Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A Royal Australian Navy AE1 Submarine Mystery Lives On!

During the last decade, the ocean has been kind to Australians waiting on word of what happened to their countrymen, lost at sea during the war years. The wrecks of the HMAS Sydney, HMAS AE2 and the Centaur have been found in recent years. Much evidence has been found by studying the wrecks. A clearer picture can be painted as to what happened to love ones in the last minutes before the sinking of the vessel.
One of the oldest Royal Australian Naval mysteries still remains unsolved.
The AE1, the Royal Australian Navy's first submarine, was commissioned in the United Kingdom on Saturday 28th February 1914. Along with her sister submarine the AE2, they set off for Australian waters on the 2nd March 1914. After a journey, plagued with mechanical problems, which required the towing of both submarines they sailed through Sydney Heads on the 24th May 1914.
Following the outbreak of war on 5th August 1914, Australia was requested by Britain to capture German interests in New Guinea. The Australian Naval Board deemed it important to destroy the German naval presence in the Pacific around New Guinea. The Admiralty suspected that at least five German Naval ships were located in the Pacific area.
The Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF) a small force of approximately 2,000 men, was raised in Australia. Australia also sent a large proportion of its fledging Navy. On the 11th September the ANMEF and the main naval force comprising the Australia,Sydney,Encounter,Warrego,Yarra,Parramatta, Berrima and the two submarines AE1 & AE2 were located off of Rabual New Guinea. The German wireless station located 7kms inland from Rabual was to be destroyed. Armed resistance was experienced so 100 men from the Naval contingent were landed. They succeeded in destroying the wireless station and the next day ANMEF took control of Rabual. The success was not without cost with 6 Australian lives lost.
Although history is not always kind to remember the action at Rabual it's interesting to reflect a number of 'firsts' were recorded for World War One.
*First time any Australian or British force fought the Germans on their own Territory.
*The ANMEF secured the 1st surrender of WWI.
*The Naval Men conducted the 1st bayonet charge of WWI.
* The first decorations of WWI were awarded for action at Rabual.
The Navy immediately turned their attention to finding the German Capital Ships of Gneisenau and Scharnhorst. On the 14th September 1914 the Australian submarine AE1 set sail with Destroyer HMAS Parramatta to reconnoiter. At 3.20 pm the Destroyer lost sight of AE1. Nothing was ever seen of AE1 again, disappearing with her full compliment of 35 souls. No SOS wireless message was ever received, no oil, bodies or wreckage ever sighted. What happened to AE1 has remained a mystery to this day.
The link below will provide a more substantial account of a very brief life of the HMA Submarine AE1, the circumstances surrounding her loss and the attempts to locate the wreck in Papua New Guinea waters. Click here to read more about this Australian Navy Mystery AE1 Submarine Military Book .

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