- Swinden, Greg
- Biographies and personal histories
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 2012 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
THOMAS EDWARD MULLINS was born in Leicester, England on 15 May 1882 and joined the RAN as a Sick Berth Steward 1st Class on 7 May 1912. He had six years prior service in the Royal Navy as a Sick Berth Steward during 1900 – 1906 and had emigrated to Australia in 1909. Thomas had married Edith Florence Thompson in Leicester in 1905 and they had two sons.1 After joining the RAN Thomas was initially employed in the Sick Bay at the Williamstown Naval Depot, Victoria. He then served in the old cruiser HMAS Protector, and the monitor HMAS Cerberus, before being posted to the new cruiser HMAS Sydney in March 1914.
After the outbreak of war in August 1914 the Australian Fleet, including Sydney, escorted the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force to German New Guinea which was captured in September. Sydney was then part of the escort for the 1st AIF troop convoy which crossed the Indian Ocean in November 1914. While conducting her convoy escort duties on the morning of 9 November 1914, Sydney was diverted from the convoy to investigate a strange warship at Cocos-Keeling Islands and soon engaged the German light cruiser Emden. In the action that followed Emden was badly damaged and forced to beach herself on North Cocos-Keeling Island. More than 130 German sailors were killed and 65 wounded. Sydney suffered four dead and 13 wounded in the action and the Australian cruiser’s small medical team was soon inundated with wounded and dying Australian and German sailors.
The Surgeons onboard Sydney noted that Mullins …constantly attended the sick and wounded uninterruptedly for six days including terribly severe cases which were received from SMS Emden and, after a solid and anxious day all were pretty well done, especially SBA Mullins who had worked wonderfully and now had to be sent to bed thoroughly exhausted.2 As a result of his dedicated service Thomas Mullins was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal…for services in action between HMAS Sydney and the German cruiser Emden on the 9th of November 1914.
Thomas Mullins continued to serve in Sydney until September 1917. This included service in the Mediterranean, Caribbean, Atlantic and North Sea. He returned to Australia in October 1917 and was posted to Cerberus, berthed at Williamstown Naval Depot. In November 1918 he was posted to the depot ship HMAS Penguin in Sydney and worked in the Fleet Hospital at Garden Island.3Mullins was promoted to the rank of Sick Berth Chief Petty Officer in October 1920 and awarded the RAN Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1921 after fifteen years of Very Good Conduct service.
In July 1922 he was promoted to Warrant Officer Wardmaster. Such was his reputation in the service that upon promotion the Sick Berth Staff of the RAN presented him with an officer’s ceremonial sword.4
Thomas Mullins remained posted to Penguin for the rest of his service career and worked frequently at the Naval Wing of the Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick. In December 1929 he was promoted to Commissioned Wardmaster and then to Wardmaster Lieutenant in December 1934.In 1934 he became OIC Medical Stores – Sydney and was based at the Spectacle Island Stores Depot. He was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal in 1935 for his long and devoted service to the RAN5, and retired on 15 May 1937 aged 55.
Thomas Mullins was too old to serve in World War II. He was not recalled for service and was placed on the Retired List in May 1942. Upon being removed from the Retired List in January 1957 he was promoted to the honorary rank of Wardmaster Lieutenant Commander, as was the tradition at that time. Thomas Mullins died at Concord Repatriation Hospital, Sydney on 22 October 1960 and was cremated at Rookwood a few days later. His wife had pre-deceased him.
- Mullins had two sons, Denis Vaughan Mullins born on 26 March 1907 in Leicester, England, who later served in the RAAF as a Leading Aircraftsman (10 July 1941 – 21 December 1943) and Colin Edwin Mullins who was born in Preston, Victoria on 19 May 1911. Colin followed his father’s footsteps and served in the RAN from 31 May 1932 until 7 July 1960 when he retired with the rank of Sick Berth Chief Petty Officer.
- Comments by Fleet Surgeon W.J. Darby noted in Constant Care by J.C. Jeppesen.
- This three-storey building, originally the Royal Marine Barracks and Fleet Hospital and constructed in 1887-88, still exists today.
- This sword is now held by the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney.
- His medals were sold in August 2009, these unusually included a Kings South Africa Medal 1902 which had the original name erased. There is no record of him being entitled to the medal and there is no photograph of him wearing this medal.