Elaine Balfour Ogilvy

The story of Elaine Balfour Ogilvy

Balfour Ogilvy Family

Elaine Balfour Ogilvy was one of five children to Major Harry Lort Spencer Balfour Ogilvy and Jane Balfour Ogilvy raised in Renmark, South Australia.

Woodlands Old Scholar

Elaine attended Woodlands Church of England Girls Grammar School as a boarder for two of her senior years of schooling, 1928 – 1929. In two short years, Elaine’s ambition and genteel qualities shone through as she excelled in dramatic and debating societies. She represented the school in hockey as well as proving an excellent swimmer and tennis player. Elaine was House Prefect in 1929.

Service to Others

Elaine’s father served in several wars and was recognised for his bravery and aptitude. He was the most highly decorated South Australian Boer War veteran and was appointed several prominent leadership positions while he served the war of 1914-1918.

Nurse Training

It seemed only natural Elaine have aspirations to serve her country. By the end of 1934 Elaine had completed three years of nurse training at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital, for which she was awarded the hospital’s silver medal. Soon after Elaine enlisted for the war, along with two of her brothers, and was ‘kitted up’ to embark overseas for Malaya in January 1941. She was part of the 2/9th Field Ambulance. When assigned to the 2/4th Casualty Clearance Station in Singapore, Elaine was described as an extremely capable nurse who brought joy to the soldiers she nursed through her singing.

The Bangka Island Massacre

Despite some initial merriment with colonial high society, British High Command proved ineffective, and Malaya was invaded on 8 December, 1941 by the Japanese. The decision was made in February 1942 to evacuate the Australian Army nurses. On the SS Vyner Brooke, a cargo vessel, 181 passengers including 65 nurses, civilian women, children and wounded soldiers boarded without supplies. With a top speed of 15 knots the vessel made for an easy target and was bombed. The boat sank quickly and only two lifeboats remained unscathed.

Those who survived and made it to shore found themselves on the Japanese occupied, Bangka Island with no choice but to surrender. Captain Orita Masaru arrived with heavily armed soldiers and executed the wounded soldiers. The nurses were then lined up and marched waist deep into the ocean. Matron Drummond was heard to say, “Chins up girls. I’m proud of you and I love you all” before the machine guns opened fire.

A fellow South Australian, Sister Vivian Bullwinkel was the sole surviving nurse of the massacre and spent three years as a prisoner of war.


Since 1955 the bravery of women who served and sacrificed for our country is commemorated with an annual Bangka Day Memorial Service at the Women’s Memorial Playing Fields, St Mary’s. Since 1944 Woodlands and St Peter’s Woodlands honours Elaine with a scholarship in her name, The Elaine Balfour Ogilvy Memorial Scholarship.

The Elaine Balfour Ogilvy Memorial Scholarship

The Elaine Balfour Ogilvy  Memorial Scholarship is available to a Year 5 student who attends St Peter’s Woodlands Grammar School to apply for as a subsidy to their Year 6 school fees. It was created by the Woodlands Old Scholars in honour of an old scholar, one of the Australian Army nurses who died in the horror of war after the fall of Singapore.

2024 Elaine Balfour Ogilvy Memorial Scholarship Recipient

We are thrilled to announce the 2024 Elaine Balfour Ogilvy Memorial Scholarship recipient.

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