Title: Australian Hospital Ship Centaur – The Myth of Immunity
Author: Milligan, Christopher and Foley, John
Edition: 1st Edition
Publication Date: 1993
Cover: Hard Cover without Dust Jacket (Laminated boards) – 340 pages
Comments: A detailed account of the sinking of the Australian Hospital Ship Centaur during World War II.
Australian Hospital Ship (AHS) Centaur was a hospital ship which was attacked and sunk by a Japanese submarine off the coast of Queensland, Australia, on 14 May 1943. Of the 332 medical personnel and civilian crew aboard, 268 were killed.
The Scottish-built vessel was launched in 1924 as a combination passenger liner/freighter and operated a trade route between Western Australia and Singapore via Indonesia, carrying passengers, cargo, and livestock. Centaur served in both civilian and military capabilities during her career, and she was involved in recovering German survivors of the engagement between Kormoran and HMAS Sydney.
Following her early-1943 conversion to a hospital ship, Centaur served as a medical transport between New Guinea and Australia. Before dawn on 14 May 1943, while on her second voyage, Centaur was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine off North Stradbroke Island, Queensland. The majority of the 332 aboard died in the attack; the 64 survivors had to wait for 36 hours before they were rescued. The attack resulted in public outrage as it was considered to be a war crime. Protests were made by the Australian and British governments to Japan and efforts were made to discover the people responsible so they could be tried at a war crimes tribunal. Despite this, it was not until the 1970s that identity of the attacking submarine, I-177, became public.
The reason for the attack is unknown, and the events surrounding the sinking of Centaur are controversial because it has been attested that she may have been in breach of the international conventions that should have protected her. Claims of discovery were made in 1995, but the wreck was later proven to be another ship. The wreck of Centaur was found on 20 December 2009.