Japanese alongside captured Dutch women and children.

Throughout their captivity, the women were moved between camps from Banka Island to Sumatra and lived in appalling conditions with inadequate sanitation, scare food and no resources. Another 5 nurses died between February and August 1945 from starvation and illness. The Australian authorities had no idea the Japanese had taken the nurses and no one knew where they were.

When the Japanese surrendered on 15 August 1945, an Australian war correspondent Hayden Lennard began the search for the nurses after a few leads from local villagers. It was by luck and perseverance that Lennard found the nurses at their camp in Loebok Linggau. He transported them to safety at a Singaporean hospital where they treated before they set sail for Fremantle, Australia.