Mona Margaret Anderson TAIT


TAIT, Mona Margaret Anderson

Service Numbers: N101954, NFX76281
Enlisted: 13 January 1941
Last Rank: Nursing Sister
Last Unit: 2nd/13th Australian General Hospital
Born: Booval, Ipswich - Queensland, Australia, 6 February 1915
Home Town: Booval, Ipswich, Queensland
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Nurse
Died: Murdered (POW of Japan) in the Banka Island massacre, Bangka Island, Bangka Belitung Islands, Indonesia, 16 February 1942, aged 27 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
(CWGC) Official Commemoration - Memorial Location: Column 142, Singapore Memorial (within Kranji War Cemetery).
Memorials: Augusta Australian Army Nursing Sisters Monument, Australian Military Nurses Memorial, Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Banka Island Massacre, Bicton Vyner Brooke Tragedy Memorial, W.A., Singapore Memorial Kranji War Cemetery
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Non Warlike Service

1 Jan 1941: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Staff Nurse, SN N101954, Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1)

World War 2 Service

13 Jan 1941: Enlisted Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Nursing Sister, SN NFX76281
7 Dec 1941: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Lieutenant, SN NFX76281, 2nd/13th Australian General Hospital, Malaya/Singapore
12 Feb 1942: Embarked Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Sister, SN NFX76281, 2nd/13th Australian General Hospital, Embarked Ship - Date and Place of Departure: SS Vyner Brooke, 12/02/1942, Singapore, (with 65 other nurses, and civilians); to Japanese Aircraft Attack - sinking disaster - SS Vyner Brooke - Date and Place: 14/02/1942, Banka Strait (by Banka Island); (AWM) The Sinking of the SS Vyner Brooke.
15 Feb 1942: Imprisoned Malaya/Singapore
16 Feb 1942: Involvement Australian Army Nursing Service (WW1), Nursing Sister, SN NFX76281, 2nd/13th Australian General Hospital, 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.


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Biography contributed by Faithe Jones

"...a memorial bed and plaque will be installed in the new maternity ward as a token of remembrance.” (1)

Sister Mona Margaret Anderson Tait NX 76281 2/13th Australian General Hospital, was born on 6 February 1915 in Booval Queensland and was the daughter of Robert Tait and Maggie Alexandria Tait (nee Ripley). Her father had been born in Scotland and immigrated to Australia as a young man. She had one sister Auriel Ripley Tait who was born in 1917 and only died in 2005. Sometime after her sister was born the Tait family of four moved to Newcastle.

Mona Tait trained as a nurse at Cessnock District Hospital which is close to Newcastle. Later, she was the Sister in charge of the X-ray department at Canberra Hospital for three years prior to enlisting in the Australian Army Nursing Service on the 13 January 1941. For eight months she was attached to Victoria Barracks in Sydney before being sent to Malaya.

As with other nurses in her Unit she left Australia in August 1941 and sailed for Malaya and Singapore on the Hospital Ship Wanganella, arriving on 15 September 1941. She was part of the 2/13th Australian General Hospital that was initially located at St Patrick's School on Singapore Island. Between 21-23 November 1941 the entire hospital was moved across the Straits to Tampoi Hill on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. Due however, to the swift progress of the Japanese invasion force, most of the hospital staff was evacuated back to Singapore in late January 1942

There is little on the public record about Mona’s life. But it is well known that she was on the SS Vyner Brooke and made it to Radji Beach, presumably on one of the two lifeboats which arrived on the beach and further along the coast. Mona, aged just 27 years, was murdered by Japanese troops with the other Australian Army nurses at Radji Beach on 16 February 1942.

A memorial to Mona was installed at the Cessnock District Hospital where she trained. The Cessnock Eagle and South Maitland Recorder newspaper wrote on 11 October 1946

‘”The Secretary (Mr J Brown) informed the Hospital Board that he had received information to the effect that Sister Mona Tait had lost her life in the war against the Japanese. Although Sister Tait was not a member of the hospital staff at the time of her enlistment, she had received her training at the institution. Mr. Brown said that from the information he had received, Sister Tait, together with…… other nursing Sisters, had been shot by the Japanese………. Because of the fact that Sister Tait had received her training at the Cessnock Hospital, the Board decided that it would be fitting to pay a tribute to her memory, and towards this end a memorial bed and plaque will be installed in the new maternity ward as a token of remembrance.”

Mona is also remembered through the RSL Mona Tait and May Hayman Memorial Fund. Income from the fund’s investments is donated to the University of Canberra to purchase books for its nurses Library.

‘This Fund commemorates the bravery of two Nursing Sisters, formerly of the Canberra Community Hospital, both of whom were murdered by Japanese troops during World War II. Sister Mona Tait was killed on the shores of Banka Island whilst attached to the 8th Australian Division and May Hayman was killed when she was attached to an Anglican Mission in Papua New Guinea. The Fund was initiated by staff of the old Canberra Hospital but after some time they requested it be transferred to the RSL National Trustees’.

Sisters Tait and Hayman were also commemorated by a plaque at Royal Canberra Hospital. When the hospital closed in 1991 the plaque was removed to the RSL Headquarters in Campbell ACT.

The Australian War Memorial has in its collection a letter written by Mona Tait to Anne Burrows in Canberra in February 1942, just before she was killed on Radji Beach. In the letter she mentions meeting Frank Burrows, Anne's brother, who died tragically as a POW on the Burma-Thai railroad.

Like all the victims of Japanese brutality on that terrible day in February 1941, the memory of Mona Tait, a lovely, brave, smiling Australian women, lives on.

Principal Sources

(1) The Cessnock Eagle and South Maitland Recorder 11/10/46 
- Michael Pether Historian and researcher Auckland New Zealand
- Public records
- Newspaper reports
- On Radji Beach by Ian Shaw