Phyllis Butcher lost her brother on the AHS Centaur. D124641a
Phyllis Butcher lost her brother on the AHS Centaur. D124641a

Centaur wreck to stay sacred

SISTERS of a Murwillumbah-born soldier who died on the AHS Centaur hope their brother’s final resting place can now remain undisturbed.

Phyllis Butcher, 84, and Jean Mooney, 87, sisters of Private William Thomas Lawson, this past week took comfort when they learned a 200-hectare protection zone had been instated by the federal government around the Centaur to protect against souvenir hunters.

“That’s very good, it’s wonderful,” Mrs Butcher said.

“It deserves to be protected and left undisturbed from now.”

The Centaur was sunk by a Japanese submarine off the Queensland coast during World War II in 1943.

Only 64 of the 332 people on board survived.

Photos released of the wreck two weeks ago showed the Centaur’s final resting place after being lost for nearly 67 years.

“It was very sad to see the photos but at the same time we were relieved they finally found it,” Mrs Butcher said.

“It was still very interesting to see but now it should be left undisturbed.”

The two sisters still live in the same house they grew up in with their brother.

Following their brother’s death they did everything they could to carry on his legacy.

They attended public functions in honour of the hospital ship whenever they were held at Centaur Public School in Banora Point up until a year ago.

Private William Thomas Lawson was born October 2, 1919, in Murwillumbah.

He enlisted in the Australian Armed Forces on November 28, 1941, in Paddington.

He was an ambulance driver before the sinking of the Centaur.

He died aged 22.

Private William Thomas LawsonActing federal heritage minister Penny Wong said the Historic Shipwrecks Act allowed the government to impose the protected area.

“The legal protection of the Centaur and its associated relics from damage, disturbance or removal is of paramount importance,” Ms Wong said.

British shipwreck hunter David Mearns, who led the $4 million commonwealth and state government funded mission, said the Centaur was a “fascinating” wreck to examine.

“We did this just in time,” Mr Mearns said.

“Probably in 10 or 15, 20 years, all the paintwork on the vessel that really gave it that iconic look - the white background, the red cross, the green band - will be gone.”

The next job for the Centaur taskforce is to organise memorial services.



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