AE1 Memorial at Garden Island, Sydney

A plaque, commemorating AE1, was erected at the Naval Heritage Centre, Garden Island, Sydney on 14 September 2011. The plaque lists the AE1 crew and describes some of the story and was designed by renowned sculptor Dr Ross Bastiaan AM RFD. The ceremony was organised by Captain Ken Greig OAM RAN Retd, Mrs Vera Ryan and Mrs Robyn Rosenstraus on behalf of AE1 Inc. with a strong input from the President of the Submarines Association Australia, NSW Branch, Commander Geoff Anderson RAN Retd in combination with the RAN. The RAN organised the invitations to the VIPs and kindly provided the facilities and personnel for the guard and band and the occasion was enriched by the attendance of many naval and civilian dignitaries.

The text on the plaque reads:

HMAS AE1 was the first submarine in the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). She had a brief and tragic life, vanishing mysteriously with all her crew off the coast of Rabaul, New Guinea on 14 September 1914.

Built in England in May 1913 she sailed with her sister submarine AE2 to Garden Island Sydney, Australia on the brink of the First World War. After a refit in Sydney, AE1AE2 joined the Australian fleet as it sailed to New Guinea. Their orders were to capture the German colony, particularly the wireless stations, and pursue the German Pacific Fleet.

The fleet arrived in New Guinea in September 1914, landed troops and naval parties who proceeded to capture all German installations. The RAN provided support to the landing forces ashore and protection from the German Pacific Fleet which unbeknownst to the Australians, had actually left the region. On 14 September 1914, AE1 and HMAS Parramatta were on patrol off Rabaul near the Duke of York Island (see map) to guard against an attack by the German ships. At dusk Parramatta returned to harbour, AE1 did not.

AE1 was never seen again. Despite a two day search the loss of the submarine was not resolved. Further investigations over many years failed to locate AE1 and its loss remained a mystery.

The submarine is now a military maritime grave for the crew of 35 made up of sailors from Australia, Britain and one New Zealander. As the first Australian ship lost in war, AE1 remains a symbol of sacrifice and holds a proud place in the nation’s naval history.

Addresses were made by the Governor General, Her Excellency Ms Quentin Bryce AC (later AD, CVO), Vice Admiral Ray Griggs AO, CSC RAN and the President of AE1 Inc., Dr Michael White QC. The Governor General and the Chief of Navy jointly unveiled the plaque which is sited not far from the bow of HMAS Parramatta, the ship from which AE1 was last seen.

AE1 and AE2 Plaques at Australian War Memorial (AWM), Canberra

On 23 May 2014, the Submarine Association Australia ACT Inc., in conjunction with the AWM, conducted a Plaque Dedication Ceremony in memory of AE1and AE2 in the Western Courtyard of the AWM. The aim was to bring together ex-servicemen and women and family and friends to commemorate all those who had served in submarines but, in particular, to the memory of the crews of AE1 and AE2.

Garden Island Chapel, Sydney

The Naval Chapel at Garden Island, Sydney was established in 1902 and, after being converted from a sail loft, became the oldest Christian RAN chapel in Australia. The building is also the oldest on Garden Island and still has some of the original loft floor timbers with their oakum and bitumen caulking.

The main chapel is on the upper level of the building and included in the memorials, at the entrance, is a stained-glass window of the RAN fleet and its battle honours. On the upper level, to the right of the altar, is a memorial window to AE1 and AE2.

HMAS Cerberus Plaques, Victoria

HMAS Cerberus is a naval training base situated about 50 km south of Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula on Westernport Bay having been established about 1913, soon after the RAN was formed. Included in the spacious grounds are two chapels, one Anglican and one Catholic. Between these two chapels is an area dedicated to the memorials of RAN ships and personnel, including a plaque listing those ships lost, and on which AE1 and AE2 are shown.

On 14 September 2012 a plaque was unveiled by the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs AO CSC RAN, on which are commemorated the names of those lost in AE1.

Barrow-in-Furness, England

A memorial was erected at Barrow-in-Furness, England on 18 May 2013 with Admiral of the Fleet Michael Cecil Boyce, Baron Boyce KG, GCB, OBE, DL, a former submariner and patron of the Submarine Association in the UK, officiating. Family descendants and others associated with the AE1 and AE2projects and representatives from the Australian High Commission and the RN Submarine Museum Gosport, attended the ceremony. The project was initiated by Barrie Downer MBE and his colleagues of the Barrow Branch of the Submariners Association and managed by him, Mr Terry Spurling and office bearers of the Branch. The memorial is of triptych design, three feet high in black granite with white lettering. The left-hand panel lists the AE1crew, the right the AE2 crew, while the central panel has a brief history of the two submarines and a listing of spare crew members.

The memorial in Barrow also marks that the shipyard built both AE1 and AE2 and other Australian submarines. On 14 March 2014, in a beautiful dedication to the lost crews of AE1 and AE2, a wreath of yellow flowers, along with a note reading ‘From the people of Australia – Lest We Forget’, was laid at the memorial by the visiting Australian Minister of Defence, Senator the Hon. David Johnston, who had inspected the construction facilities at the Barrow Shipyard on the same day.

Memorial services were also held at Barrow-in-Furness by the Barrow-in-Furness Branch of the British Submariners Association on 14 September 2014 to mark the centenary of AE1’s loss. The service was conducted by Mr Alan Jones, the Lay Padre of the Barrow Branch and attended by the Mayor of Barrow and Commander Dylan Findlater RAN, submariner engineer, representing the Australian High Commissioner. He laid a wreath on behalf of the Australian Defence Forces. Other attendees included representatives of the Royal British Legion, the Duke of Lancaster’s Regimental Association and the Royal Air Force Association, with their Standards.

After the ceremony there was an Australian-style morning tea at the Royal British Legion in Holker Street. The Barrow Borough Council flew the Australian National Flag from the Barrow Town Hall for the day.

RN Submarine Museum, Gosport, England

A memorial to AE1 and AE2 was designed for the RN Submarine Museum in Gosport, Hampshire, and was officially opened on 12 May 2014. AE1 Incorporated had a large part in organising the memorial through the contribution of Mr Tom Tribe, Chairman of the AE1 Inc. UK Committee. He was greatly assisted by Commodore Chris Munns RN Retd, a former RN submariner and the Museum Director. The memorial is displayed inside the Fieldhouse building of the museum and depicts an engraving of AE1 and AE2, designed by the former submariner who, after retirement, became a well-known artist, Rear Admiral Frank Grenier CB RN Retd.

The opening of the restored A Class submarine Alliance along with the unveiling of the AE1 and AE2 memorial was conducted by HRH Prince William, who was the talk of the media during the week because, during the ceremony, the Prince shared a ceremonial tot of rum with the RN Museum Chairman, Vice Admiral Sir Tim McClement KCB OBE RN Retd.

Representatives of AE1 and AE2 who attended included Mr Tom Tribe, Rear Admiral Peter Briggs AO CSC RAN Retd, Captain Ken Greig OAM RAN Retd, Vera and Peter Ryan and Lord (James) Abinger, descendant of the Hon Leopold Scarlett, one of AE1’s officers. Also participating were Messrs Steve Tribe and Harry Wishart and other descendants of AE1 crew members.

Bita Paka War Cemetery, Papua New Guinea

In commemoration of the loss of AE1, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was presented with two plaques at HMA Dockyard at Williamstown in Victoria on 2 November 1968, by the then Commander of the Australian Submarine Squadron, Commander W.L. Owen, RAN.

The plaques were subsequently mounted at the 1914–18 Memorial at Bita Paka War Cemetery near Rabaul, New Britain, in PNG, one on either side of a flagstaff, near the plaque with the names of the members of the landing party who were killed.

In 2014, as part of the commemoration of the centenary of the landing of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF) and the loss of AE1, the Office of Australian War Graves, Department of Veterans Affairs upgraded the war cemetery at Bita Paka, including the AE1 memorial. Dr Ross Bastiaan AM, RFD again played his part in its design, as he has kindly done for so many Australian military sites.

Limited Edition AE1 ANZAC Biscuit Tins

As part of the centenary celebrations in 2014, some 30,000 Submarine Centenary ANZAC Biscuit Tins went on sale in Woolworths and other stores around Australia. In addition to the biscuits, the tins contained a brochure describing the story of AE1 and her fate. The brochure was prepared by Commodore Kim Pitt AM RAN Retd and Mr Lloyd Blake of the Submarine Institute of Australia (SIA). Mr Blake was the main driver behind the two-year project in conjunction with the Modern Baking Company operating in Broadmeadows, Victoria. The final marketing of the tins was largely assisted by Ms Erion Radford of Modern Baking, and her efforts were recognised both by the SIA and AE1 Inc. The brochure shows the convoy stopping points as used by the RAN during the First World War as well as a picture of Private Thomas Whyte and an unidentified Australian soldier sitting down in North Egypt, Mena.

AE1 Centenary of Loss September 2014

Numerous commemorative services were held on 14 September 2014 to mark the centenary of the loss of AE1, in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Rabaul in PNG, and Barrow-in-Furness in England.

The Brisbane service was held at the Submariners Walk Heritage Trail in New Farm, following on from a Ball held the evening before by the SAA Qld Branch. The Sydney service was held at the Naval Chapel, Garden Island followed by a reception at the RAN Heritage Centre.
The service in Melbourne was held at the Sanctuary in the Shrine of Remembrance with the Melbourne Detachment of the RAN Band in attendance and a Catafalque Party from HMAS Cerberus by serving submariners. In attendance was Captain Ken Greig OAM RAN Retd, Commander Terry Makings AM RAN Retd (Shrine Governor), Commander John Goss AM RAN Retd and Shrine office bearer Lieutenant Commander Chris Le Marshall.

The Perth service was held at the HMAS Stirling Chapel.

Services also took place in Rabaul, PNG, to which the RAN flew a large official party from Australia, including some members of the AE1 Descendant Families – of which Robyn Rosenstrauss, the AE1 Descendant Families Honorary Secretary, was one.