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Birth date:
Birth Place:
Shadwell, London, United Kingdom
Death date:
Place of death:
Devonport, Auckland, New Zealand

Display No. 26G


Emily ‘Ma’ Burrows became affectionately known to everyone as the ‘Mother of the Navy’. Over the years she began to be called ‘Ma’ and in turn she called the sailors her ‘boys’. Emily had four children, Jessie Lavinia, Elizabeth, William and Isabella. After the death of her husband Emily immigrated to Auckland, New Zealand in 1912 on-board SS Surrey with Elizabeth and Isabella. Her eldest daughter remained in England and William enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1910 (his medals are also on display). Emily set up a home in Arch Hill and in July 1914 when HMS Philomel was berthed in Auckland, Emily made her first visit to the ship to meet the sailors. Her son William Burrows was killed in 1915 when HMS Irresistible was sunk in the Dardanelles. Emily channelled her grief into the care of the sailors resident at the Devonport Navy base.

Emily began regular Sunday afternoon visits to the ships, regardless of the weather. Her basket was filled with flowers, fruit, home baked goods and sweets. She was also known to darn the sailors’ socks and run errands for them. Everyone from the Commodore to the newest recruit knew who she was. In later years Emily was able to move to a house on Queen’s Parade to be closer to her boys. She was awarded honorary medals for her service. When Emily died in 1933, she received a full military funeral service paid for by the sailors. It included the sounding of the last post. She was buried at O’Neill’s Point Cemetery in Bayswater. Emily is the mother of William Burrows, whose medals are also on display here. She is seen wearing his medals in her portrait.

Medallion HMS Veronica, HMS Dunedin Brooch, Royal Naval Temperance Society Badge

Special interest medal(s)

Display No. 26G

Medal Description [Left to Right]

Medallion HMS Veronica

A  medallion presented to Emily Burrows from HMS Veronica. It is a gold medallion suspended from bar of fern leaves (as for the New Zealand War Medal, with ribbon from a Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, the whole suspended from crossed gold fern leaves.

HMS Dunedin Brooch

Gold bar brooch with the words ‘HMS Dunedin’ . Engraved on the back ‘Ma Burrows 1928.’

Royal Naval Temperance Society Badge

Royal Naval Temperance Society badge that originally belonged to Emily Burrow’s son William Burrows. Engraved on the reverse ‘Portsmouth 24.10.1910.’