Northern Territory Government

Roll of Honour

EMMS, Francis Basett


Leading Cook Francis Emms (18984) was born in Launceston, Tasmania, on 28 November 1909. He joined the Royal Australian Navy on 14 March 1928, initially training to become an Ordinary Seaman. He was promoted to Able Seaman two years later and then qualified with a gunnery rating.

With his eyesight failing, Emms transferred to Supply Branch where he re-trained as a Cook (Officers) in 1937 and was eventually promoted to Leading Cook (Officers). Emms sailed with a number of ships during his service, including HMAS Canberra, Australia, Vendetta, Brisbane, Sydney, Stuart, Swan, Kara Kara, Cerberus, Penguin, Waterhen and Melville. He also served at a number of navy bases and depots.

HMAS Kara Kara operated as a boom gate vessel maintaining Darwin’s boom defences during the war. During the Japanese air raid on Darwin, Kara Kara came under heavy attack and two crew members were killed by machine gun fire. Leading Cook Emms was declared dead when carried onboard HMAHS Manunda by the Coxswain of Kara Kara.

He was thirty-two years old and left behind a wife, Mrs Sylvia Rosetta Emms, and an eight and a half year old child, Helen Rae Emms, who resided in North Sydney.

EMMS, Francis Bassett "Dick"
Leading cook Francis Bassett 'Dick' Emms

In official Navy files, his character was assessed as 'very good'. He was posthumously awarded an MID (Mention in Dispatches) for Courage and Devotion during the air raid on Darwin. His citation reads:

'For courage and devotion to duty in action. Whilst seriously wounded he continued to fire his machine gun on HMAS Kara Kara during a continuous machine gun attack by enemy aircraft thereby probably saving the ship and many of the ship’s company. He eventually succumbed to his injuries.'

As a tribute to Australian World War II veterans, Defence Housing Authority Darwin has named the three Vantage Point residential towers after distinguished servicemen who had a strong Darwin connection. The White, Emms and Arthur towers feature a plaque with a biographical acknowledgement of each man’s military achievements in the Navy, Army and Air Force. Members from each of the families were present at the official opening by Senator Robert Hill and were presented with a framed line drawing of the honoured sailor, soldier and airman.

Emms, along with ten other World War II servicemen, is being considered for recognition with the award of a posthumous Victoria Cross for his brave actions.

Compiled with assistance from Margaret Lambert, Emms' great niece.

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HMAS Kara Kara, boom gate vessel.
HMAS Kara Kara, ex Sydney ferry, boom gate vessel operating in Darwin Harbour during World War II.