Aussie sub first to get through Dardanelles Strait

UP PERISCOPE: The AE2 was an E-Class submarine built for the Royal Australian Navy. Photos: DEFENCE
UP PERISCOPE: The AE2 was an E-Class submarine built for the Royal Australian Navy. Photos: DEFENCE

A FASCINATING story that has often been overlooked on Anzac Day is that of the Australian submarine that was the first to breach the Dardanelles, having sailed from Sydney.

It's a tale of derring-do by the Dublin-born lieutenant-commander, Henry Hugh Gordon Dacre Stoker, who began his career as a 14-year-old sea cadet and ended it as an actor and playwright.

His submarine, the AE2 was one of two E-Class submarines built for the fledgling Royal Australian Navy.

Both submarines sailed from England for Australia on March 2, 1914, arriving in Sydney on May 24.

At the outbreak of World War I, the AE2, under the command of Stoker, was ordered back to the northern hemisphere, in support of the unfolding Dardanelles campaign.

Up until that time, all attempts to sail submarines up the Dardanelles Strait had failed.

Stoker, as a newly promoted lieutenant commander, was ready for the challenge.

REMAINS: The AE2.

REMAINS: The AE2.

In early April 1915 he sailed the AE2 75 kilometres up the Dardanelles, evading Turkish minefields, shore batteries and patrolling warships.

The AE2 broke through into the Sea of Marmara and became the first Allied submarine to do so. The submarine's successful passage past Nagara Point was relayed via morse and proved a fillip for staff and generals above, who had been mulling an evacuation of Gallipoli.

The decision was made to "dig in" on those fateful shores.

Remarkably, over the next few days, Stoker continued to sail his vessel up the Dardanelles, firing torpedoes at enemy craft.

The game ended on April 30, 1915, when a torpedo boat fired on the AE2, blowing three holes into its body.

After this death blow, Stoker ordered all hands on deck.

All crew took to the water; they were all picked up and taken prisoner, spending the next three-and-a-half years in Turkish prisons.

Stoker was repatriated to England in December, 1918, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and also served in World War II.

Later in life Stoker took up sports and became croquet champion of Ireland in 1962, aged 77.

In 2014, a team of divers discovered the remains of the AE2 at the bottom of the Dardanelles strait and took photos of the remains of the submarine.

There are no plans to try retrieve the wreck and return her here. More information at navy.gov.au

This story Derring-do in Dardanelles first appeared on Local News.