Nurses lost in WW2 hospital ship sinking remembered

The roles of Australian nurses in conflict will be remembered this Sunday 15 May during a ceremony in Bathurst to mark the sinking of the Australian Hospital Ship (AHS) Centaur in 1943.

The commemorative service focuses on the anniversary of the sinking Centaur off Queensland’s Moreton Island in May, 1943 with the loss of 268 lives, including 11 Army nurses.

The AHS Centaur was heading up the east coast of Australia to Papua New Guinea to pick up wounded soldiers. It was torpedoed early in the morning and sank within minutes.

Sixty-four people survived including one nurse, Sister Ellen Savage. The survivors spent 35 hours in the water before being rescued by USS Mugford.

CSU Professor of Nursing Linda Shields said, “Though injured herself, Sister Savage helped others and was later awarded the George Medal for her bravery and courage.

“Sister Savage’s actions personify what we are commemorating with this Service, dedicated to all nurses, both military and civilian, who have died while serving others. We know about the military nurses, finding civilian nurses is a little harder.

“However, we do know about nurses who died when volunteering to care for patients with plague, or in the great influenza pandemic after World War 1, or in accidents when transporting patients by air. It is all these nurses who we will remember and celebrate on Sunday 15 May.”

Professor Shields is a member of the Centaur Memorial Fund for Nurses. It was established after the disaster, to support nurses. The Fund provides awards and scholarships for nurses including an annual scholarship for research by higher degrees.

The Commemorative Service for Nurses will be held from 4.30pm in the All Saint’s Anglican Cathedral, Church Street in Bathurst.

It is being co-hosted by the CSU School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health, the Dean of Bathurst, The Rev. Anne Wentzel, Bathurst Hospital, the Australian College of Nursing and the Centaur Memorial Fund for Nurses.

Members of the public are invited to attend the service. Medals, uniforms, and academic dress may be worn. For further information, please contact Professor Shields: ls******@cs*.au

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