Year 12 history paper chosen for war archive

History buff: Alex Roberts made a convincing argument that World war II hospital ship the centaur was not a legitimate war target: "Hospital ships are protected under the Geneva Convention; however, the Japanese submarine captain was getting towards the end of his tour of duty and had only sunk one [Japanese] ship, so he was desperate to redeem himself," he said. Picture: Gene Ramirez

History buff: Alex Roberts made a convincing argument that World war II hospital ship the centaur was not a legitimate war target: "Hospital ships are protected under the Geneva Convention; however, the Japanese submarine captain was getting towards the end of his tour of duty and had only sunk one [Japanese] ship, so he was desperate to redeem himself," he said. Picture: Gene Ramirez

Alex Roberts' deep interest in military history has landed him a historic achievement of his own.

The North Rocks resident, 18, is the youngest person to have a research article accepted into the Australian War Memorial archives in Canberra.

The 130-page paper that The King's School graduate wrote for year 12 elective history, on the controversial sinking of World War II hospital ship the Centaur, is now nationally accessible as an electronic resource.

About 265 non-combat personnel including doctors, nurses, pathologists and merchant sailors were killed when the ship was attacked by a Japanese submarine and sunk 90 kilometres off the coast of southern Queensland in May, 1943.

"There are many conspiracy theories that the Centaur was actually a legitimate war target because it was carrying weapons," Mr Roberts said.

"However, I researched it and there was no evidence to suggest there were any weapons on the ship at all.

"It was mainly doing what it was meant to, which was carrying medical supplies and troops up to New Guinea.

"Talking to relatives of people on the ship was the most interesting part of the research process.

"The vice-principal in the preparatory section of the school I went to, his great-uncle was on the Centaur, which was quite amazing. It was a very lucky resource."

Mr Roberts also used the reports of salvage divers, interviews with relatives of those on board and newspaper articles about the sinking to disprove that the ship carried weapons.

He is in the first year of an environmental management degree at Macquarie University and will use a $250 scholarship he received from the Arthur Phillip Historical Society to cover the cost of textbooks.

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