Thursday, 21 November 2013

The AE2

AE1 setting out on its last patrol from Rabaul, 14 Sep 1914.

 The Australian Navy was represented at Gallipoli by the submarine AE2. One of two submarines which had been acquired from England before the War started. Its sister sub, the AE1, went missing during the earlier operations in the south-west Pacific in 1914. The AE2 was to have a major contribution to the building of the Anzac Legend.

The Dardenelles today
The AE2 began early in the morning of the 25th of April 1915, by sailing to the mouth of the Dardenelles, where it waited for the moon to set before beginning its mission - to pass through the Narrows into the Sea of Marmara, where it was to unsettle the Ottoman naval operations within.

Well, as Mr Malcolm Fraser (our old Prime Minister) is famous for saying “Life isn’t meant to be easy”. The odds against the AE2 even getting through the minefield were very much against it. With no radar, the Australian and British crew had to negotiate it by using the good old Braille method. Yes, that's right, by feel. The old subs weren’t equipped with radar in those days because the technology was still being developed.

"That's our first one sunk."
After somehow slipping through, they managed to sink an Ottoman gunboat. This was to prove to be a major influencing factor in the Allied commander, Sir Ian Hamilton, continuing the battle when the question of the operation's future was raised. Maybe Sir Ian saw it as a good omen or something. Of course there were other factors, but that’s how the event is told.

In a tight spot

Driven by their devotion to duty, the crew of the AE2 went on to have many hair raising adventures during its time in the Dardenelles on that momentous Sunday, before meeting its untimely fate a few days later.