In 1910, the first ships for the fledgling Royal Australian Navy (the Australian Squadron of the Royal Navy, as it was then known) were ordered from Britain. This order included the construction of the RAN’s first two submarines, HMA Submarines AE1 and AE2, at the Vickers, Sons & Maxim shipyards at Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.

After the completion of building and the subsequent sea trials in early 1914, the submarines sailed home to Sydney via the Suez Canal, Ceylon, Singapore and Darwin, a distance of 26,000 miles in three months.

The submarines sailed with an escorting warship the whole way and were in fact towed by that vessel on alternate days, to lessen the wear and tear on their propulsion systems. This was nonetheless a world record at the time, as the longest submarine transit before that was only about 400 miles. After their arrival, they were both docked for repairs and maintenance at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, Sydney.

They were quickly brought back to operational readiness in time to be included in the fleet element of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, which was tasked by the Australian government (at the behest of the British government), with invading and subjugating the German Pacific Colonial headquarters at Rabaul, New Britain Island, in what is now the nation of Papua New Guinea.

The Journey to Sydney