05 Mar

Jennifer Thomas, a Woodlands old scholar ’80 and current SPW parent, recently attended the Bangka Memorial Service 2021 for the Australian nurses who sacrificed their lives in WW2.

She tells their story.

Compassion – Courage – Dedication – Sacrifice
All this and more is shared by 22 Australian Army Nurses who were executed by soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army on Bangka Island’s Radji Beach, Indonesia on 16 February 1942.

The lone survivor of that terrible day, Sister Vivienne Bullwinkel, ensured that their story be told.

Their story
Their story begins with the evacuation from Singapore on the small ship SS Vyner Brooke, off the Coast of Bangka Island, near Sumatra.

Caring for the wounded soldiers, plus the women and children on board, the nurses were the last to leave when the ship was bombed and sank.

They stayed to tend to the wounded on the beaches, surrendering to the Japanese forces. Their surrender was not accepted and the women lost their lives at the hands of the Japanese soldiers.

Sister Elaine Balfour–Ogilvy
Sister Elaine Balfour–Ogilvy (Woodlands CEGG old scholar), was one of the brave nurses who perished on that day.

Thirteen years after the massacre, the first Bangka Day Memorial Service was held at the South Australian Women’s Playing Fields and continues to be held annually on the Sunday closest to February 16.

This year the service was held at Government House whilst the Playing Fields receive major renovations, including the construction of the largest memorial to Australian Service Women in the Southern Hemisphere.

Among those immortalised will be Elaine Balfour-Ogilvy. In memory, a scholarship in her name is annually awarded to an eligible daughter of a Woodlands Old Scholar. Lest We Forget.

Article by Jennifer Thomas, Woodlands Old Scholar.