Commemorative coin to mark 75th anniversary of sinking of the SS Vyner Brooke


As we near the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the SS Vyner Brooke on Tuesday14 February 2017, a special collectible commemorative 20 cent coin has been released by the Royal Australian Mint (the Mint) to recognise the story of this devastating but also inspiring struggle for survival.

During the Second World War SS Vyner Brooke was sunk by Japanese forces during the evacuation of medical staff and the wounded from Singapore. Despite a number of survivors making it ashore at Banka Island, an awful fate awaited those that landed on Radji Beach, the servicemen were bayoneted and nurses were shot, with nurse Vivian Bullwinkel the only Australian to survive the events on Radji Beach. Bullwinkel spent the rest of the war as an internee alongside other survivors of the sinking who landed on Banka Island.

Mint Chief Executive Officer Mr Ross MacDiarmid said the coin design depicts the SS Vyner Brooke’s torturous journey while the packaging features several images including a group photo of the Australian war nurses and Australia’s most distinguished war nurse, the late Lieutenant-Colonel Vivian Statham AO MBE ARRC ED FNM, also known by her maiden name Vivian Bullwinkel.

“This coin recognises a significant part of Australia’s war history which demonstrates the horrific experience many endured for our country, unimaginable to many of us today,” said Mr MacDiarmid.

“The Lieutenant-Colonel’s story of survival reminds us of the compassion and bravery of all Australian war nurses and this coin is being released to honour and remember all of them.”

Lt-Col Bullwinkel’s nephew Mr John Bullwinkel said he was proud of his aunt’s achievements both during her struggle for survival including caring for the sick and dying while being a prisoner of war and the legacy created afterwards dedicating her life to improving recognition, training and conditions for nurses.

“Vivian’s story is horrendous and courageous and in sharing this story with the Australian public through this commemorative coin, it reflects the true test of the character of all Australian service nurses, especially under difficult circumstances and deprivations,” said Mr Bullwinkel.

Director of the Australian War Memorial Dr Brendan Nelson will address the 75th anniversary of Radji Beach Massacre Bangka Day Memorial Service hosted by the South Australian Women’s Memorial Playing Fields Trust Inc. on Sunday 12 February 2017.

With several coins being presented in honour of the anniversary, Dr Nelson said it was important to take this time to remember and honour those who sacrificed their lives so selflessly.

“From a generation that produced so many remarkable Australians, Vivian Bullwinkel was a giant among them. The Australian War Memorial is proud to partner with the Royal Australian Mint to develop a commemorative coin in her honour,” Dr Nelson said.     

“This memento is a small yet powerful honour for a person of remarkable bravery and fortitude, who led from both position and principle.”

The Mint partnered with the Australian War Memorial in developing this commemorative coin as part of the Official Anzac Centenary Coin Program.

With a limited mintage of 20 000 and retailing for $10 each, the 2017 20c Uncirculated Coin can be purchased by visiting or phoning 1300 652 020.

For media enquiries contact:
Michelle Nakamura, Royal Australian Mint – (02) 6202 6974, 0418 164 769 or



2017 20c Unc - SS Vyner Brooke - Reverse

2017 20c Unc - SS Vyner Brooke - Packaging