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Darwin Harbour was protected during WW2 by the world's longest anti-submarine boom. It was operated by a total of seven Boom Defence vessels. An opening was formed to let through friendly vessels. HMAS Kara Kara and HMAS Gunbar were the two anchored gate ships for the Darwin Boom Defence.

HMAS Kara Kara, 525 gross tons, was built in 1926 in England by J. Crichton & Co. Ltd, Saltney UK for Sydney Ferries Ltd. for use as a Sydney Harbour vehicle ferry. She was a double ended ferry with propellers at each end of the ship. With the completion of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932, the need for a vehicular car ferry virtually disappeared. Kara Kara remained idle until it was requisitioned by the Royal Australian Navy on 27 February 1941 and purchased on 7 November 1941. HMAS Kara Kara was converted to a Boom Defence Vessel and relocated to Darwin.

HMAS Kara Kara was 57metres long with a beam of 8.1 metres. Her top speed was 13 knots. HMAS Kara Kara was fitted with a 12-pounder gun, two .303 inch Vickers machine guns and two .30 inch Marlin machine guns. Her hull No. was Y276.

The first Japanese attack on Darwin occurred on 19 February 1942. HMAS Kara Kara was strafed by Japanese Zeroes. The following two personnel were killed as a result of the attack on the Boom Defence ship HMAS Kara Kara:-

Leading Cook Francis Bassett Emms

Petty Officer Frank Moore

Emms subsequently died from his wounds after being transferred to the Hospital Ship Manunda. Emms was subsequently posthumously awarded a Mention in Despatches "for continuing to fire his machine gun although mortally wounded, thereby probably saving the ship and many of the ship's company."


The AWM Roll of Honour however shows F.B. Emms a leading cook, being killed on HMAS Melville. The AWM Roll of Honour also shows a Petty Officer F. Moore being killed on HMAS Kookaburra and a cook, N.R. Moore being killed on HMAS Kangaroo.

HMAS Kara Kara remained in Darwin until the end of the war and was paid off into reserve on 8 December 1945. HMAS Kara Kara returned to Sydney in December 1950 and lay idle at HMAS Waterloo until she was sunk during gunnery practice 30 miles off Jervis Bay in January 1973. The engine from HMAS Kara Kara is now on display in the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour in Sydney, New South Wales.



Engineering Heritage Australia
No. 18 - July 2006
HMAS Kara Kara (page 6)
Owen Peake

Roll of Honour - Northern Territory Library



I'd like to thank John Richards for his assistance with this web page.


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This page first produced 6 September 2006

This page last updated 29 August 2018