Sinking of HMA S/M AE2

The Royal Australian Navy began to acquire a small force of submarines just before the outbreak of war. The E-class AE2 was built by Vickers, and completed in 1913. In 1915, she was sent to the Eastern Mediterranean, to participate in the Dardanelles Campaign. Under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Henry Stoker RN she was sent into the Sea of Marmora in April 1915. She would be the first submarine in any of the British Commonwealth/Empire Navies to transit the Dardanelles.

Attacked by Turkish vessels on the 30th of April, 1915, she was scuttled by her crew to avoid capture. Geoffrey Miller ( ) has provided the following crew list:

Lieutenant-Commander Henry Hugh Gordon Dacre Stoker DSO. RN
Lieutenant Geoffrey Arthur Gordon Haggard DSC. RN
Lieutenant John Pitt Cary (Mentioned in a Despatches) RN

Ship's Company
Chief Petty Officer Harold Abbott DSM. RN No. 8268
Chief Petty Officer Charles Vaughan (Mentioned in a Despatches) RAN (Ex-RN pensioner) No. 8259
Chief Engine Room Artificer Class 11 Harry Burton Broomhead DSM. RN No. X278
*Chief Stoker Charles Varcoe RN No. 8275
Petty Officer Cecil Arthur Bray RAN No. 7296
*Petty Officer Stephen John Gilbert RAN No. 8053
Engine Room Artificer Class I Peter Fawns RN No. 8285
Leading Seaman Charles Holdernes RN No. 8270
Leading Seaman George Henry Nash RAN (Ex-RFR) No. 8056
Leading Signalman Albert Norman Charles Thomson RN No. 8271
Leading Stoker John Kerin RAN No. 7391 (Promoted from acting rank 15/8 15)
Able Seaman John Harrison Wheat RAN No. 7861
Able Seaman Benjamin Talbot RAN (Ex-RN) No. 8221
Able Seaman Alexander Charles Nichols RAN No. 7298
*Able Seaman Albert Edward Knaggs RAN (Ex-RFR} No. 7893
Able Seaman William Thomas Cheater RAN (Possibly Ex-RN) No. 7999
Able Seaman Lionel Stanley Churcher RAN (Ex-RN) No. 7970
Telegraphist William Wolseley Falconer RAN No. 1936
Stoker James Cullen RAN No. 2826
Stoker Horace James Harding RAN No. 7216
Stoker William Brown Jenkins RAN No. 2080
Stoker Charles George Suckling RAN No. 214X
Stoker Thomas Henry Walker RN No. 8289
*Stoker Michael Williams RAN. No. 2305
Stoker Thomas Wishart RN. No. 8277
Engine Room Artificer Class I James Henry Gibson RN. No. 8273
Engine Room Artificer Class 11 Stephen Thomas Bell Mentioned in Despatches. RN No. 8272
Stoker Petty Officer Herbert Alexander Brown DSM RAN (Ex-RN) No. 8096
Stoker Petty Officer Henry James Elly Kinder Mentioned in a Despatch. RAN No. 7244
*These sailors died as Prisoners of War.

Source: First In, Last Out. The Navy at Gallipoli by L. A. Frame & G. J. Swinden. Kangaroo Press, 1990.

The remains of AE2 have been found.

Geoffrey Miller (, November 2000, adds:

Yesterday, in Sydney, I attended a talk by Selcuk Kolay, the Turkish historian who discovered the wreck of the AE2 in the Sea of Marmora after she was scuttled following her engagement with the Turkish torpedo boat, the Sultan Hisar. Selkul, the Director of the Rahmi Koc Museum in Istanbul, was approached by the Australian Ambassador to try and locate the wreck about three years ago. He spent many months searching, this was because the sinking submarine had drifted westward from the position that had been recorded by bearings made by Lt. Cdr. Stoker just before he scuttled her. This drift was because of of the current flowing into the Dardanelles. While searching, Selkuk incidently discovered the wreck of the UB46, at the entrance to the Bosphorus. She had been sunk by a Russian mine.

AE2 was eventually found using Magnetic Anomaly Detection technology and Selkuk dived on her on the 2nd July 1998, being the first person to see her since 1915. A joint international team, led by Selkuk, then dived on her and she was photographed by Dr Mark Spencer, a Sydney dentist. The submarine is in remarkably good condition, she is lying on a flat muddy bottom, upright, the hatches were open, just as the crew left her, and the shell damage was easily visible. The pressure hull was intact, the main hatch was guarded by a conger eel!

It has been proposed that the submarine be raised and salvaged. There are several options if she can be successfully raised; she could be placed, eventually, in the Gallipoli Peace Park or placed in the Rahmi Koc Museum in Istanbul. The main problem, of course is finance, it has been estimated that it would cost about $US 2 Million to raise the submarine and a further $US 2Million to restore it!

Unfortunately , at the present time, it seems that such money cannot be found and the opportunity to raise this unique WW1 submarine may well be lost!

[...]Indeed. I asked him about the UB46 after the talk. I understand that there was a wreck reported there, it had the characteristics of a submarine on his screen, he had the equipment and had a look.

Actually he -did- have to cast a wide net in the Sea of Marmora as there were four different reported positions of the sinking to investigate and all were wrong. He even went to London to visit Stoker's last remaining relative, his niece Primrose (who unfortunately died last week) and she allowed him to read Stoker's documents. He went back to use Stoker's bearings, but then, when he shut down his engine and his vessel was dead in the water, he noticed the current set. Allowing for this he searched to the west and was successful.

 Return to WWI The Maritime War

 Return to WWI Archive main page.

Last Updated: 30 December, 2000.