Biography

Birth date: 02 February 1885
Birth place: Ireland: Dublin
Death date: 02 February 1966
Death place: United Kingdom: England, Greater London, London
Final rank: Lieutenant Commander
Service number: 1242 - First World War, 1914-1918
Unit: HMAS AE 2

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.

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Rolls and Awards

  • Rank: Private
  • Date of embarkation: 01 May 1916
  • Place of embarkation: Sydney
  • Rank: Major
  • Date of embarkation: 07 July 1916
  • Place of embarkation: Melbourne
  • Rank: Captain
  • Date of embarkation: 17 July 1915
  • Place of embarkation: Melbourne
  • Rank: Lieutenant
  • Unit: HMAS AE 2
  • Awarded: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: HMAS AE 2
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Distinguished Service Order
  • Unit: HMAS AE 2
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Collection Items

Digitised Collection

Timeline

Date of birth 1885-02-02 Dublin, Ireland.
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1900 Joined the RN at the age of 15 as a cadet. Trained aboard the HMS Britannia.
Date promoted 1904 Promoted to acting sub-lieutenant, began study at the Royal Naval College at Greenwich and volunteered for submarine service.
Other 1907 Promoted to lieutenant and given a submarine command, HM Submarine the A10.
Other 1913 After recieving a posting to the RAN, Stoker was given command of the AE2.
Other 1914-03-02 The AE2 and the AE1 set sail for Australia.
Other 1914-05-24 The AE2 and the AE1 arrived in Sydney after completeing the longest submarine journey then undertaken.
Other 1914-08 The AE2 and the AE1 were ordered to the Pacific to hunt for German raiders. Shortly afterwards the AE1 disappeared and the AE2 returned to Sydney.
Other 1914-12 The AE2 embarked for the Middle East with the 2nd AIF convoy. The AE2 then continued on to the Mediterranean.
Other 1915-02 The AE2 arrived in the Mediterranean.
Other 1915-04-25 Stoker captained the first submarine to breach the Dardanelles.
Other 1915-04-26 The AE2 entered the Sea of Marmara.
Other 1915-04-30 The AE2 scuttled in the Sea of Mamora and all crew taken prisoner by the Turks.
Date of embarkation 1915-07-17
Date of embarkation 1916-05-01
Date of embarkation 1916-07-07
Other 1919-12 Promoted to commander.
Date of discharge 1920 Retired from the Navy.
Date of death 1966-02-02 London, England.