Lt. Francis William Gunn RANR(S)

24 Nov 1895 Sunderland, Durham, England - 23 Jun 1987 Mt. Lawley, West Aust

Maternal Grandfather of first wife



Family Tree Index


Lieutenant Francis William Gunn, Royal Australian Navy Reserve (Seagoing) was born in Sunderland, Durham, England on the 24th of November 1895 to Walter William Gunn and Margaret Jane (nee Gatt).  In 1901 he was living with his parents at 11 Howick St, Sunderland, England.  He is believed to have run away to sea at the age of 14.


WW1 - British War Medal and Mercantile Marine War Medal

The British War Medal was a campaign medal of the British Empire, for service in World War I.  The Mercantile Marine War Medal was awarded by the Board of Trade to members of the Merchant Navy for one or more voyages through a war or danger zone during the course of World War 1


He had a daughter Joyce in 1921, possibly born in Sunderland who remained with him and her mother's name may have been Robinson.

!n 1926, He married Emily Elsa May Anderson who was born in North Brighton, Victoria, Australia on 25th May 1898.  Margery Pearl Gunn was born on 3rd August 1929 and John Edwin Gunn in 1932.  In 1931 he was listed in the electoral rolls as a Patrolman (possibly water authority?) and living in Rich Street, Noble Park, Victoria, Australia.  In 1936/37 he lived at Olinda Resevoir, Lillydale, Victoria, Australia as a Caretaker and enlisted from Lillydale.


The WW2 Years - A sailor's yarns - truth or fiction?

In about 1977, Frank Gunn decided to test whether I was fit to marry his granddaughter by asking me about the Plimsoll Line and what it was for.  Apparently I passed the test then he related a yarn, which to my thinking may have been a running together of actual events, some of which may never be proven.  Frank claimed to have been in the Merchant Navy before WW2 but during the war, he was in charge of five "minesweepers" stationed at Fremantle, Western Australia.  He related that one duty he had was to tow mooring buoys to Broome and that because he arrived there shortly after the bombing of the flying boats, he had the tough job of recovering the bodies.  He said that the pilots had gone ashore to the pub leaving the passengers aboard.  The locals advised the Pilots not to leave the aircraft there (as if they knew what would happen) but by then the tide had gone out.  Japanese divers lived in town and there was the expectation of the attack.  Frank believed it was strange that the next morning, the townspeople were at the jetty watching the attack which focused on the aircraft and not so much the town.


He also related the experience of the bombing and sinking in Darwin of a vessel under his command and of men swimming among burning Oil.  (This is not verified.)  I thought he said this was when he suffered pleurisy and a collapsed lung which was not discovered until many years later.  His documents are stamped as War Casualty 52014 and he was not hospitalised until the end of the war while in comand of another vessel.  Documents reveal that many of these incidents are true but not all has been verified.


Please note the original documentation is not clear and these details are copied to the best of my ability.


Apptd. Proby. Tempy. Commissioned Officer from Warrant Rank RANR(S) 15-5-41

Apptd. to "Lonsdale" (add'l) 15-5-41 and to "Penguin" (add'l) for Southern Cross 16-5-41 on commissioning

HMAS Lonsdale (Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne near the mouth of the Yarra River) 15-5-41 to 15-5-41

HMAS Penguin (Mosman, Sydney, New South Wales) 16-5-41 to 17-6-41

HMAS Penguin 2nd Lieutenant on Southern Cross 18-6-41 to 29-6-41

HMAS Platypus (Torpedo Maintenance facility, Neutral Bay, Sydney) 2nd Lieutenant on Southern Cross 30-6-41 to 30-6-42


HMAS Southern Cross (Examination Vessel)

was an examination vessel, stores and troop carrier of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) during the Second World War. Built in 1933 by Cammell Laird and Co. Ltd of Birkenhead, England, for the Melanesian Mission of the Anglican Church, she was requisitioned by the RAN on 29 March 1941 and commissioned on 18 June 1941 under command of Commander C Symonds, leaving Sydney on the 29th June 1941 for Darwin to carry out operations and intelligence services arriving at Darwin on the 2nd of August 1941.  This vessel was present in during the Bombing of Darwin and although attacked suffered no casualties, rescued the Commander and 11 other survivors of the USS Peary, the beached SS Portmar and the SS Admiral Halstead which was damaged by near misses.  This vessel had more exciting adventures after Frank was transferred off.  Southern Cross served in the Darwin region until October 1945 and then returned to Sydney and was paid off.


HMAS Southern Cross movements during appointment

Sydney 29-6-41

Brisbane 2-7-41 to 6-7-41

Gladstone 8-7-41

Townsville 12-7-41 to 15-7-41

Cairns 16-7-41

Thursday Island 26-7-41

Darwin 28-8-41


Confirmed in the rank of Tempy. commissioned officer from warrant rank RANR(S) 23 Sept 41

Ty. ??? 1 Off. from Wt. list 23 Sept 41


Further HMAS Southern Cross movements after transfer of appointment

Wyndham 21-4-42 to 22-4-42

Darwin 24-4-42

Darwin 24-8-42

Darwin 14-1-43

(Including operations and intelligence services outside Australian waters in Timor and Moluccas)

Darwin 8-10-45 for Thursday Island

Thursday Island 14-10-45 for Townsville

Townsville 20-10-45 for Sydney Paid off 22-11-45


HMAS Patricia Cam (Auxiliary Minesweeper)

Frank's first Command was the HMAS Patricia Cam, one of a fleet of tuna fishing vessels requisitioned from Cam and Sons of Sydney which sailed out of Sydney for Darwin on the 8th of March 1942.  On 1st of May 42 he was appointed and he took command on the 1st of July, commanding until 30th of September.   This vessel was also working out of Darwin supplying stores to the coast watchers.  Fortunately Frank was transferred off four months before it was bombed and destroyed off Darwin on the 22nd of January 1943.  It went down in one minute and the crew were then bombed and straffed in the water.  Reverend Kentish, a passenger, was captured and tortured then finally beheaded.  After the war, there were reprisals for this war crime.


HMAS Patricia Cam movements before appointment

Commissioned at Sydney 3-3-42 under Commander J.A.Grant RANRS

Sydney 8-3-42

Brisbane 14-3-42 to 18-3-42

Townsville 22-3-42 to 24-3-42

Thursday Island 29-3-42 to 22-4-42

Darwin 5-4-42 to 22-4-42 for Napier Broome Bay


HMAS Patricia Cam movements during appointment

Apptd. to "Patricia Cam" in Command 1-5-42

Apptd. to "Patricia Cam" add'l 10-5-42 and to "Patricia Cam" in Command 1-7-42

HMAS Platypus [PATCAM] 1-7-42 to 30-9-42


HMAS Patricia Cam movements after transfer of appointment

Bombed on 22-1-43 and sank in two minutes in position 11 degrees 19 minutes South and 136 degrees 23 minutes east in 14 fathoms.




Apptd. to "Platypus" add'l for "Malanda" in Command 17-9-42

HMAS Platypus [Malanda] 1-10-42 to 11-10-42

HMAS Magnetic (Townsville Queensland) 12-10-42 to 25-3-43


MV Malanda

Malanda was built in Brisbane during 1923 and registered as an Australian ship in 1924. A one deck wooden ketch-rigged ship she was classed an auxiliary screw vessel with 192bhp oil engine.  Gross tonnage was 57 and Net tonnage 26. Dimensions were 88.4-feet x17-feet with 6.7-foot draft. She sported a raked clipper bow and raked transom, two tiers of deckhouses and raised fore deck featuring three port lights. She was originally surveyed to carry 180 passengers and was later able to carry 270.  MV Malanda was requisitioned during WW2 and made one voyage to Darwin carrying cargo, reportedly so overloaded that borers attacked her hull above the copper sheathing. She returned to Hayles in 1946.







Apptd. to "Melville" add'l 15-10-42 and to "Keith Cam" in Command (image not found)


HMAS Olive Cam (Auxiliary Minesweeper) Group 66 Fremantle

On 18 September 1939, the Olive Cam was requisitioned by the Defence Department for use as an auxiliary minesweeper. She sailed to Melbourne shortly after, arriving on 23 September 1939 and was converted for war service by the addition of minesweeping equipment. In addition, two 20 mm guns, one Vickers .303 machine gun and a 12 pounder gun were installed along with four depth charge launchers. On 6 October 1939 she was commissioned as HMAS Olive Cam, FY76. During the War she had the nickname "Little Ol".  In November 1941, HMAS Olive Cam was involved in the unsuccessful search for survivors of HMAS Sydney, sunk by the German raider Kormoran which in turn was also sunk by the Sydney. During the war Olive Cam had 20 crew and carried 200 tons of coal permitting her to stay at sea for 25 days at 8 knots.


HMAS Olive Cam movements

Call sign V.L.N.K. Distinguishing Number: Fishing 76

Left Sydney 19-9-39 arrived Melbourne 23-9-39

Commissioned 6-3-39 under Commanding officer from Warrant Rank, J. Gathercole.

Left Melbourne 21-10-39

Adelaide 24-10-39 to 25-10-39

Fremantle 3-11-39 to 29-4-40 for Bunbury

Bunbury 29-4-40 to 6-5-40

Fremantle 6-5-40

Temporary W.O. James Kenny RANR(S)

Temporary C.O. from W.R.S. Armstrong RANR(S)

Fremantle 1-12-?

Sent to search for HMAS Sydney 24th to 29th November 1941



Apptd. to "Olive Cam" in Command 9-3-43

Apptd. to "Leeuwin" add'l 9-3-43

          HMAS Leeuwin (Swan River, Fremantle) Olive Cam 26-3-43 to 14-11-43





HMAS King Bay (Examination vessel)Group 66 Fremantle

The examination vessel King Bay was requisitioned on the 8th July 1940 from her owners, Cossack Lightering and Trades Ltd, Perth WA and commissioned on the 15th of July 1940.  It was built in Fremantle, Western Australia in 1938 for use as a lighter.  The King Bay was also in Broome from December 1942 until February 1943 to demolish the wrecked flying boats.  One of the demolition divers was Claude Choules, Britain's last surviving WW1 veteran (1901-2011).  This crew was assigned to blow up Fremantle Port if the Japanese invaded.


HMAS King Bay movements before appointment

Fremantle - Commisioned 15-8-40   remark 1 E/V For "special duties" (demolition mentioned above is not in the official movement record)

Paid off 12-11-43


Apptd. to "King Bay" in Command 15-11-43 (on commission)

Apptd. to HMAS Leeuwin shore base 13-12-43


HMAS King Bay movements during appointment

Recommissioned 15-11-43

Broome 27-11-43 to K/N (not known)  This was not the time of the aircraft clearance so unless there was further clearing required, Frank's tale may just be a sailor's yarn)

Fremantle K/N to 17-1-44


Apptd. to "Leeuwin" (NCS) 17-2-44       (Naval Control of Shipping)


HMAS King Bay movements after appointment

Port Headland 19-1-44 to 25-1-44 assisting with refloating of SS Ardent

Broome 27-1-44 to K/N Paid off 16-2-44


HMAS King Bay movements during appointment

Re-apptd. to King Bay 21-4-44


HMAS King Bay movements after appointment

Thursday Island 7-3-45 to K/N as Army vessel AV708 - further note unreadable may include further duties not known.


Promoted to Tempy Lieutenant RANR(S) 30 June 44

Re-appointed on promotion

          Leeuwin 17-2-45

          Olive Cam 24-9-45

          Leeuwin NCS 29-10-45

Apptd. "Magnetic" add'l for "Merauke" (NCSO unreadable) 10-7-45                               (Navy Control Service Officer & possibly BTC but not easily read)

          (Merauke in New Guinea was handed back to the Dutch authorities on the 4th of July 1945)

          HMAS Lonsdale 5-7-45

          Merauke 15-7-45

          HMAS Moreton (Brisbane) 19-7-45

          pencilled addition - 22 July '45 discharged to navy hospital with pneumonia     (He contracted Pleurisy and suffered a collapsed lung but in 1978, claimed he suffered the injury years earlier in the Darwin bombing)

          Navy Hospital 23-7-45

          Service Card stamped "WAR CASUALTY CLAIM No. 52014 AMOUNT 113-5-0"

          HMAS Moreton 26-7-45

Apptd. "Leeuwin" add'l 27-7-45

          Demob Pool 12-10-45

Demobilised 6-12-45



Post War

10-11-45 The West Australian, Perth WA: Announcement of engagement of daughter Joyce to Ronald James Hislop of New Zealand


1949 Electoral Rolls - Rockingham Rd, Naval Base, Western Australia - Poultry Farmer - Frank also related he commenced chicken farming at Naval Base, Western Australia but the BHP built a steel mill and the road was moved to run through his property which was resumed.  His daughter Margery Pearl was believed to be the first female chicken sexer in WA.


One of these?

1949 Electoral Roll - pencil entry to Electoral Roll for Coburg West, Wills, Victoria Australia, 11 May (ocupation - Fitter)

1949 Electoral Roll - 336 Charles St, North Perth, Western Australia - Fish shop proprietor


1954 - Shields St, Redcliffe, Queensland - Painter


27 July 1963 National Archive - Address - SHEPPARTON EAST VIC : Application for - BRITISH WAR MEDAL AND MERCANTILE MARINE WAR MEDAL



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