Lieutenant Commander Henry Hugh Gordon Dacre 'Harry' Stoker, DSO
Date of birth: 02 February 1885
Place of birth: Dublin, Ireland
Date of death: 02 February 1966
Place of death: London, England
On 25 April 1915, Henry Stoker captained the first submarine to breach the Dardanelles. He was born in Dublin on 2 February 1885. At the age of 12, Stoker decided upon a naval career; within a few years he was accepted as a naval cadet and had embarked upon training on the Royal Navy's training ship, HMS Britannia.
In 1904 Stoker was promoted to acting sub-lieutenant and began study at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich. Attracted by the prospect of extra pay, he volunteered for the submarine service but a year passed before he was accepted. At 23 he was promoted to lieutenant, given a submarine command, and later given a posting to open Britain's first submarine station at Gibraltar.
Five years later, apparently pursuing a desire to play polo in Australia, Stoker applied for and received a posting to the RAN's new submarine service. In 1913 he took command of AE2. On 2 March 1914, AE2 and its sister ship, AE1, set sail for Australia, arriving in Sydney on 24 May having completed the longest submarine journey then undertaken. In August 1914 the two submarines were ordered to the Pacific to hunt for German raiders believed to be in the area. Shortly afterwards AE1 disappeared. AE2 returned to Sydney, and in late December 1914 sailed for the Middle East with the second AIF convoy.
Having arrived in Egypt, Stoker was ordered to join the naval forces then gathering for an attempt to force the Dardanelles. The attempt ended in the defeat of the British and French navies on 18 March 1915, while Stoker's submarine was being repaired in Malta. The Admiralty decided submarines might succeed where surface ships had failed. Stoker and his crew sailed on the eve of the Gallipoli landings. His torrid journey, full of risk and exposure to frequent attack, ended in the Sea of Marmora six days later when AE2 was sunk and her crew captured.
Stoker spent the next three and a half years in Turkish captivity - escaping and being recaptured - while enduring solitary confinement, bizarre snatches of freedom, and endless months in prison camps. He returned to England after the war and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his deeds of 1915, although he and others felt he deserved the Victoria Cross. Although he was given other submarine commands and in December 1919 was promoted to commander, he had tired of submarines. Stoker sought transfer but when it was offered he opted instead for an acting career. He retired from the Navy in 1920 and went on to succeed as an actor, writer, and theatre director.
In the Second World War, Stoker was recalled to duty, commanded a naval base, worked in public relations, and was involved in the planning for D-Day. After the war he returned to the theatre. He became the Irish croquet champion in 1962 at the age of 77. He died in London in February 1966.