Today the Sydney Harbour Bridge turns 80. That means that this day in 1942 it was just 10.
In a very Top Gun move, 2nd Lieutenant Frank Stiertz of the 7th Pursuit Squadron of the 49th Pursuit Group, 5th Air Force USAAF angered local authorities when he flew his Kittyhawk underneath the Sydney Harbour bridge in February 1942. He was grounded for two weeks after this incident, and then died a month later in a similar move at Bankstown airfield.
You can read some lovely stories about the bridges’ history from ordinary people, here.
During March 1942 many refugees and Australian service men and women continued to arrive in Australia from Indonesia (Dutch east Indies) and Singapore after they fell to the Japanese. Those who didn’t escape, or were captured again after surviving the sinking of the Vyner Brooke, for example, spent the rest of the war trying to survive in prison camps in Sumatra.
Sister Vivian Bullwinkel of the 2/13 AGH described what happened to a group of about 75 people, including 22 of the Australian nurses, who managed to get to a beach on Banka Island, just off the coast of Sumatra, when the Japanese arrived.
The Japanese “took half the men away down the beach behind a bluff, came back and took the other half away… After the second party they came back and cleaned their rifles and bayonets in front of us, and then lined us up and signed to us to march into the sea. Then they started machine gunning from behind. “
She only survived by pretending to be dead. Bullwinkel then hid in the jungle briefly, and after finding and helping a seriously wounded English soldier, was finally captured.
On a happier note, here is a photo of Tasmanian nurses who did escape Singapore, and arrived on the Empire Star, in March 1942.
From left: Hilda Hildyard, Harley Brewer, Mollie Gunton, Maisie Rayner. Source
Those girls were heros! I’ll stop whingeing about the rain now….
Have a lovely day,