Anne Coutts will always remember the last time she saw her father. “I was five,” she said. “I was sitting by my mother and my brother Jim was sitting on his knee sipping his tea, and that was the last time.”
Her father, Sergeant William McDougall, was killed when the hospital ship Centaur was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine off the coast of Queensland during the Second World War.
The white-hulled vessel was ablaze with lights, its red crosses clearly visible, when it was attacked just before dawn on 14 May 1943, while most people on board were asleep.
Anne’s father was on his way to New Guinea with the 2/12 Field Ambulance when the torpedo struck Centaur's port side, hitting the oil fuel tank and igniting a massive explosion. In just three minutes, Centaur was gone. Of the 332 people on board, only 64 survived. They were discovered 36 hours later.