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October 14, 2010
By Graham Davis
HMAS Manoora (CMDR Stephen Dryden), has
helped bring closure to families affected by the
wartime sinking of Australian Hospital Ship (AHS)
For 67 years loved ones have grieved and pondered
the final resting place of the 268 men and women who
went down with Centaur off the Queensland coast dur-
ing World War II.
The hospital ship was torpedoed by Japanese sub-
marine I-177 early on the morning of May 14, 1943. Of
the 332 souls on board, only 64 survived the attack -- the
highest death toll of any merchant vessel sunk by a sub-
marine in the Pacific theatre.
The ship's wreckage now lies in over 2000m of
water, around 50km east of Moreton Island.
At 1:00pm on Friday, September 24, Manoora hove
to above Centaur's final resting place, playing host to
340 family members and friends of the victims. One-by-
one, or in groups, they moved to the ship's rail, said a
prayer and threw wreaths into the sea.
One mourner simply threw a card.
Others moved to the stern to dispatch family ashes
into the ocean. They will now join those below.
It was a time of tears, hugs, and questions: "Why did
a Japanese submarine attack a ship so clearly marked as
a hospital ship, a ship of mercy?"
And as the officiating clergy, Padre Jim Cosgrove,
so aptly told the 340 family members and friends who
had gathered on the flight deck for the memorial service,
"This is the first opportunity to visit the grave of your
"Today you will finally say goodbye to that person,"
Padre Cosgrove said.
The memorial service had its genesis after the wreck-
age of HMAS Sydney (II) was located off the Western
A number of organisations, including the Centaur
Association, believed 'If they can find Sydney they can
The Queensland and Federal Governments took the
search for Centaur on board, provided funds and in
December 2009 the hospital ship was detected by sonar,
Manoora helps bring closure on
and later filmed as she sat, largely intact,
on the seabed.
In March an initial memorial service
was held in Brisbane, but it was felt loved
ones needed an opportunity to pay final
respects at the site where the ship was
lost.Well before dawn on September 24,
seven coaches collected the relatives and
friends. Some had come from as far away
as Atlanta, Georgia.
All on board, Manoora headed to sea
under escort by a Queensland Police ves-
sel.However the LPA had an en route
She headed north to come in close to
the Caloundra headland where a land-
based memorial service was being held at
that city's Centaur memorial.
Along the way relatives were invited
to relate, via a roving interviewer, their
losses and their experiences.
The ship then turned south-east until it
reached the wreck site.
As she came to the site LS Troy
Winter went to Manoora's bell and tolled
it 268 times -- once for each of the vic-
As prayers were read and hymns sung
the solemnity of the occasion became
ABCTL Elise Coward read a prayer
for seafarers and said, "Today especially,
Lord, as we remember those who crewed
the AHS Centaur, bless and keep all sea-
farers in your loving care".
The Lord's Prayer and The Ode then
followed with Centaur relative Andy
Aitchison rendering The Last Post.
Among others to dispatch tributes to
the ocean was CMDR Dryden. He was
joined at the rail by MAJ Scott Lymbery,
who commands Manoora's 18-member
CMDR Dryden said he was deeply
honoured to have been able to take the
families to sea for the service.
Service completed, Manoora turned
back to the Brisbane River and the
Cairnscross docks at Bulimba, where the
coaches awaited to return the guests to
THE primary casualty care and treatment unit
on HMAS Manoora -- its hospital -- has been
named the 'Centaur Ward' in honour of Australian
Hospital Ship (AHS) Centaur, sunk by the
Japanese in 1943.
The ship's Commanding Officer, CMDR Stephen
Dryden, announced the naming of the unit to loud
applause by a contingent of 340 family members and
friends of Centaur victims, on board for a memorial
service held off Moreton Island, Qld, on September
24. CMDR Dryden said the decision had been made
that day but followed requests from members of the
ship's company for it to happen.
"I am very pleased and proud to accept the
request and announce that it shall be called the
'Centaur Ward'," CMDR Dryden said.
Manoora has a 40-bed casualty treatment and
care facility. It also has two operating tables.
"There are eight high-dependency beds and 32
standard beds in the unit," he told Navy News.
The unit also carries the latest in surgical equip-
Nominally the unit carries a staff of medics but
they are boosted by nurses and doctors during times
of major exercises or deployments.
A full team of 30 casualty treatment personnel
will board the ship and participate in amphibious
exercises involving hundreds of Army and RAN
personnel in Queensland during late September and
SHARED TRIBUTE: HMAS Manoora CO,
CMDR Dryden, and SAD OC, MAJ Scott
Lymbery, throw a wreath over the location of
the wreck of AHS Centaur.
MOVING SERVICE: AHS Centaur and its crew are remembered during a service of thanksgiving on board HMAS Manoora.
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