Against the bitterly cold wind of the Turkish Sea of Marmara HMAS Anzac hosted a solemn ceremony to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the actions of the HMAS AE2 crew ahead of the landings at Anzac cove.
The service hosted by the Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Tim Barrett included the Shadow Minister for Defence the Hon David Feeney, MP as well as the Commander of the Turkish Fleet Vice Admiral Veysel Kösele.
In April 1915 the straits from Canakkale, were one of the most dangerous waterways in the world, protected by layered defences of gun batteries, field artillery and searchlights. The narrows were strewn with mines which had recently claimed three allied battleships and two submarines. By penetrating these defences AE2 opened the way for other submarines to follow in an attempt to cut the sea borne reinforcement of the Turkish divisions on the Gallipoli peninsula and thus relieve the pressure on the troops fighting there.
AE2 was a trailblazer and her crew more than fulfilled their mission.
Anzac was joined by TSG Salihreis as it positioned itself on the surface seventy three metres above the hull of AE2. On cue a brief respite in the weather saw the ceremony conducted in brilliant sunshine as the Australian and Turkish Admirals jointly laid a wreath to commemorate the loss of four of the crew while in captivity.
“Australians owe the fact that AE2 is not a grave due to the professionalism and humanity of Captain of the Turkish patrol ship Sultanhisar, Captain Riza, and his compassionate crew who rescued the AE2 crew as they scuttled their submarine.
“Captian Riza later wrote in his log that ‘I believed that these sailors deserved to be treated as honourable people.
“We remain grateful to the gallantry of the Turkish Navy for the survival of the crew when AE2 sank and today remember the four crew who died of illness before the war ended,” Vice Admiral Barrett said.
The four crew members who died before the war ended were
· Petty Officer Stephen Gilbert, 38
· Able Seaman Albert Knaggs, 35, on loan from the Royal Navy
· Chief Stoker, Charles Varcoe, 37, on loan from the Royal Navy
· Stoker Michael Williams, 22, known as Bill, from Hamilton, Victoria, whose three brothers also died during the war.
HMAS Anzac participated in an international sail past of Anzac Cove as part of the centenary of Anzac Commemorative services. She will continue with her deployment on NORTHERN TRIDENT 2015 where she will undertake a series of important international engagements.