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British War Medal WWI : Lieutenant Leopold Florence Scarlett, Third Officer aboard the Royal Australian Navy submarine AE1

Date: 1914-1918
Overall: 50 x 35 x 3 mm
Medium: Cupro-nickel
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Lord Abinger
Classification:Coins and medals
Object Name: Medal
Object No: 00054266

User Terms

    This British War Medal was awarded posthumously to Lieutenant Leopold Florence Scarlett, Third Officer aboard the Royal Australian Navy submarine AE1 which disappeared without trace on 14 September 1914 while on patrol in the St George's Channel, Rabaul, New Guinea.
    The British War Medal was issued to British and Imperial forces who had rendered service between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918. One side features a portrait of King George V whilst the reverse shows St.George naked on horseback, armed with a short sword and trampling underfoot the eagle shield of the Central Powers, and a skull and cross-bones, the emblems of death. Above this is the risen sun of victory. The years 1914 and 1918 appear on the outside edge of the medal.
    SignificanceThe submarines AE1 and AE2 have a significant place in RAN history, not only as the first submarines built for the navy but also the role they played in Australia’s first engagements in World War 1. AE1 as part of the Australian Expeditionary Force to New Guinea and AE2 in her heroic mission through the Dardanelles and into the Sea of Marmora.
    Crews of submarines were very much viewed as heroes, "That is why every man who joins the sub- marine service, officer and man, are among the pick of the navy, the bravest of brave. Though AE1 was not lost in action with the enemy, each man on board, from Lieutenant-Commander Besant down, ready to hazard his life in the dangerous work he had chosen in the Empire's vice “(Sydney Morning Herald, 21 September 1914).

    HistoryLieutenant the Honourable Leopold Florence Scarlett was born in 1889 in Hampshire, England. He trained as a submarine officer for the Royal Navy but moved to Australia after being diagnosed with TB. He was retired due to being 'unfit' from the Royal Navy in June of 1913. Scarlett managed to recover his health after spending time in Queensland with his brother who was serving as Aide de Camp to the Governor.
    When the submarines AE1 and AE2 were refitting at Cockatoo Island in June 1914, Commander Thomas Besant of AE1 requested more trained submarine officers from the Royal Navy in London. The Navy Office responded with the assignment of Lieutenant Scarlett who had volunteered and been accepted for service in Brisbane. Scarlett was then appointed as a Lieutenant of the Royal Australian Navy on AE1 in August, 1914.
    In September 1914 AE1 was sent as part of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force to New Guinea. This was an effort by the Allies to eliminate the German presence in the region and destroy German wireless communication stations.
    On September 14, AE1 and HMAS PARRAMATTA were directed out into the St Georges channel around New Britain and New Ireland in attempts to locate any enemy ships that may still be in the area.
    Although seas were calm, it was noted that the day itself was hazy and by mid-afternoon visibility on the water was reduced to five nautical miles. At 1520 HMAS PARRAMATTA spotted AE1 off Bernard Point. However, by 2000 that night AE1 had not returned to Simpson Harbour as agreed. HMAS PARRAMATTA and HMAS YARRA started to search for her that night but no trace was found. The next morning the search was widened and now included HMAS ENCOUNTER and HMAS WARREGO. At the end of three days searching, which now also included a number of smaller vessels available to the Australians, the search was concluded with no trace or clue as to what had happened to AE1.
    In a report back to the Admiralty Vice Admiral Patey suggested that AE1 most likely had struck and an underwater reef and sunk in the deeper waters of the channel. There was also always the possibility that an on-board fault or explosion might have led to the loss with all hands. Despite repeated attempts, AE1 has not been located to this day.
    Additional Titles

    Collection title: Scarlett collection

    Assigned title: British War Medal WWI : Lieutenant Leopold Florence Scarlett, Third Officer aboard the Royal Australian Navy submarine AE1

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