This is a photograph of the Australian Hospital Ship Centaur. Note the big cross and the number 47 on the hull - they are Red Cross markings that indicate to other ships and aircraft that Centaur is a hospital ship and therefore carries only wounded service personnel and medical staff. In fact, under The Hague convention, a hospital ship should provide aid to wounded personnel of any nationality. Centaur had done just that in 1941 when it rescued survivors of the German ship Kormoran that had been sunk by HMAS Sydney.
Regrettably the markings on the hull did not stop a Japanese submarine from firing a torpedo at Centaur just north of Brisbane on 12 May 1943, sinking it and causing the loss of more than 250 lives. Sixty-four survived, being picked up at sea after enduring 35 hours clinging to life rafts or debris. The only one of twelve nursing sisters to survive was Sister Ellen Savage who provided care to many of the survivors even though she herself had been injured. Sister Savage was awarded the George Medal.
Attacking a hospital ship is deemed to be a war crime under The Hague Convention, but the Japanese never admitted any culpability in the sinking of Centaur, and no-one was ever tried for their part in it. However, the commander of the Japanese submarine that was believed by most researchers to have committed the atrocity was later jailed as a war criminal for his actions in another incident.
For many years after the war people wondered about the final resting place of Centaur. In 1968 the Rotary Club of Caloundra unveiled this monument to AHS Centaur near Kings Beach in an area now known as Centaur Park. It overlooks the approximate direction of where the ship was sunk.
In December 2009 an experienced team of people led by David Mearns discovered Centaur's remains in deep water about 30 nautical miles east of the southern tip of Moreton Island. It was lying only about one nautical mile from the last co-ordinates that had been communicated by the ship's navigator. The site has been protected by the federal government and will remain undisturbed in remembrance of those who perished, and a memorial plaque has been placed on her deck.
Click here for a Google Map.