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Back to Bangka

Bangka Strait, Indonesia, 1942. Allied ships are evacuating thousands in flight from Singapore, the island having fallen to Japanese Imperial forces. Facing terrifying assaults by fighter planes, one ship, the Vyner Brooke, is badly bombed and sinks. Its survivors swim or paddle for hours to the nearest land, a beach on Bangka Island, parched, many dreadfully injured.

One of the survivors is Australian Army nurse Dorothy ‘Bud’ Elmes, the great-aunt of Georgina Banks. Bud, along with other nurses from the Vyner Brooke, including one Vivian Bullwinkel, make it to the island, where they tend to the wounded as a plan is formulated. But it is soon discovered the place is occupied by Japanese forces, and two days later they arrive on the beach.

Seventy-five years on, Georgina receives an invitation to a memorial service for her great-aunt. She knows little of the national history buried in her family but as she retraces Bud’s steps in Indonesia, and then deep in archives back in Australia, she is left making sense of half-truths and confronting the likelihood that she may never know exactly what unfolded on the beach on that devastating day.

Back to Bangka is a deeply moving intergenerational family story; a gripping retelling and investigation of events that throw a spotlight on women in wartime – in their vulnerability and profound strength.

ISBN: 9781761341137
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Penguin Group Australia