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760 Tons (surfaced)
181' x 22' 6" x 12' 6"
4 x 18" torpedo tubes
RAN Sept 9, 1914
RAN Dec 21, 2017
Captain Lt Cdr Thomas Fleming Besant, RN (MIA / KIA)
On May 24, 1914 HMAS AE1 with her sister ship HMAS AE2 departed England bound for Sydney. On April 14, 1914 at 6:00pm departed Colombo bound for Singapore. On April 21, 1941 anchored in Singapore Harbor with the majority of the crew granted overnight leave.
World War I
When AE1 did not return, the entire crew was lost and and were officially declared Missing In Action (MIA). The loss of AE1 was the first Royal Australian Navy vessel lost and the first Allied submarine loss during World War I.
As a historic submarine with missing aboard, renewed efforts to search for the AE1 were undertaken between 2003-2014. None of these efforts were successful and several premature claims that the submarine may have been found were reported the proved untrue.
During November 2003, the Maritime Museum of Western Australia, sponsored by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) unsuccessfully searched an area southeast of the Duke of York Islands.
During February 2007, a new effort to locate the submarine was mounted by the RAN, when the survey ships Benalla and Shepparton attempted to locate the submarine off East New Britain, based on data compiled over the previous 30 years. Benalla located an object of the appropriate dimensions using sonar on March 1, 2007 that was reported prematurely in the The Sydney Morning Herald as "Missing WWI sub may have been found". Later identification conducted by HMAS Yarra confirmed that the find was a rock with the same approximate dimensions.
During October 2011 "Operation Render Safe" a joint Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) to locate and dispose of unexploded ordnance from World War II in Papua New Guinea a submarine was located by HMAS Gascoyne (M 85) located a partially buried submarine upright with the periscope extended at a depth of 55m in Simpson Harbor. Using a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to the submarine documented and the hull was estimated to be 20m (66') in length. Initially, some hoped this submarine might be AE1, but the footage was studied by RAN historical staff that determined the submarine to be a Japanese Navy HA-53 Type B Midget Submarine sunk postwar based on the size, features and location.
During September 2014, HMAS Yarra again searched the area with a group of descendants of the crew aboard and at Rabaul in hopes of a discovery and to preform a wreath laying ceremony on the 100th anniversary of the sinking.
New Zealander John Reardon was the first New Zealander to die in World War I.
In 2008 a plague was dedicated to HMAS AE1 was added to the Tasmanian Seafarers' Memorial at Triabunna in Tasmania dedicated to L.S. Cyril Lefroy Baker, telegraphist aboard the submarine who was the first Tasmanian killed during World War I.
On September 14, 2015 a floating memorial dedicated to AE1 was unveiled outside the Australian National Maritime Museum. The memorial is in the shape of a stainless steel wreath with light projections onto the water below.
During December 2017 another search was undertaken by Find AE1 Limited funded by the Australian Government and Silentworld Foundation with additional assistance from the Submarine Institute of Australia and Australian National Maritime Museum, Fugro Survey and the Papua New Guinea Government.
The search was conducted by MV Fugro Equator with a team including maritime surveyors, marine archaeologists and naval historians. An underwater drone hovering 40m above the sea floor surveyed preprogrammed areas for 20 hours at a time using a multi-beam echo sounder and side-scan sonar. Afterwards, the data was analyzed and a three-dimensional rendering was created.
This effort resulted in the discovery of AE1 intact at a depth of 300m / 984' off the Duke of York Islands. After the discovery, a small commemorative service was held by those on-board to commemorate those who died in the sinking.
On December 21, 2017 the Australian Navy reported and confirmed the discovery and sonar images and underwater photographs of the submarine were released to the public. The exact location will not be published to protect the site as a war grave and to prevent any unauthorized salvage attempts or tampering of the site.
Vera Ryan (niece Jack Messenger)
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