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  HMAS AE1 (AE1)
E-Class Submarine

750 Tons
760 Tons (surfaced)
181' x 22' 6" x 12' 6"
4 x 18" torpedo tubes
Click For Enlargement
RAN Sept 9, 1914

Captain  Lt Cdr Thomas Fleming Besant (MIA / KIA)
Crew  Telegraphist Cyril Lefroy Baker, 1268 (MIA / KIA)
Crew  Stoker Ernest Fleming Blake, 7876 (MIA / KIA)
Crew  Stoker John James Bray, 1604 (MIA / KIA) Eaglehawk, VIC
Crew  Leading Seaman Gordon Clarence Corbould, 7297 (MIA / KIA) Sydney, NSW
Crew  Engine Room Artificer 3rd Class James Alexander Fettes, 7290 (MIA / KIA) Sydney, NSW
Crew  Able Seaman Arthur H. Fisher, 8191 (MIA / KIA)
Crew  Stoker Richard B. Holt, 8266 (MIA / KIA)
Crew  Able Seaman Jack Jarman, 1138 (MIA / KIA) St Kilda, VIC
Crew  Stoker 1st Class John Joseph Maloney, 7299 (MIA / KIA) Chase, Southend-on-Sea, UK
Crew  John Messenger, 7291 (MIA / KIA) Ballarat East, VIC
Crew  John Reardon, 7474 (MIA / KIA)
Crew  Robert Smail, 1068 (MIA / KIA)
Crew  James Benjamin Thonas, 8111 (MIA / KIA) Sydney, NSW
Crew  William A. Waddilove, 7300 (MIA / KIA)
Crew  Percy L. Wilson, 7182 (MIA / KIA)
Crew  Charles F. Wright, 7395 (MIA / KIA) North Kensington, UK
Missing  September 14, 1914

Ship History
Built by Vickers Armstrong in Barrow-in-Furness, England. Laid down on November 14, 1911. Launched May 22, 1913. Commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) as H.M.A. S/M. "AE1" on February 28, 1914 under the command of Lieutenant Commander Thomas F Besant, RN with a mixed crew of Royal Navy (RN) and Royal Australian Navy (RAN) personnel. AE1 and her sister ship AE2 departed England bound for Sydney on May 24, 1914.

World War I
After the outbreak of the World War I, the AE1 joined Australian naval forces assigned to capture German colonies in the Pacific. Departed Sydney to take part in the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (AN&MEF) operations against German New Guinea. On September 9, 1914, AE1 rendezvoused with other RAN warships including the HMAS Australia and HMAS Encounter off Rossel Island (Yela) then proceeded to Rabaul arriving on September 13, 1914.

Sinking History
On September 14, 1914, the AE1 and HMAS Parramatta departed Blanche Bay to patrol off Cape Gazelle. Last seen at approximately 3:30pm, the AE1 did not return.

The Royal Australian Navy warships HMAS Parramatta, HMAS Yarra, HMAS Encounter and HMAS Warrego all searched for AE1, but found no trace of the submarine. Presumed that it struck an uncharted reef and sank.

The AE1 has never been located. The Maritime Museum of Western Australia, sponsored by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) launched an unsuccessful attempt to locate the submarine in November 2003. The search area was concentrated to the south-east 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 1 March, 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 though that this object is a rock with the same approximate dimensions.

The entire crew was officially declared dead on September 14, 1914. The entire crew is memorialized at the Plymouth Naval Memorial on panel 4 in Devon, UK. A memorial plaque to the crew of the AE1 is located in Bitapaka Cemetery.

HMA Submarine AE1 - Australia's First Submarine
AE1 Entombed: But Not Forgotten by John Foster
The Sydney Morning Herald "Missing WWI sub may have been found" March 1, 2007
The National "Missing WWI sub may have been found" March 2, 2007
AWM - AE1 (1914-1914)
CWGC - Thomas Fleming Besant
CWGC - Cyril Lefroy Baker
CWGC - Ernest Fleming Blake
CWGC - John James Bray
CWGC - Gordon Clarence Corbould
CWGC - James Alexander Fettes
CWGC - Arthur H. Fisher
CWGC - Richard B. Holt
CWGC - Jack Jarman
CWGC - John Joseph Maloney
CWGC - John Messenger
CWGC - John Reardon
CWGC - Robert Smail
CWGC - James Benjamin Thonas
CWGC - William A. Waddilove
CWGC - Percy L. Wilson
CWGC - Charles F. Wright
AWM Medals of Petty Officer P J Kempster, Royal Australian Navy" REL/10568.001
AWM Medals of Stoker Petty Officer J J Moloney, Submarine AE1, RAN" REL39990.001

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Last Updated
May 22, 2017


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