Enduring Sea Mystery Solved: WWI Sub Located
Australia’s first submarine, HMAS AE1, has been found, ending a 103-year-old maritime mystery. The fate of the 800-ton E-class sub and her 35 crew members has remained one of the persistent unresolved enigmas of Australian and World War I naval history.
She was the first loss for the Royal Australian Navy and the first Allied submarine loss in World War I. One of two E-class submarines built for the fledgling Australian fleet, she was manned by Royal Navy officers with a mixed crew of sailors drawn from the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy. Accompanied by her sister AE2, AE1 departed England in March 1914, transited the Suez Canal, and reached Sydney on 24 May. Although the boats remained surfaced for almost the entire delivery voyage, at the time it was the longest transit distance ever traveled by a submarine.
At the outbreak of World War I, AE1 joined the naval forces assigned to the capture of the German Pacific colonies. With AE2, she took part in the operations leading to the occupation of German New Guinea, including the surrender of Rabaul on 13 September 1914.