- Swinden, Greg
- Book reviews, WWI operations, Naval Engagements, Operations and Capabilities, Biographies
- RAN Ships
- HMAS AE2
- September 2001 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Title: Stoker’s Submarine Authors: Fred & Elizabeth Brenchley Publisher: Harper Collins
Nearly every Australian could tell you the history of the landing at Anzac Cove, on 25 April 1915, of the men of the Australian Imperial Force. Many could also tell you the history of the ill-fated Gallipoli Campaign, which lasted for the next eight months culminating in the evacuation of the Peninsula in December of 1915. Few if any could tell you the story of the Australian submarine AE2, with a half Australian and half British crew under the command of a debonair Irishman, that penetrated the Dardanelles in the early hours of 25 April and caused havoc and confusion behind the Turkish lines while the first ANZACs were going ashore. Stoker’s Submarine is their story.
Stoker’s Submarine follows the story of Commander Henry Hugh Gordon Dacre Stoker, and his band of happy-go-lucky submariners as they cross the globe from England to Australia, in 1914, to deliver one of Australia’s first submarines to its brand new Navy. Just over a year later Stoker and his men made history when they became the first Allied submarine to penetrate the heavily mined Dardanelles with orders to `Run Amok’ and cause confusion behind the Turkish lines when the ANZACs were going ashore at Gallipoli.
News of their success reached the British General commanding the assault on the Gallipoli Peninsula, just at the moment he was considering evacuating the entire force in the face of stiff Turkish opposition. He saw AE2’s success as an omen of good fortune and gave the following order to the ANZACs – ‘You have got through the difficult business, now you only have to dig, dig, dig until you are safe.‘ For good or bad without AE2 there would have been no ANZAC legend created at Gallipoli.
Unfortunately their success was short lived as AE2 was sunk a few days later and Stoker and his men became prisoners of the Turks when they endured three-and-a-half years of living hell in Turkish forced labour camps where conditions were similar to that endured by prisoners of the Japanese in World War II. The book then follows the lives of the men as they tried to resume some semblance of normality after the war and attempts to explain why Stoker and his men were poorly rewarded for their deeds. It also follows the history of the AE2 herself, the wreck of which was recently re-discovered, in 1998, lying 35 fathoms deep in the mud of the Sea of Marmara. The future of the wreck is now the subject of discussion between the Governments of Australia and Turkey.
Fred and Elizabeth Brenchley have done an excellent job of research in which they have pieced together many disparate, and previously unknown facts about Stoker and his men into a highly readable and entertaining book. The book also contains a number of photographs of Stoker and his men as well as recent shots of the wreck of the AE2. Many of these photographs have never been published before.
For those interested in the bare facts, Stoker’s Submarine is a well illustrated 280-page paperback published by Harper Collins and retailing at $29.95. For those actually interested in the contents – then purchase a copy and be prepared to read an exciting story of wartime bravery and suffering endured by an often forgotten group of Australian servicemen.