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THE discovery of the wreck of the
Australian Hospital Ship Centaur
will enable families of the Australians
on board the ship to know the resting
place of their loved ones, 66 years
after she was sunk north east of
A phone hotline has been estab-
lished to assist relatives of those who
were on board the ship when it was
sunk in 1943. Relatives can now call
1800 019 955 to receive information
about a memorial service, which will
be held in March 2010.
A website also has details about the
memorial service and includes details
of how relatives can register to receive
more information about the memorial
service scheduled for March 2.
The website can be found at http://
February 18, 2010
Comfort for loved ones
Memorial to be held next month
to commemorate AHS Centaur
TIME TO REMEMBER: Images of
the Centaur deep in the ocean.
Photos: MAJ Arthur Dugdale
History of the AHS Centaur
BUILT at Scotland's
in 1924, the 3222 ton
Australian Hospital Ship
Centaur served as a cargo
ship on the run between
Singapore and Fremantle
before World War II.
Her shallow draft and
simple design made her ideal
for conversion to a hospital
ship following the beginning
of hostilities in Papua New
She was commissioned
as Australian Hospital Ship
Centaur (AHS47) on March 12,
In May 1943 the Centaur
steamed from Sydney with 332
personnel on board, including
medical staff, field ambulance
personnel and her crew of
Sydney was a city in fear.
Long-range Japanese sub-
marines had attacked the
harbour using midget subma-
rines and launched aircraft to
conduct surveillance on the
One submarine, I-177, had
surfaced off shore and shelled
Sydney with her deck gun
before submerging and head-
ing north toward Brisbane.
The Japanese sub pack had
hunted down a number of
merchant ships along the east
coast, and I-177 was waiting
ast of Moreton Island as the
Centaur steamed north during
he night of May 13, 1943.
In accordance with the
ague Conventions, the
Centaur was clearly identifi-
ble as a hospital ship, being
ainted white and marked
with large red crosses.
She was fully lit and her
oyage had been well publi-
ised through neutral diplo-
matic channels, yet the pre-
cautions served only to make
her an easier target when, at
4.10am on May 14,1943, the
Japanese submarine torpe-
doed the hospital ship.
The ship exploded, prob-
The death toll was the
highest of any merchant ves-
sel sunk by a submarine in the
Pacific theatre of war.
Of the 332 persons on
board, only 64 survived.
TRAGEDY: AHS Centaur was
sunk by a Japanese sub on
May 14, 1943.
AN ERA has ended at the Fleet Air
Arm (FAA) with the passing of LCDR
Bob 'Windy' Geale (Rtd), just weeks
after being recognised at HMAS
Albatross Ceremonial Divisions with a
Commander FAA Commendation.
As a young Canadian Naval Airman
2nd Class, LCDR Geale graduated in 1944
from Number 59 Royal Navy Telegraph/
Air Gunners' Course at HMS St Vincent.
He flew the Fairey Barracuda torpedo-
bomber from the carrier HMS Formidable
in 1946 and, over the next four years, he
flew the Firefly and the Mosquito, serving
in Ceylon and Northern Ireland and flying
from the RN carriers Colossus, Triumph
He transferred to the Royal Canadian
Navy in 1950 and opened the second
chapter of his flying career, qualify-
ing as an observer and being promoted
to LCDR. The Canadian Navy carriers
HMCS Magnificent and Bonaventure
were two of Windy's ships, as was HMCS
Terra Nova for his bridge watchkeeping
training upon being commissioned.
The final chapter in LCDR Geale's fly-
ing career was in Australia after he trans-
ferred to the RAN as a Tracker TACCO
(tactical coordinator) in 1969. He went
on to be the senior observer in both 851
and 816 Squadrons (HMAS Melbourne
II) and, in 1978, served as the CO of 851
He retired in 1985 after nearly 43
years service in three navies, only to
begin his voluntary role with the FAA
Museum with barely a break in service.
LCDR Geale was held in the highest
regard by everyone he knew.
LEGEND: LCDR Bob 'Windy' Geale
receives his FAA Commendation.
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