On 25 April 1915 – the day the Anzacs landed at Gallipoli – Lieutenant Commander Dacre Stoker set out as captain of the Australian submarine AE2 on a mission to breach the treacherous Dardanelles Strait with the intention of disrupting Turkish supply lines to the isolated Gallipoli peninsula. Facing dangerous currents, mines and withering enemy fire, Stoker and his men succeeded where British and French submarines had come to grief.
Stoker’s achievement meant much in military terms, and even more emotionally in boosting the morale of embattled Allied troops. But what was proclaimed at the time as ‘the finest feat in submarine history’ has since sunk into oblivion. Few Australians even know their country had a submarine at Gallipoli, much less that it achieved daring feats, torpedoed an enemy craft, and possibly played a pivotal role in Anzac troops staying on the beachhead for eight months.
Now, finally, Stoker’s Submarine tells the story of a remarkable naval hero and the men under his command. And AE2 herself, still lying intact on the floor of the Sea of Marmara, is celebrated as the most tangible relic of Australia’s role at Gallipoli.
The final three chapters of this new edition continue the saga. In 2007, the AE2 Commemorative Foundation, the Submarine Institute and other sponsors conducted a joint Turkish–Australian expedition workshop, survey and dive on the AE2, with the aim to conserve, preserve and protect the wreck – which, it turns out, is in surprisingly good condition even after 100 years – and to tell the story of the brave crew. The Turkish government has recently approved the project and plans are now well advanced to bring this major project to fruition.
The final chapters of the new edition are about the AE1. The story of Australia’s other World War One submarine is shorter but equally dramatic and even more tragic.
Both the AE1 and the AE2 were deployed in action against the Germans in New Guinea very soon after the submarines had arrived in Australia in 1914. They were part of the Australian Navy’s successful demolition of a German wireless command station for the Pacific. Both submarines patrolled off Rabaul in September 1914. On the AE1’s first solo seek-and-destroy mission, the submarine vanished with the loss of all thirty-five crew.
Sadly, co-author Fred Brenchley died aged 67 in 2009.
This latest edition is published by ATOM (Australian Teachers of Media) in conjunction with the AE2 Commemorative Foundation.
The book is available from the Education Shop – click to go to the site – for $34.95.