Centaur could be found

Centaur Hospital Ship image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial, accession no. 302800.
Centaur Hospital Ship image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial, accession no. 302800.

FINDING the wreckage of the hospital ship the Centaur will help grieving families move on, veteran merchant seamen Warren Keats and David Jeanes say.

Some 268 servicemen, merchant seamen and field ambulance staff lost their lives 65 years ago today, when a Japanese submarine fired on the hospital ship as it passed Stradbroke Island on the Gold Coast, and since then the exact location of the wreckage has remained a mystery.

But the campaign to find the shipwreck has gained momentum after another of Australia's great maritime mysteries - the location of the HMAS Sydney - was solved, giving relatives and World War II veterans like Mr Keats and Mr Jeanes renewed hope that the final resting place of the Centaur will one day be known.

"It is one of the greatest tragedies of World War II and the Japanese were condemned for firing on the Centaur when it had protection under the Geneva Convention," said Mr Keats, who was part of a committee instrumental in installing a memorial to the Centaur at Point Danger.

"The Centaur Association, that represents the families of the dead, has been calling for the site to be found for some time, and since the mystery around the HMAS Sydney has been solved, it no longer seems an impossibility.

"But if they do find it I think the site should be treated as a war grave, and the wreck left where it is as a memorial to the dead."

Banora Point veteran David Jeanes, who served in the Norwegian Merchant Navy during WWII, said the Centaur sinking was one of the darkest moments in Australia's wartime history.

He said the Centaur Association had been in contact with shipwreck hunter David Mearns, who found the HMAS Sydney off Western Australia, and said from ship records the Centaur is believed to be in water less than two kilometres deep.

"It needs to be found and preserved, because it is an important part of Australia's history," Mr Jeanes said.

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