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The hospital ship Centaur was sunk during World War II

Sinking of the Centaur 75th anniversary

May 2018

The hospital ship Centaur was sunk during World War II

The hospital ship Centaur was sunk during World War II

This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the sinking of the hospital ship Centaur after she was struck by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine during World War II.

On May 11, more than 80 people attended a service at the 113th AGH Ecumenical Memorial Chapel at Concord Hospital to mark the anniversary.

Conducted by Father Graeme Malone and Chaplain Dale Baikie, the commemorative service provided an opportunity to reflect upon the courage of all Australians who served in war and of those who lost their lives at sea.

The commemorative address was delivered by Rear Admiral Ken Doolan AO (Retd), Former National President of the RSL.

Guests were invited to place a memorial candle on the altar in remembrance of those lives lost. This was followed by singers Chastine Clidoro and Olga O'Connor, who performed a moving rendition of 'Make me a Channel of your Peace'.

On 12 May 1943 the Centaur sailed from Sydney on her second voyage to New Guinea. The crew consisted of Merchant Navy personnel, 257 military personnel including 65 medical staff with some from the 113th Australian General Hospital (now Concord Hospital) and 192 members of the 2/12 Australian Army Field Ambulance.

On Friday 14 May 1943 the Centaur was steaming a course 24 miles east north east of Point Lookout on Stradbroke Island in fine and clear weather when without warning at approximately 4am she was struck by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine.

The torpedo struck on the port side causing the ship to catch fire and sink within minutes. Most of the crew and army personnel were asleep at the time so there was little chance to escape.

Of the 332 persons on board, only 64 survived. These survivors spent 35 hours on rafts before being rescued. Sister Ellen Savage, the only one of twelve nursing sisters on board to survive, was later awarded the George Medal for her help to the other survivors.

The above photo shows survivors marching in a special parade held to celebrate Victory in the Pacific in Melbourne on 24 August 1945.

The wreck of the Centaur was discovered in December 2009 and the site declared an official war grave.

On 13 May 1990 the Centaur Memorial Window in the Hospital's foyer was established by members of the community in memory of the Centaur and those who lost their lives.

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