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AE1 preparing to be towed

Date: 1914
Overall: 84 x 133 mm
Display Dimensions: 133 x 84 mm
Medium: Silver gelatin photographic print on paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Jennifer Smyth
Object Name: Photograph
Object No: 00015811

User Terms

    Photograph from 1914 of the submarine HMAS AE1 preparing to be towed. AE1 was commissioned at Portsmouth, England, on 28 February 1914 under the command of Lieutenant Commander T F Besant. It was the first of two E Class submarines built for the Royal Australian Navy and was put into action later that same year at the beginning of WW1.
    SignificanceThis photograph is possibly one of the last taken of HMA submarine AE1. She disappeared in the waters off New Britain on 14 September 1914 with all crew aboard. Her fate and resting place has never been found and remains to this day one of the Australian Navy's greatest mysteries.
    HistoryThe AE1 was put into service in September 1914 as part of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force into New Guinea in the attempt to eliminate German presence there and ensure their wireless communication stations were not able to be used by them. On September 14, HMA Submarine 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 her loss.

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