Nelson, Ida May

Nelson, Ida May (Ida)

Nursing Sister, Civilian War Dead

SS Tandjong Pinang

Died as the result of enemy action on Tuesday 17 February 1942 (aged 35)

No known grave


Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Helen’s Bay Presbyterian Church

Helen’s Bay Golf Club

Family grave in Dundonald Cemetery


Ida May Nelson was born on 19 May 1906 at 67 Kansas Avenue, Belfast and she was a daughter of Walter and Mary Ann Nelson (nee Manson) who were married on 1 December 1898 in Magheramason Presbyterian Church, Co. Tyrone.  Walter Nelson, a commercial traveller from Belfast was a son of James Nelson, a merchant.  Mary Ann Manson from Magheramason was a daughter of Charles Manson, a farmer.

The Nelson family lived in Kansas Avenue, Belfast and later at Thorndale, Church Road, Helen’s Bay.

Walter Nelson was a brewer’s agent and spirit merchant, and he and Mary Ann had at least four children:

Stillborn child (born April 1900)

Emily Elizabeth (born 3 October 1901 at 68 Kansas Avenue, Belfast)

Stanley (born 5 August 1903 at 67 Kansas Avenue, Belfast; died of gastro-enteritis 26 September 1904)

Ida May (born 19 May 1906 at 67 Kansas Avenue, Belfast)

Their stillborn child was buried on 4 April 1900 in Belfast City Cemetery (Grave L1 304), as was their son Stanley who was buried on 28 September 1904.

Also buried in that grave was Sergeant (Flight Engineer) John Frederick Nelson (No. 1796160) aged 21 who served with the RAFVR and was killed in an aircraft accident on 7 February 1944.  Based at RAF Pocklington in Yorkshire, he was one of a crew of seven on a training flight aboard a Handley Page Halifax aircraft (DK192) when it crashed into the top of Garrowby Hill at 10.15 am and struck a lorry.  All aboard the aircraft, together with the lorry driver, were killed.

John Frederick Nelson was a son of John and Dorothy Louie Nelson (nee Attfield) of Belfast.  John Nelson worked as a fitter and he and Dorothy Attfield were married on 23 December 1918 in St. Thomas’s Church of Ireland Church, Belfast.

Dorothy Nelson died on 4 November 1985 (aged 90) and was buried in Belfast City Cemetery (Grave L1 304). Also buried in that grave was John’s brother, Thomas Henry Nelson (born 11 January 1885, died 7 July 1899 in the Royal Victoria Hospital aged 14).

John and Thomas Nelson were sons of James Edward and Mary Nelson (nee Buchanan) who were married on 13 March 1884 in Magheragall Church of Ireland Church, Lisburn.

During the Second World War Ida May Nelson was a Nursing Sister in the General Hospital, Singapore.  She worked with the Malayan Nursing Service and was being evacuated from Singapore aboard the SS Kuala when this ship was bombed and sunk.  Ida managed to reach Pompong Island, some 70 miles south of Singapore and she was taken off the island by the SS Tandjong Pinang.  Sister Ida May Nelson (aged 35) died when this ship was shelled and sunk in the Banka Straits at 9.30 pm on 17 February 1942.  The SS Tandjong Pinang was a small ship (length 97 feet, beam width 22 feet) built in the Taikoo Shipyards in Hong Kong in 1936 and owned by the Soon Bee Steamship Company.  When the SS Tandjong Pinang was shelled she was crowded with women, children and wounded personnel.

Sister Doreen Pedlow who was also aboard the SS Tandjong Pinang died of exposure after clinging to a raft for three days following the shelling.

On 1 April 1946 Nursing Sister Ida May Nelson was officially presumed to have lost her life ‘on or about 17 February 1942’ and she is commemorated in Helen’s Bay Presbyterian Church and in Helen’s Bay Golf Club where she was an active member.  After Ida was presumed dead her father presented a cup to be played for annually in mixed foursomes’ competition.

First won in 1946 the inscription on the cup reads:

Helen’s Bay Golf Club

World War 1939 – 1945

Memorial Cup

Presented by Walter Nelson

In memory of Ida May Nelson

Nursing Sister

Colonial Service

Killed by Japanese February 1942

Coincidentally, the cup was supplied by the firm Sharman D. Neill of 22 Donegall Place, Belfast.  Sharman D. Neill’s sons, Lieutenant James Dermot Neill and Lieutenant Robert Larmour Neill were both killed in action during the First World War.

Ida Nelson’s mother Mary Ann died of liver cancer at the family home (The Hollies, Onslow Gardens, Belfast) on 20 October 1918 (aged 50).  Her father Walter died on 29 August 1948 (aged 76).

Of the many civilians of the Commonwealth whose deaths were due to enemy action in the Second World War, the names of some 67,092 are commemorated in the Civilian War Dead Roll of Honour, located near St. George’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey, London.