The Sudden Storm: The Impact of the Bangka Island Massacre

A six-part podcast series about the commemoration of Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) sisters who were murdered at Bangka Island after the evacuation of Singapore. Presented and produced by Australian remembrance podcast maker Megan Spencer. 

This program contains concepts related to war, and some depictions of war and its aftermath.  It also contains references to sexual violence in war, in Part 1 (Timestamps 18:28 – 18:40; 21:37 – 22:21) and Part 2 (Timestamps 13:00 – 25:05).


Content Summary of each episode

Show notes and credits

List of Speakers for each part


Part 1

Part 1 explains how Australian nurses arrived in Malaya during 1941 and the exciting time they experienced before the Japanese invasion. As the Japanese advanced the nurses were frantically evacuated from Singapore on two ships, one reached safety but the other, the Vyner Brooke, was not so lucky, sunk by Japanese bombs off Bangka Island. Some nurses were able to swim to Bangka Island but there a shocking incident occurred – the massacre of the nurses by Japanese soldiers.

Content warning: Sexual Violence in War - Timestamps 18:28 – 18:40 and 21:37 – 22:21.

Part 1 Transcription

Part 1 Teaching Resources


Part 2

Megan outlines how the nurses who were not massacred by the Japanese were imprisoned, how they were treated and their rescue in 1945. She interviews Historian Professor Christina Twomey to discuss concepts of gender and war and why this story is so significant.

Content warning: Sexual Violence in War - Timestamps 13:00 – 25:05

Part 2 Transcription

Part 2 Teaching Resources


Part 3

Megan attends the 80th Anniversary Ceremony of the Bangka Island Massacre at the SA Women’s Memorial Playing Fields. She speaks with descendants of Sister Lorna Fairweather and Sister Elaine Balfour-Ogilvy, both murdered by the Japanese that fateful day on Bangka Island in 1942.

Part 3 Transcription

Part 3 Teaching Resources


Part 4

Megan visits Renmark in South Australia’s beautiful Riverland to discover how the life and service of local woman Elaine Balfour-Ogilvy is commemorated by the local community. She visits the local RSL, High School and Public Library speaking with locals about how they remember Elaine and why the story is so significant. The perspective of students at Renmark High School is particularly moving.

Part 4 Transcription

Part 4 Teaching Resources


Part 5

Megan continues her journey of discovery into the commemoration of the nurses in South Australia’s Riverland towns; Renmark, Loxton and Paringa. The unique commemoration to the Australian nurses, VC winners and WW2 battleground with the Loxton Street Sign Memorial. She speaks with members of each community who are passionate about why the story of what happened to the nurses must be remembered. Part 5 ends with Megan visiting the Paringa Art-Silo and its giant mural of Elaine Balfour-Ogilvy.

Part 5 Transcription

Part 5 Teaching Resources


Part 6

Part 6 begins at the Paringa Art Silos discussing the significance of the story with the mural artist. Megan interviews previous contributors to the podcast about what the legacy of the story is and why it must be remembered.

Part 6 Transcription

Part 6 Teaching Resources


The production of this podcast was made possible by a grant provided by the Department for Education of the Government of South Australia.