AHS Centaur
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AHS Centaur has been found!



At approximately 4.10am on Friday 14 May 1943 the hospital ship A.H.S. Centaur, ablaze with lights and clearly marked with red crosses, was torpedoed by Japanese submarine I-177 south east of Cape Moreton. Of the 322 persons on board, only 64 survived.

Serving aboard were 12 nurses. All were lost with the exception of:

Sister Nell Savage.
In the book Guns and Brooches (Jan Bassett, Oxford University press, Australia, 1992. ISBN 0 19 554084 0) she is quoted (p.167) as writing:
"...my cabin mate, Merle Moston (sic) and myself were awakened by two terrific explosions and practically thrown out of bed. Sister Moston and I were so shocked we did not even speak, but I registered mentally that it was a torpedo explosion."

Sister Savage was badly injured, the book continues, when she was sucked down with the sinking ship. She suffered fractured ribs, nose and palate, perforated ear drums and bruises. She hid these injuries from fellow survivors while she attended to the wounded and dying. She was later awarded the George Medal.


Nurses lost in the sinking were: 
Matron Sarah Jewell . Margaret Adams . Helen Haultain . Evelyn King . Mary McFarlane . Merle Mostyn . Alice O'Donnell . Ellen Rutherford . Edna Shaw . Jennie Walker . Doris Joyce Wyllie

Sister Mary Hamilton McFarlane:
(Information supplied by her school friend and nursing colleague Mary Gibson.
It was also published in Hundred Years of Nursing in South Australia, 1835 to 1935)
Mary McFarlane lost her life whilst on duty on the hospital ship Centaur. She was educated at Walford House School in Adelaide, South Australia. McFarlane came from a distinguished family, travelled extensively and, in July 1939, had the honour of being presented at Court in London. She arrived back in Australia at the outbreak of WW2. Prior to her travels McFarlane had already commenced her nursing training at the Cowell District Hospital and transferred to the Royal Adelaide Hospital to complete her studies. She tied there for 1st place and continued duties as a staff sister. On returning from England she gained her midwifery certificate at Paddington, achieving 1st place, and while there applied for duty with the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS). Early in 1941 she served at the  Wayville and Woodside hospitals, after which she was selected to be liaison sister aboard the AHS Oranje.
She made 4 voyages on the Oranje, serving throughout the East Indies. Returning to Australia, she spent some time at hospital camps while the AHS Centaur was being equipped. On her 2nd voyage pout, the Centaur was torpedoed and Sister McFarlane lost her life. Given the brilliant start to her careerm ther eis no doubt that she would have made a significant contribution to the nursing profession, had she survived the war.
Her old school friend Mary Gibson, who contributed to this and other pages, described her as "a lovely girl, very pleasant to everyone and a very good nurse".
(Extracts from "Patchwork" July 1943, the magazine of Presbyterian Ladies College, Melbourne and 
reproduced with the kind permission of the college. First printed in "The Messenger".) 
"Sister Margaret Lamont Adams, lost when the hospital ship Centaur was torpedoed, was the elder daughter of the late Mr. T.L. Adams and Mrs. Adams of East Malvern... She was a student at P.L.C. (Melbourne) from 1928 till 1930 when she reached the Honour standard... 

"Sister Adams had all the training and equipment of a highly qualified nurse but possessed, in addition, high courage and a strong and enduring faith. She nursed in the Children's and the Women's Hospitals, and also at St. George's Hospital, Kew. She enlisted in 1941 and saw service between Australia and the Middle East on the hospital ship Oranje. After that ship was transferred from the Australian service, Sister Adams was chosen as one of the nursing staff on the Centaur. Her loss comes with peculiar poignancy... she has left to a wide circle of friends the priceless memory of a beautiful life." 

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The AHS Centaur Newslerrer of November 2001 quotes:
Survivor George McGrath
NX33029, Driver, AASC Attached 2.12th Field Ambulance, AIF:
"It was about midnight when we were startled by the sudden roar of engines, prompting Banks to say, 'It's a submarine, up to charge its batteries.' I was able to make out the outline of a vessel showing a red light. One of the survivors, thinking it might be a friendly submarine, lit a flare which Banks immediately extingiuished in the water. The sub crash dived, much to our relief, as Banks expected to see a search light and to be machine gunned. Nothing more was heard or seen of the submarine. It was bitterly cold..."
McGrath recalled that although there were reputed to be supplies contained in the upturned lifeboat on which he was balanced, no-one was willing to risk volunteering to right the boat because of the many circling and aggressive sharks.

Friends and families of AHS Centaur victims and survivors can contact the AHS Centaur Association.
Just click here to e-mail.

The remains of AHS Centaur are classified as an historic shipwreck and the site is covered by the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act of 1986.

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Centaur 1  . Centaur 2
The Bangka Island massacre  .  The Tol Plantation massacre  .  Betty Jeffrey  . J.E. Simons  .  Lest We Forget  .
The prisoners of Rabaul The Vyner Brooke sinking  . Wilma Oram Young  . Vivian Bullwinkel
. The Wah Sui Incident  . Civilian nursing teams in Vietnam  . The voyage of the Empire Star  . Vunapope Mission  . Bravery of the Indigenous Sisters

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