- Jarrett, Hugh
- WWI operations, Letter to the Editor
- RAN Ships
- HMAS AE2
- March 2000 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
I read Mark Spencer’s article… “The Discovery of the AE2 – a WW1 Submarine” with great interest and agree that it is a story largely unknown in this country and feel that this account is notable for its description on the patient search for the wreck and its discovery.
Nevertheless, I feel I must point out that on 13th January 1807 the Commander-in-Chief Mediterranean, Admiral Collingwood, sent orders to Vice-Admiral Sir John Duckworth to take command of a squadron comprising the line-of-battle-ships Pompie, Canopus, Thunderer Standard, Endymion, Active, Nautilus, Royal George, Windsor Castle, Repulse and Ajax with Rear-Admirals Sir Sidney Smith and Sir Thomas Louis as divisional commanders.
This powerful force was to transit the Dardanelles and subject the city of Constantinople to bombardment due to the French having made successful approaches to the Turks. The Russian fleet based at Corfu was asked to detach four ships to assist.
Seven weeks later Sir Sidney Smith with the rear division attacked a Turkish squadron anchored in the Dardanelles, sinking two ships and burning eleven in an action which took four hours.
Duckworth’s squadron sailed on only to become becalmed for a fortnight within sight of Constantinople. Having lost the effect of surprise and having given the Porte time to organise resistance, he retired through the Dardanelles suffering many casualties from the forts on the way.
So, with respect, I suggest it can not be stated that… “No enemy craft had traversed the Dardanelles for over five hundred years“.
It should also be recognised that on 13th December 1914, Lieutenant Norman Holbrook RN, in command of the small submarine, B11, penetrated the Turkish minefields at the entrance to the Sea of Marmara and torpedoed the Turkish ship, Messoudieh.
The AE2 has another unnoticed, and I dare say more important effect on Australian history. After the ANZACs were landed on the wrong beach, General Birdwood, their commander, had a meeting with his generals and as a result sent a signal to his Commander-in-Chief, General Hamilton who was on board the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth. He was roused from his bed in the flagship near midnight on the 25th April after the signal was received and held a staff meeting, where he read the signal from Birdwood to the naval and army officers present. The signal stated the situation which faced the ANZACs was untenable and requested immediate withdrawal. It would be difficult to imagine a more negative message at such a critical time. At the critical moment in this dour situation, the Chief of Staff to Vice Admiral de Robeck, Commodore Keyes, entered flourishing a just-received signal which stated that AE2 had passed through the Dardanelles and had sunk Turkish shipping.
No doubt Keyes chose his moment and applied a certain amount of drama in reading the signal to a dour gathering which had already determined that it would take several days to withdraw the troops even if shipping was available.
As a direct result, General Hamilton sent a signal to the ANZACs stating that AE2 had succeeded and all that remained for the soldiers to do was `dig, dig, dig!’
One wonders if this was the origin of the army’s nickname.