Service Numbers: SX10596, SFX10596
Enlisted: 29 November 1940
Last Rank: Sister
Last Unit: Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1)
Born: Renmark, South Australia, 11 January 1912
Home Town: Renmark, Renmark Paringa, South Australia
Schooling: St Peter's Woodlands Girls' Grammar School and Renmark High School, South Australia
Occupation: Nurse
Died: Murdered whilst a POW of the Japanese, Bangka Island, Netherlands East Indies, 16 February 1942, aged 30 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Memorial Location: Column 141, Singapore Memorial (within Kranji War Cemetery)
Memorials: Adelaide Royal Adelaide Hospital Chapel Roll of Honour, Adelaide WW2 Wall of Remembrance, Augusta Australian Army Nursing Sisters Monument, Australian Military Nurses Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Ballarat Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial, Bicton Vyner Brooke Tragedy Memorial, W.A., Daw Park Repatriation Hospital WW2 Women of the Armed Forces Who Died HR, Glenelg Woodlands Old Scholars Honour Board, Kapunda Dutton Park Memorial Gardens Nurses Plaques, Launceston Banka Island Massacre, Renmark District Roll of Honour WW2, Singapore Memorial Kranji War Cemetery
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World War 2 Service

29 Nov 1940: Enlisted Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Sister, SX10596, Australian Army Nursing Service WW2 (<1943), Keswick, South Australia
29 Nov 1940: Enlisted SX10596
7 Dec 1941: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Sister, SFX10596, 2nd/4th Casualty Clearing Station, Malaya/Singapore
12 Feb 1942: Embarked Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Sister, SFX10596, 2nd/4th Casualty Clearing Station, Evacuated - Embarked Ship: SS Vyner Brooke (with 65 other nurses, and 116 civilians) Date and Place of Departure: 12/02/1942, Singapore; to Banka Strait (by Banka Island) Attacked by Japanese Aircraft; Disaster - Sinking of SS Vyner Brooke - Date: 14/02/1942; (AWM) Sinking of the SS Vyner Brooke.
15 Feb 1942: Imprisoned Malaya/Singapore
16 Feb 1942: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Sister, SFX10596, Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Prisoners of War


Emotional Welcome As Gallant Women Return

Fremantle, Western Australia; The Australian Women's Weekly

Saturday; 3 November 1945, Page 19.


BY: Josephine O'Neill

No legendary figures, but ordinary women, you, who died

Facing the water, last glance each to each

Along the beach, leaving your bodies to the accustomed surf

Your hearts to home

No legendary figures, but ordinary women, you, who lived

Holding the spirit, through the camps slow slime

Unsoiled by time ...

Bringing your laughter out of degraded toil

As a gift to home

As ordinary women, by your dying you fortify the mind

As ordinary women, by your living you honor all mankind.

TROVE: http://nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/55465571

Showing 1 of 1 story

Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

"I can see Lanie calling out to me even now; she was a strong swimmer, and the fact I could not swim saved my life. If I had been able to get to her, I too would have been shot as she was. Fate plays many strange tricks in life. Why was I the only survivor of the 2/4 C.C.S Sisters?” (1)

Fate did indeed play ‘strange tricks’ in the days following the sinking of the “SS Vyner Brooke” on 14 February 1942.

Sister Elaine ‘Lainie’ Lenore Balfour-Ogilvie SFX 10596 was born on 11 January 1912 to Major Harry Lort Spencer and Jane Balfour-Ogilvy in Renmark, South Australia. Her father was a veteran of the Boer War, having served with the 2nd Victorian Bushmen. He also served in New Guinea in the First World War, and some of the first inland charts of the island were prepared by him. The family was well known in the district and the father was highly respected for his war service.

Elaine attended St Peter’s Woodlands Girls’ Grammar School, and later Renmark High School. She trained as a nurse and served on the staff of the Adelaide Children’s Hospital. She also enjoyed singing, and was for a time the secretary of the Adelaide Women’s Choir.

On 13 September 1940 at Keswick Army Barracks, South Australia as a trained Nursing Sister, Elaine enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, becoming the district’s first army nurse. She was soon appointed to the 2/4th Casualty Clearing Station of the Australian Army Nursing Service, and in February 1941 embarked on the Queen Mary for Singapore and Malaya.

She worked in various places on the Malay Peninsula, often with the 9th Field Ambulance, before being based with the 4th CCS in Lampai, South Johore. Her brothers Spencer and Douglas also served in the Second World War, enlisting in the RAAF and AIF respectively.

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor the 4th Casualty Clearing Station was withdrawn to a makeshift theatre at the Kluang airfield. Once the fall of Singapore became inevitable the nurses began to be evacuated from the island, but Elaine’s station remained until 12 February, when it, too, was evacuated.

Elaine was one of the 65 nurses on the “SS. Vyner Brooke”. She volunteered to be one of the group who stayed on board the ship to the very last in the event of a sinking to ensure all the passengers reached safety in lifeboats.

In fact, after the sinking she was seen holding onto a rope trailing from Matron Drummond’s lifeboat and possibly that is how she reached Radji Beach. In a tribute to the natural, positive, confident character and personality that was Elaine Balfour-Ogilvy it is recorded that (p214-215 On Radji Beach) after observing the massacre of the two groups of men , she suggested that the nurses all run in different directions so that at least some of them would survive. This was possibly the most sensible idea that anyone had on Radji Beach.

She was overruled by Matron Drummond and told they must all comply with Japanese instructions to avoid letting their wounded patients down. The nurses stayed with their wounded until the end. Elaine died with the other 21 nurses on the beach.

Interestingly Major Bill Tebbutt (8th Division Staff Officer also on the “SS. Vyner Brooke”) in his Affidavit recalled seeing after the massacre, the body of one nurse on the beach some 50 yards away from the main group of victims. It is quite possible that even in her last moments Elaine Balfour-Ogilvy did make a desperate, heroic and independent attempt to survive. This seems completely in character with her positive approach to life and the probable influence of her father’s bravery in war; rather that be passively slaughtered by a callous enemy.

The story of Sister Elaine ‘Lainie’ Lenore Balfour-Ogilvie was delivered on the 3 October 2015 at a Last Post Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

Back home in Renmark South Australia Elaine’s legacy was continued with the dedication of the Elaine Balfour-Ogilvy Children’s Library, and the establishment of the Elaine Balfour-Ogilvy Memorial Scholarship.

To this day this is funded by the Woodlands Old Scholars’ Association and at the annual Bangka Memorial Service held at the SA Women’s Memorial Playing Fields.

Principal Sources:


- (1) Elaine’s friend Sister Ellen Mavis Hannah (A Nursing Sister’s Account of Life as a Prisoner of the Japanese - Captain Ellen Hannah)
- On Radji Beach by Ian Shaw
- Michael Pether Auckland New Zealand
- Historical records




Edited excerpt for Monuments Australia - for full detail click the Monuments Australia link to the left


" Elaine Balfour-Ogilvy was born in Renmark, in 1912,  and was a member of a well known pioneer family with a remarkable record of war service. In 1940; as a trained nurse, she  enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and was attached to the 2/4 Casualty Clearing Station AANS. 

.... When it became obvious that Singapore would fall, many nurses despite their protestations were forced to leave the island. The 2/4th`Casualty Clearing Station remained.

The 65 nurses in this Unit were evacuated on February 12, 1942; in the E.M.S, Vyner Brooke. On the 14th the ship was attacked by Japanese bombers, with many losing their lives while endeavouring to reach Bangka Island.

Those including Elaine, who reached the island were forced to walk back into the sea by Japanese soldiers who using machine guns killed them...."


The account above is not strictly correct:

After the Vyner Brooke sank, about 150 survivors, clinging to rafts flotsam or swimming made their way to Bangka Island.  At Radji beach, Matron Irene Drummond and other managed to get a fire going which attracted other survivors during the course of the afternoon and following night.  Many remarked that they couldn't make it and drifted past in the current.  Fate would prove them to be relatively fortunate.

Survivors washed up all along the coast of Bangka island and the Sumatran coast, and quickly became captives of the Japanese.

A large group of 22 nurses and 65 or so British sevice personnel merchant sailors and civilians some from other ships sunk in the area, had gathered at Radgi beach.

Fate was to deal them a dreadful hand. Survivors from the Vyner Brooke joined up with another party of civilians and up to 60 Commonwealth servicemen and merchant sailors, who had made it ashore from other vessels  that had been sunk. After an unsuccessful attempt to source food and assistance from local villagers, a deputation was sent to contact the Japanese, with the aim of having the group taken prisoner. Anticipating this, all but one of the civilian women followed behind.

Later, a party of Japanese troops arrived at Radji Beach. They marched off the males and shot and bayoneted them.  They then ordered the 22 Australian nurses and the one British civilian woman who had remained after the other party had left,  to wade into the sea.  They were machine gunned where they stood. 

There were only two survivors - Sister Vivian Bullwinkel, who feigned death until the Japanese had left, and Private Cecil Kinsley, a British soldier who Sister Bulwinkel found and tended for 12 days, but he later died of his wounds.  Hiding in the jungle the pair eventually gave themselves up to the Japanese. Kinsley died shortly afterwards, and Bullwinkel spent the rest of the war as an internee, without disclosing her survival to other than her closest confidantes.


(c)  Steve Larkins Feb 2018


Biography contributed

Biography written by Stephen Files from Renmark High School, attached as a document. Winning entry for 2023 Premier’s ANZAC SPIRIT School Prize.