|Emile Frank Verlaine Dechaineux|
Captain Emile Dechaineux, c. 1943.
3 October 1902|
|Died||21 October 1944
At sea, in the Leyte Gulf, Pacific Ocean
|Buried at||At sea, in the Leyte Gulf, Pacific Ocean|
|Service/branch||Royal Australian Navy|
|Years of service||1919–1944|
|Commands held||HMAS Warramunga;
|Awards||Distinguished Service Cross
Officer of the Legion of Merit (United States)
Emile Frank Verlaine Dechaineux, DSC (3 October 1902 – 21 October 1944) was an Australian mariner who reached the rank of Captain in the Royal Australian Navy during World War II. He was killed by a Japanese aircraft in what is believed to have been the first ever kamikaze attack, in the lead-up to the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
Dechaineux was born in Launceston, Tasmania, to a Belgian-born father, Florent Vincent Emile Lucien Dechaineux, and an Australian mother. He entered the Royal Australian Naval College, Jervis Bay at the age of 14, graduated three years later, and was promoted to Midshipman in 1920. In the first half of the 20th century, the RAN worked very closely with the British Royal Navy (RN), frequently exchanging personnel. Dechaineux spent much of the 1920s training with the RN as a torpedo officer and naval air observer.
In September 1932 Dechaineux achieved the rank of Lieutenant Commander. In 1935 he was appointed Squadron Torpedo Officer, on board HMAS Canberra. The following year he married Mary Harbottle. In 1937, Dechaineux returned to the UK to attend the Royal Naval College and in June he was promoted to Commander.
At the outbreak of World War II, Dechaineux was attached to the RN Tactical and Minesweeping divisions until April 1940. Then, as the commander of the destroyer HMS Vivacious, he made five trips to assist in the evacuation of Dunkirk. Dechaineux was then given command of HMS Eglinton, which patrolled in the North Sea. In 1941, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
Dechaineux returned to Australia later in 1941, as Director of Operations at the Navy Office in Melbourne. In June 1943, following the outbreak of war with Japan, he was given command of the tactical (destroyer) component of RAN-US Navy Task Force 74. From his immediate command, HMAS Warramunga, Dechaineux commanded operations in waters around Australia and New Guinea, including support for amphibious landings, such as those in the Admiralty Islands. He was promoted to Captain on 31 December 1943.
On 9 March 1944, Dechaineux was given command of the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia, the flagship of both the RAN and Task Force 74, under the overall force commander Commodore John Collins. The Australia supported Allied landings at Hollandia in Dutch New Guinea and on the islands of Biak, Noemfoor and Morotai.
On 21 October 1944, HMAS Australia was supporting the landings in Leyte Gulf. Off Leyte Island, gunners from HMAS Australia and HMAS Shropshire fired at and hit a Japanese aircraft. Initially, the plane flew away from the ships, but it subsequently turned and dived into Australia. The plane struck the superstructure of the Australia above the bridge. Although the 200 kg (440 pound) bomb carried by the plane failed to explode, burning fuel and debris were spewed over a large area. Dechaineux was disembowelled by shrapnel and died a few hours later. He was buried at sea that night. Another 30 crew members died as a result of the attack; among the wounded was Commodore Collins.
In 1990 the Australian government announced that a new Collins class submarine would be named HMAS Dechaineux in his memory. It was launched in 2002 in the presence of Dechaineux's widow, Mary Purbrick, and his son, former RAN Commodore Peter Dechaineux.
Honours and awards
Captain Emile Dechaineux was decorated with the following honours:
|Distinguished Service Cross (DSC)||(1941)|
|War Medal 1939–1945 with Bronze Oakleaf for Mentioned in Dispatches|
|Australia Service Medal 1939-45|
|Officer of the US Legion of Merit||(1944)|
- Australian Dictionary of Biography
- London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35204, page 3745, 27 June 1941
- London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36326, page 229, 11 January 1944
- "Dechaineux, Emile Frank Verlaine (1902 - 1944)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 22 February 2010.
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