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Loss of Submarine AE1 near Cape Gazelle, New Britain, 14 September 1914

Date: 1914 - 1915
Dimensions:
Display dimensions: 270 x 217 mm (closed dimensions)
Medium: Paper, boards
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Annie Goldie
Object Name: Booklet
Object No: ANMS0824[021]

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    Description
    Condolence book produced by the Royal Australian Navy to commemorate the loss of AE1 on 14 September 1914, off New Britain. The book was presented to the family of Frederick William Woodland who was an able seaman on board the submarine at the time.
    The title page reads 'Loss of Submarine AE1 near Cape Gazelle, New Britain, 14 September 1914'. The officers and crew who died on the AE1 are listed and other pages contain messages of sympathy, the chief one being Winston Churchill as First Lord of the Admiralty. The cover boards are black, and each page has a thick black border to signify mourning.
    SignificanceHMA Submarine AE1 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 AE2 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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