Event Operations against German Pacific territories
Commanding Officer Besant, Thomas Flemming
Decorations Nil
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
  • M.W.D. White, Australian submarines: a history, (Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service, 1992).
Category Unit
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Unit hierarchy

His Majesty’s Australian Submarine AE1, the Royal Australian Navy's first submarine, was commissioned in the United Kingdom on 28 February 1914. After commissioning, she sailed to Australia crewed by British and Australian sailors, accompanied by her sister AE2, arriving at Sydney in May 1914.

Following the outbreak of war in August 1914, both submarines proceeded to New Guinea for operations against the German colonies. On 14 September, AE1, accompanied by HMAS Parramatta, left Blanche Bay, New Britain, to patrol off Cape Gazelle. She was last seen by Parramatta at 3.30 pm that day. Despite extensive searches no trace of the submarine or its complement of three officers and 32 sailors was found. It was the RAN’s first loss of a vessel and its entire complement.

Despite further searches being conducted from 1976 onwards, no trace of AE1 was found until December 2017 when the research and survey vessel MV Fugro Equator located the wreck of AE1 off the Duke of York Island in around 300 meters of water.

In April 2018 an expedition was conducted to the site of the wreck, this time with the Research Vessel Petrel. A comprehensive survey of AE1’s hull was done using the ship’s Remotely Operated Vehicle. It is hoped that the results of this survey will allow researchers to better understand what happened to AE1.

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