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April 14, 2011
SQNLDR Paul Lineham
ON DECEMBER 20, 2009, the wreck
of the hospital ship Centaur was dis-
covered off Moreton island on the
southern Queensland coast.
Centaur was torpedoed by the
Japanese submarine I-177 at 4.10am
on May 14, 1943. It sank in three
Only 64 of the ship's comple-
ment of 332 survived. With only some
debris, a lifeboat and some damaged
liferafts to sustain them, they drift-
ed in the water for almost 36 hours
before being discovered.
Their discovery was an absolute
stroke of luck or providence.
The tale of their discovery may
never have been told but for some
sleuthing by 23SQN's historian
WOFF George Hatchman after he
saw an old wooden propeller with a
The plaque read "Presented to
71SQN, RAAF Lowood by the survi-
vors of the AHS Centaur. Torpedoed
14.5.43. Lest We Forget".
WOFF Hatchman's research led to
retired GPCAPT Jack Keith, living in
At the time of the sinking, Mr
Keith was a 20-year-old FLTLT
who was the navigator/observer in
a 71SQN Avro Anson, which was
escorting the freighter Sussex and the
escort destroyer USS Mugford.
Mr Keith said it was about 1.45pm
on May 15 and the Anson was flying
at about 1000 feet off the Queensland
Keith's lucky 64
coast. "We were patrolling mainly
from the front but at the end of our
time on sortie so we came around the
back to do an antisubmarine sweep,"
"As we then turned back towards
the convoy, we saw a discoloration
in the water well to the south, so we
turned back for a look."
He saw a lifeboat, people in the
water and a white sign with one word
painted in black: Centaur.
"As soon as we saw it was the
Centaur, a hospital ship, we thought
'well, flaming Charlie, things are
a bit rough; they shouldn't do such
things'," he said.
"We flew back to the Mugford and
signalled her with the Aldis lamp to
He said the 64 survivors were very
lucky they had been spotted that day.
"If we hadn't have seen them I
don't think there would have been
a future for them because the con-
voy had gone out, and there wouldn't
have been any other ships around
there for seven days, so it was a case
of luck, really, for those people in the
I READ with interest the article relat-
ing to the Caretakers Cottage at Point
Cook in the last edition of Air Force
News (March 31) written by CPL Aaron
William Lord and Delia Lord were
my great grandparents and my father
Grahame was born in the Caretakers
Cottage in 1916. The family yarn is
that my father was named after one of
the Grahame-White aircraft as the CO
Eric Harrison of Point Cook suggested
to my grandmother that it was a fine
aircraft and would make a fine name
for her newborn son.
I am glad to know that this piece of
family history still remains and I hope
in the near future to visit Point Cook
and with a bit of luck visit the cottage
that my father was born in.
Note: The Caretakers Cottage was first
occupied in 1915 by William Lord and
his family. Mr Smith's father Grahame --
William Lord's grandson -- was born one
year later in the cottage.
Letter to the editor
More than just
Air Force history
in this cottage
with his log entry of
the sighting of the
survivors. Photo courtesy
SQNLDR Paul Lineham
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