Clem MacMahon, president of the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum, with at a model of the AHS Centaur on display at the museum. One of his WWII navy colleagues lost a sister who was a nurse serving on the Centaur when she was sunk by a Japanese submarine in 1943.
Clem MacMahon, president of the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum, with at a model of the AHS Centaur on display at the museum. One of his WWII navy colleagues lost a sister who was a nurse serving on the Centaur when she was sunk by a Japanese submarine in 1943. Doug Eaton

Tragic ties to Centaur

THE sinking of Australian hospital ship Centaur during World War II is an event retired Navy lieutenant Clem MacMahon, of Ballina, will never forget.

The wreck of the ship, torpedoed by a Japanese submarine on May 14, 1943, was discovered on December 20 last year, 48km east of the southern tip of Moreton Island at a depth of 2059 metres.

Only 64 of the 332 people on board survived.

At the weekend the first underwater images of the wreck were released by UK-based shipwreck hunter David Mearns, confirming the discovery was authentic.

Mr MacMahon was serving in Darwin at the time of the tragedy.

“We were in complete horror,” he said.

“It was a clearly marked hospital ship.”

One of his navy colleagues, Theodore Haultain, lost his sister, a nurse, on the Centaur. She is identified on the ship’s crew list as Sister H F Haultain.

Mr MacMahon said he hoped the discovery would come as a relief to the families of those who went down with the ship.

“It is a significant war grave,” he said about the find.

Four Casino men were on board the Centaur during the attack, according to local historian Bill Bartier.

Private John Moran, Private James Doherty and Private Herbert Lyneham, all of the 2/12th unit of the Field of Ambulance, drowned.

Private Moran has two sisters, Mary and Frances, both Catholic nuns based at Casino.

A fourth Casino man, Private GL Murphy, survived the sinking suffering shock and exposure.



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