Vivian Bullwinkel was born in Kapunda, South Australia on 18 December 1915. After training as a nurse she enlisted during the Second World War and sailed to Singapore in 1942 just before its capture by Japanese.
Fleeing Singapore aboard the SS Vyner Brooke, with 65 other nurses, the ship was sunk by Japanese aircraft. The survivors struggled ashore, only to be captured and massacred by Japanese soldiers. Bullwinkel, wounded, survived, and was soon recaptured.
Released after 3½ years, Bullwinkel returned to Australia. She retired from the Army in 1947 and took up a nursing position at Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital. She became the Director of Nursing at the hospital in 1961, remaining there until 1977.
She served on many committees including the Council of the Australian War Memorial and her commitment to nursing services saw her become the President of the Australian College of Nursing. She died in 2000.