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October 14, 2010
the WWII sinking of Centaur
By Graham Davis
"WHEN Centaur began to sink
she took me down with her, down
into No 4 hatch," Centaur survivor
Martin Pash says.
"I think I was 120 feet beneath
the surface when I kicked
upwards; I could still see
some lights. I let some of
the air out of my lungs half
way up and broke into the
"I was swallowing oil
and water," he says.
Martin, one of only 64 to
survive the sinking, and one of only
two still alive today, told Navy News
Born in 1921, he told of how he
went to sea on Port Melbourne when
just 13. He joined the Merchant Navy
six years later, and at age 20 joined
"She had a Merchant Navy crew...
our master was Captain Murray,"
"I was a steward.
"On the night of the sinking I
was asleep in the bow when the
"I got out but the ship then began
to sink. It sucked me down with it...
through the No 4 hatch," he said.
Martin said when he reached the
surface there was nothing to hang
"I swam the length of the ship
until I found a raft.
"I was the first to
climb on board... three
more people joined me
"Then three or four
more rafts arrived and
we tied them together.
Many of the survivors
were badly burnt.
"One of them died so we had to
bury him at sea," Martin said.
He praised nursing Sister Ellen
Savage (the only nurse of 12 on
board to survive), who despite her
own serious injuries and fractures,
treated the wounded on the rafts.
Sister Savage subsequently was
awarded the George Cross, became
the matron of the Royal Newcastle
Hospital and has a nurse training
facility in Queensland named after
"We were adrift for 36 hours,"
"We could hear planes search-
ing for us but there was a low cloud
layer -- they couldn't see us.
"Then the destroyer the USS
"Her crew dropped nets over the
side and we scrambled up those,"
Martin continued to serve in the
Merchant Navy until the end of the
"After coming ashore in 1945
I bought a truck and then operated
a transport business for the next 32
years," he said.
Turning 89 in November,
Martin now resides in the
Melbourne suburb of Ivanhoe.
ONE OF TWO: Martin Pash,
one of only two surviving
members of AHS Centaur,
attended the ceremony on
board HMAS Manoora. It has
been 67 years since he was
last over these waters.
Photos: CPL Christopher Dickson
Centaur survivor Martin
Pash was on-hand to
recall the events of that
me 120 feet
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