Military Wiki
AE1 (AWM P01075041).jpg
HMAS AE1 underway in 1914
Career (Australia)
Builder: Vickers Armstrong
Laid down: 14 November 1911
Launched: 22 May 1913
Commissioned: 28 February 1914
Honours and
Battle honours:
Rabaul 1914[1][2]
Fate: Lost at sea, 14 September 1914
Notes: Location of sinking unknown
General characteristics
Class & type: E-class submarine
Displacement: 750 long tons (760 t) surfaced
Length: 181 ft (55 m)
Beam: 22 ft 6 in (6.86 m)
Draught: 12 ft 6 in (3.81 m)
Installed power: 2 × 8-cylinder diesels, 1,600 hp (1,200 kW) surfaced,
battery-driven electric motors, 840 hp (630 kW) submerged
Propulsion: 2 × propeller shafts
Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph) surfaced
10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) submerged
Range: 3,000 nmi (5,600 km; 3,500 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced
65 nmi (120 km; 75 mi) at 5 knots (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph) submerged
Test depth: 200 feet (61.0 m)
Complement: 34
Armament: 4 × 18-inch torpedo tubes

HMAS AE1 (originally known as just AE1) was an E-class submarine of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). She was the first submarine to serve in the RAN, and was lost at sea with all hands near East New Britain, Papua New Guinea, on 14 September 1914, after less than seven months in service. The wreck of the submarine has never been found, despite several searches.


The E-class was an enlarged version of the preceding D-class submarine to accommodate an additional pair of broadside torpedo tubes.[3] AE1 was 181 feet (55.2 m) long overall, had a beam of 22 feet 6 inches (6.9 m) and a draught of 12 feet 6 inches (3.8 m).[4] She displaced 750 long tons (760 t) on the surface[5] and 810 long tons (820 t) submerged. The E-class boats had a designed diving depth of 100 feet (30.5 m), but the addition of watertight bulkheads, strengthened the hull and increased the actual diving depth to 200 feet (61.0 m).[3] The crew consisted of 34 officers and enlisted men.[4]

The boat had two propellers, each of which was driven by an eight-cylinder[5] 800-brake-horsepower (600 kW) diesel engine as well as a 420-brake-horsepower (313 kW) electric motor. This arrangement gave the E-class submarines a maximum speed of 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph) while surfaced and 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) submerged.[4] They carried approximately 40 long tons (41 t)[3] of fuel that gave them a range of 3,000 nautical miles (5,600 km; 3,500 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) while on the surface[4] and 65 nmi (120 km; 75 mi) at 5 knots (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph) while submerged.[3]

AE1 had four 18-inch torpedo tubes, one each in the bow and stern, plus two on the broadside, one firing to port and the other to starboard. The boat carried one spare torpedo for each tube. No guns were fitted.[4]


AE1 was laid down by Vickers Armstrong at Barrow-in-Furness, England on 14 November 1911, launched on 22 May 1913 and commissioned into the RAN on 28 February 1914.[6] After commissioning, AE1, accompanied by her sister ship AE2, the other of the Royal Australian Navy's first two submarines, reached Sydney from England on 24 May 1914. Both submarines were manned by Royal Navy (RN) officers with a mixed crew of sailors drawn from the RN and RAN.[7]

Deployment and loss

At the outbreak of World War I, AE1, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Thomas Besant, RN, was sent to capture German New Guinea as part of the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force. With her sister ship AE2, she took part in the operations leading to the occupation of the German territory, including the surrender of Rabaul on 13 September 1914. The submarine's involvement was recognised following an overhaul of the RAN battle honours system in 2010: AE1 retroactively received the honour "Rabaul 1914".[1][2]

AE1 with other Australian ships off Rabaul on 9 September 1914

At 07:00 on 14 September, AE1 departed Blanche Bay, Rabaul, to patrol off Cape Gazelle with HMAS Parramatta. When she had not returned by 20:00, several ships were dispatched to search for her. No trace of the submarine was ever found, and she was listed as lost with all hands. It is probable that she was wrecked on a reef or other submerged object.[7] As well as Lieutenant Commander Besant, 2 other officers and 32 sailors were lost in this disaster. The disappearance was Australia's first major loss of World War I.[7]


The Maritime Museum of Western Australia, sponsored by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, launched an unsuccessful attempt to locate the submarine in November 2003.[8] The search area was concentrated to the south-east of the Duke of York Islands.[8]

In February 2007, a new effort to locate the submarine was mounted by the RAN, when the survey ships Benalla and Shepparton attempted to locate the submarine off East New Britain, based on data compiled over the previous 30 years.[7] Benalla located an object of the appropriate dimensions using sonar on 1 March.[9] Later identification conducted by HMAS Yarra found the object to be a rock formation with similar shape and dimensions to the submarine.[10]


in December 2017 another search - the 13th - was conduct using the survey ship Fugro Equator, off the Duke of York Islands,


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Navy Marks 109th Birthday With Historic Changes To Battle Honours". Royal Australian Navy. 1 March 2010. Archived from the original on 13 June 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2012. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Royal Australian Navy Ship/Unit Battle Honours". Royal Australian Navy. 1 March 2010. Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2012. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Harrison, Chapter 4: Pre-1914 Saddle Tank Types D & E Classes
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Gillette, Australian & New Zealand Warships, 1914–1945, p. 47
  5. 5.0 5.1 Frame, No Pleasure Cruise, p. 97
  6. "AE1". Sea Power Centre Australia. Retrieved 15 September 2008. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 "Navy to hunt for lost sub". The Sydney Morning Herald. 26 February 2007. Retrieved 26 February 2007. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Green, Jeremy (2003). "The search for the AE1" (PDF). Department of Maritime Archaeology. Western Australian Maritime Museum. Archived from the original on 4 September 2007. Retrieved 1 March 2007. 
  9. AAP (1 March 2007). "Missing WWI sub may have been found". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 1 March 2007. 
  10. "Resurface of mystery". Navy News. Australian Government, Department of Defence. 14 June 2007. Retrieved 7 December 2008. 


Further reading

  • Foster, John (2006). AE1 Entombed: But Not Forgotten. Loftus, N.S.W.: Australian Military History Publications. ISBN 1-876439-53-X. 

External links

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