Searching For Australia’s First Submarine

Find AE1 Ltd is a company established for the sole purpose of finding HMAS AE1, lost with all hands off Rabaul on 14 September 1914.

Submarines AE1 and AE2 were Australia’s first two submarines. At the outbreak of the First World War the two submarines were sent from Sydney to German New Guinea with the Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Force to help capture the German colony.

On 14 September (a day after the official German surrender of the colony) AE1, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Thomas Besant, left Rabaul harbour to patrol Cape Gazelle and never returned. The fate of the submarine was never discovered.

HMAS AE2, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Henry ‘Dacre’ Stoker, achieved fame by becoming the first submarine to break into the Dardanelles during the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. After torpedoing a Turkish destroyer it reached the Sea of Marmara. AE2 remained at large for five more days before sustaining irreparable damage while under heavy fire. Stoker was forced to sink the submarine and surrender. He and his crew spent the rest of the war in Turkish captivity.

The wreck of AE2 was located in June 1998.

AE1 was located off the Duke of York Islands on 20 December 2017, lying in a depth of water greater than 300 metres, by the MV Fugro Equator, deploying a Hugin 1000 autonomous underwater vehicle.

Find AE1 Ltd wishes to thank the Federal Government, Royal Australian Navy, Silent World Foundation, Australian National Maritime Museum, Submarine Institute of Australia, Fugro and the numerous volunteers who have given their time and expertise to make this possible.

The Find AE1 team looks forward to working together with its supporters to understand what befell the men of AE1.