Navy remembers men on eternal patrol

Published on LEUT Kara Wansbury (author), ABIS Richard Cordell (photographer)

Location(s): Simpson Harbour, Blanche Bay

Commander of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, Brigadier General Gilbert Toropo, addresses the crowd at the service to commemorate the centenary of the loss of HMAS AE1 in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea. (photo: ABIS Richard Cordell)
Commander of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, Brigadier General Gilbert Toropo, addresses the crowd at the service to commemorate the centenary of the loss of HMAS AE1 in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.

HMAS Yarra, anchored in Simpson Harbour,  Papua New Guinea, was the backdrop for more than 1500 people who stopped to commemorate the 35 lives lost when HMAS AE1 went missing on this day, 100 years ago.

Having recently conducted a search for the lost submarine off the Duke of York Islands, the service was particularly poignant for the crew of Yarra.  

The ship’s command team identified the area for their search using oral history, previous search results, weather, historical records, drift and topography. They settled on an area in the vicinity of Mioko Island.

While they did succeed in identifying a number of objects under the surface, the lost submarine was unfortunately not one of them.

Despite giving the search their all, the result was a little disappointing for some of the crew. But, Leading Seaman Aaron Fox said Yarra’s involvement in today’s service, in the last location the submarine sailed from, was still special. 

“It was an eerie atmosphere, when the honour roll was read. When I reflect on our search, it almost seems like those 35 men don’t want to be found,” Leading Seaman Fox said. 

HMAS Yarra, a Royal Australian Navy Coastal Mine Hunter, sits at anchor in Simpson Harbour as the backdrop for the service to commemorate the Loss of HMAS AE1 in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.

HMAS Yarra, a Royal Australian Navy Coastal Mine Hunter, sits at anchor in Simpson Harbour as the backdrop for the service to commemorate the Loss of HMAS AE1 in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.

Guard Commander, Petty Officer Richard Kamprad, echoed the sentiment. 

“It was such an honour to be involved, it was mind-blowing to see how many people came to see the service today and while I am disappointed that we didn’t find the submarine, we did our best and are heading home,” Petty Officer Kamprad said. 

Commodore Kim Pitt, AM, RAN (Retried) of AE1 Incorporated, read the roll call of AE1 with the Australian High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea, Ms. Deborah Stokes. He agreed with the sentiment expressed by Yarra’s sailors. 

“The significance of this is not lost on the descendants, nor the nation today. It forms some part of closure for them and was a fitting tribute to those that were lost,” he said.

The crew of AE1 consisted of 18 Australians, 16 British and 1 man from New Zealand. The service and sacrifice of these men who remain on eternal patrol will never be forgotten.

 

Service personnel salute as Leading Seaman Musician Marcus Salone plays the Last Post at the service to commemorate the centenary of the loss of HMAS AE1.

Service personnel salute as Leading Seaman Musician Marcus Salone plays the Last Post at the service to commemorate the centenary of the loss of HMAS AE1.