Forest Lake lad in the search for lost WWI submarine

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

Able Seaman Combat Systems Operator Mine Warfare Alex Lebrun-Footman from HMAS Yarra pauses at the grave site of a fallen sailor at Bita Paka War Cemetery on the outskirts of Rabaul. (photo: ABIS Richard Cordell)
Able Seaman Combat Systems Operator Mine Warfare Alex Lebrun-Footman from HMAS Yarra pauses at the grave site of a fallen sailor at Bita Paka War Cemetery on the outskirts of Rabaul.

Forest Lake boy, Able Seaman Combat Systems Operator Mine Warfare Alexander Lebrun-Footman has travelled the world since leaving Forest Lake State High School, but his most recent deployment to Papua New Guinea enabled him to be a part of history.
 
HMAS Yarra, the Coastal Mine Hunter he serves on, has recently searched for Australia’s first Submarine, HMAS AE1, in the waters off Papua New Guinea. It went missing, presumed sunk in the area on 14 September 1914, during World War I, and is one of the Royal Australian Navy’s persistent mysteries. It was the first ship loss for the Navy.
 
“The chance to be a part of history and to attempt to bring closure to the families of those missing men was a real buzz,” he said.
 
As well as searching for the lost submarine, the crew of Yarra (including Lebrun-Footman) honoured a number of important events associated with Australia’s World War I campaign in the area.
 
“We had some descendants come to the ceremonies, and to be involved and remember their ancestors was an honour. They sacrificed everything in an environment more hostile than ours, just to preserve our way of life and to protect their mates.
 
“I see past soldiers and sailors like the ones we honoured as the guardians of the nation we have today,” Lebrun-Footman said.
 
Lebrun-Footman’s can-do attitude serves him well in his role in the operations room in one of Australia’s most advanced Mine Warfare vessels, HMAS Yarra. His job is varied and that is what he enjoys most.
 
On any day at sea, he can be searching for, identifying and classifying mines, conducting seamanship evolutions or shooting small arms. When he is not doing all of that, he is responsible for maintaining the operations room, ensuring all the documentation is up to date and helping his supervisor develop training programs.

Able Seaman Combat Systems Operator Mine Warfare Alex Lebrun-Footman conducts a 12.7mm firing with blank rounds while on HMAS Yarra.

Able Seaman Combat Systems Operator Mine Warfare Alex Lebrun-Footman conducts a 12.7mm firing with blank rounds while on HMAS Yarra.


“I love the mateship, variety in my roles and the chance for international travel,” he said.
 
But, he always thinks of the mates he made at Forest Lake State High School (graduating class of 2010).
 
“I have had a busy year, with three months on Operation RESOLUTE and then time in my home port of Sydney, but when I get back from this trip, which has been one I will never forget, I look forward to catching up with my mates in Forest Lake. I think a schnitzel at the tavern will be the first thing we do,” he said.