Submarine lost but not forgotten

Published on LEUT Mick Wheeler (author), LSIS Lee-Anne Mack (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Stirling

Topic(s): HMAS Stirling, HMAS AE1

Mr John Keating, President, Submarine Association, Australia Branch, recites the Submariners Prayer at a  service to commemorate the loss of AE1, at the HMAS Stirling Chapel of St Paul. (photo: LSIS Lee-Anne Mack)
Mr John Keating, President, Submarine Association, Australia Branch, recites the Submariners Prayer at a service to commemorate the loss of AE1, at the HMAS Stirling Chapel of St Paul.

A moving service was held recently at the Chapel of St Paul at HMAS Stirling, Garden Island, Western Australia, to commemorate the loss of the officers and sailors from HMAS AE1, 101 years ago.

AE1 along with HMAS AE2 were Australia's first submarines. AE1 and AE2 entered Sydney Harbour after an epic journey of 13,000 miles (20,800 kilometers) from England. The voyage took 83 days, of which 60 days were spent at sea. This shattered any previous record. The Times (London) declared it "manifestly the most remarkable voyage yet performed by a submarine."

Britain declared war against Germany on 4 August 1914 and the Australian fleet was dispatched to capture German Pacific Territories and destroy German warships. At 0700 on 14 September 1914 AE1 left Rabaul with orders to patrol east of Cape Gazelle. AE1 was seen off Duke of York Island in St George's Channel about 1520 hours but failed to return. A brief search occurred but there was no trace - no oil slick, no wreckage.

A welcome address was given by Mr Sid Czabotar - President, Submarines Association Australia, WA Branch, followed by the service itself conducted by Submarine Force Chaplain Franco Siani. During the service Chaplain Siani honoured those that did not return and asked for a blessing for those that endured the grief of those lost. Similarly the Submariners' prayer was lead by Mr John Keating - President, Submariners Association, Australia Branch.

The Executive Officer of Collins Class submarine, HMAS Waller, delivers a commemorative address during the memorial service to commemorate the loss of the submarine HMAS AE1.

The Executive Officer of Collins Class submarine, HMAS Waller, delivers a commemorative address during the memorial service to commemorate the loss of the submarine HMAS AE1.


A commemorative address was delivered by Executive Officer of Collins Class submarine, HMAS Waller, which highlighted the legacy left behind by the loss of AE1 and reminded those present of why we should remember those lost.

"Today we remember the thirty five officers and sailors of our first submarine, the AE1, who died on this day in September one hundred and one years ago," he said.

"In today's modern digital age, when we know infinitely more about submarines and the undersea domain that they inhabit, it is truly difficult to appreciate the sheer courage and the resilience these people needed just to take their boats to sea, let alone to war.

"Having died in the first Royal Australian vessel to be lost at sea, the men of AE1 have a particular and permanent place in the nation's naval history.  Their bravery lives on as a foundation stone for the standards and traditions of their professional descendants, the men and women of the Australian Submarine Arm."  

The service was followed by a luncheon at the Sir James Stirling Mess.

Imagery is available on the Australian Defence Image Library at http://images.defence.gov.au/S20152704.