Banka Island service introduction

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Address given by Mr Matt Anderson PSM, Director, Australian War Memorial for the Banka Island Massacre 80th anniversary commemoration, 16 February 2022

We gather today, in person and in spirit, to mark the events of 80 years ago; the fall of Singapore, the sinking of the Vyner Brooke, the massacres of Banka Island and those who were interned subsequently as Prisoners of War.

Some of those killed, such as Sister Florence Casson, are remembered by memorial plaques in their hometowns.  Some, such as Sister Annie Trenerry drifted away in their life raft and were never seen again.

The stories of these men, women and children are diverse and rich and must not be reduced to a single event.  The sole survivor of the Banka Island Massacres; Vivian Bullwinkel lived a full life. Bullwinkel retired from the army in 1947 and became Director of Nursing at Melbourne's Fairfield Hospital. She devoted herself to the nursing profession and to honouring those killed on Banka Island, raising funds for a nurses' memorial and serving on numerous committees, including as President of the Australian College of Nursing. She also served on the Council of the Australian War Memorial – the first woman to do so - and the way in which she chose to commemorate her fellow nurses was to ensure their stories were told and would continue to be told. 

The mission of the Australian War Memorial is to lead remembrance and understanding of Australia’s wartime experience. Here, we carry on the work of those like Vivian Bullwinkel.  Every night at the Last Post Ceremony, we honour those who have served, those who are still serving and the families that love and support them and grieve for them.  Tonight, we will honour Sister Ellen Louisa Keats. We will acknowledge that she gave her life for us, for our freedoms and in the hope of a better world.

We do not glorify war. Indeed, when the Governor General, Lord Gowrie, VC, opened the Memorial on Remembrance Day 1941, he said the challenge – which remains to this day – was to ensure that when people leave the War Memorial, they must utter never again’.

We seek to know more, to not turn away from what is difficult to hear or see.  Each night, we tell a single story not only of how they died, but who they were when they lived. 

When we remember them as we do today, when we speak their names and tell their stories, we declare they did not die in vain.  

Lest We Forget

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