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Jeff Thorpe
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Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 3:54 pm


Post by Jeff Thorpe » Mon May 11, 2020 11:58 am

This coming Thursday 14 May marks the 77th anniversary of the sinking of the Australian Hospital Ship Centaur by Japanese submarine I 177. The location of the wreck was not discovered until Decempber 2009, 30 nautical miles east of Moreton Island. Similarly, HMAS Sydney was sunk in 1941 by a German raider off the WA coast and its wreckage was found only shortly before that of Centaur. This poem tells the story of both ships.

The Centaur and the Sydney

(c) Jeff Thorpe 2014

At last there is some closure, the mystery has been solved
with the Centaur’s final resting place located.
The search created headlines, much technology involved,
discovery perhaps not contemplated.

Yet, knowing where the ship does lie is little consolation
for 268 who lost their lives the morn
of May 14 in ’43 when outrage swept our nation,
Centaur torpedoed just before the dawn.

The uninformed may shrug and say this was an act of war
where ships of all combatants are fair game.
However, Centaur’s sinking saw much to answer for,
it a floating hospital, unarmed and surely tame.

All lights ablaze and red cross marks meant little to the sub
that sank the Centaur with no trace of pity.
A cruel and bitter episode remembrance cannot scrub,
though war is never ever seen as pretty.

I 177 sent Centaur to the ocean floor,
confirmation not revealed until years later.
Poetic justice came to pass though in 1944,
sub sunk, with all crew judged by their creator.

There is a touch of irony that’s seen in Centaur’s history,
to link with HMAS Sydney’s sinking,
location of both ships a long held ocean mystery,
a likeness there to set some minds a thinking.

Sydney was sunk in ’41 by Kormoron a German raider,
Kormoron too, did not survive the battle.
All Sydney’s hands were lost but, not so the invader,
survivors rounded up like wayward cattle.

Of many ships that saved the German sailors from their fate
the Centaur’s rescue role played no small part.
It’s poignant then that Centaur soon would match Sydney’s state,
sunk but, nowhere placed on any chart.

As mentioned, new technology has found Centaur’s grave
and formerly, Sydney’s and Kormoron’s too.
Wreaths put in place to float with motion of each wave,
respecting those who did not make it through.

While there’s satisfaction at least the wrecks were found,
the wounds now decades later are still sore,
even now the whole world over, conflicts still abound,
we’ve yet to learn futility of war.

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Shelley Hansen
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Joined: Sun May 04, 2014 5:39 pm
Location: Maryborough, Queensland


Post by Shelley Hansen » Wed May 20, 2020 11:25 am

A well-chronicled account of a sad time in history, Jeff.

Yes, indeed - humankind still doesn't learn!
Shelley Hansen
Lady of Lines

"Look fer yer profits in the 'earts o' friends,
fer 'atin' never paid no dividends."
(CJ Dennis "The Mooch o' Life")

Jeff Thorpe
Posts: 347
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 3:54 pm


Post by Jeff Thorpe » Fri May 22, 2020 1:16 pm

Thanks Shelley

Yes, nothing much's changed - and now we have health crises as well

Regards, Jeff

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Maureen K Clifford
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Location: Ipswich - Paul Pisasale country and home of the Ipswich Poetry Feast


Post by Maureen K Clifford » Sat May 23, 2020 6:36 pm

Good one Jeff and nicely crafted - you woven the story and the verse together well - I am a bit of asucker for this kind of poetry as you may have gathered. I always reckon that if history had been taught via the medium of poetry more of us might have remembered it.. I enjoyed the read, and the history lesson. Thank you
Check out The Scribbly Bark Poets blog site here -

I may not always succeed in making a difference, but I will go to my grave knowing I at least tried.

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Post by Terry » Sun May 24, 2020 12:14 pm

Hi Jeff

As Shelley has written you have covered the stories well - it's history that should not be forgotten.

Your poem brings back a memory of sitting around a campfire at Lake Darlow (WA) and hearing a strange story about the Sydney.
I wrote a poem about it called 'Farewell my Love' and I will post it later for anyone who's interested.
I'm not sure if an early version was posted in the past, but will post the most recent one anyway.
I have no way of knowing how factual the story is, I heard the story in the late Seventies long before the Sydney was found.

Cheers Jeff - Like Maureen I enjoyed the poem and the history lesson as well..


Jeff Thorpe
Posts: 347
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 3:54 pm


Post by Jeff Thorpe » Wed May 27, 2020 3:12 pm

Thanks Maureen and Terry for your interest.

Maureen, you would probably know there is a memorial park to the Centaur on a headland at Caloundra on Qld's Sunshine Coast. It was after visiting this site in 2014 that I wrote this poem which has been well received by all to whom I've shown it.

Terry, I'll move on to read "Farewell my Love" which I see you've now posted.

Regards, Jeff

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