Following the outbreak of World War 1 in August 1914, HMAS AE2 was ordered to join the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force.
Rich in history the, the Ruth Whitfield Memorial Park in Kallangur is home to a commemorative replica of the AE2; many visit the park (and other ANZAC memorial sites along ANZAC Avenue) to honour the brave exploits of its crew during the Gallipoli Campaign.
The park features a mural inscribed with World War 1 important facts about the HMAS AE2’s brave exploits along with a replica submarine monument.
The HMAS AE2 was part of an ambitious plan to help defeat Germany and its allies during World War One. Its mission was to prove submarines could make it through the heavily fortified gauntlet of the Dardenelles Strait to the Sea of Marmara – a daunting 60 kilometre journey which required outwitting the enemy while battling strong and tricky currents.
Commanded by Irish Lieutenant-Commander Henry Stoker, the AE2 manuevered through the treacherous strait by navigating a minefield, evading pursuing enemy gunboats, destroyers, tugs and smaller craft, and diving to elude surveillance sweeps and avoid traps set in its course.
“The manner in which they [the crew] performed their duties was such as to earn the most complete recommendation that I can possibly give them,” attested Lieutenant-Commander Henry Stoker upon his return to England.
The crew prevailed against the odds and made it out the other end into the Sea of Marmara, however, the mission was not yet complete, the battered submarine and its weary seamen still had a final, crucial phase to carry-out.
The next phase required the AE2 to attack mine-laying ships and ‘run amok’, disrupting transportation of enemy troops and supplies to the Gallipoli Peninsula and creating a diversion which would distract the enemy as the ANZACs and Allied forces breached Turkey’s shoreline on ANZAC Day, April 25th 1915.
Despite unsuccessful skirmishes with enemy vessels in the Sea of Marmara, HMAS AE2 did succeeed in causing chaos which resulted in fewer Allied casualties than would otherwise have transpired without the submarine’s intervention. But, AE2’s luck was soon to run out, disaster loomed as the damaged ship began to succumb to her wounds.
While diving to evade an enemy vessel, the submarine inexplicably inclined upwards, breaching the surface while the crew scrambled to submerge it again. With the diving rudders unresponsive and the forward tanks flooded, the hulking collusus dived, this time out of control, past the limit of the depth gauges – 100 feet – and further down. Control was eventually regained and it resurfaced, but only to plummet again, repeating the horrific experience once more as the enemy closed in.
The end came quickly, when AE2 breached the surface for a final moment it was hit 3 times, no longer able to dive, the crew abandoned ship as AE2 took on water and slid gracefully into the depths descending on its final, deepest dive.
More ANZAC Tributes in the Moreton Bay Region:
Find out what is happening near you for Anzac Day
Access Ruth Whitfield Park from the Kippa-Ring to Petrie shared pathway