On 24 May 1914, the Royal Australian Navy took delivery of its first submarines in Sydney, the two British-built E-class vessels HMAS AE1 and HMAS AE2, as part of a substantial upgrade of Australia’s fledgling naval fleet.
Following the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, just three months after they arrived in Sydney, both submarines were sent to New Guinea with the Australian Naval & Military Expeditionary Force, tasked to attack the German Pacific Fleet and to capture the colony of German New Guinea.
On 14 September, a day after Germany surrendered the colony, the HMAS AE1 was mysteriously lost off the coast of Rabaul. It is assumed that the submarine struck an unchartered reef and sunk. Over the last 100 years there have been many attempts to locate the submarine and the remains of her 35 crew, which consisted of 15 Australian and 20 British submariners, but the site of this underwater military grave remains unknown.
The HMAS AE2 remained in the South Pacific until December 1914, when she was sent to the Mediterranean to support the British-led operations off the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. The HMAS AE2 played a pivotal role in the Gallipoli campaign, becoming the first Allied submarine to penetrate the heavily guarded narrow passage through the Dardanelles on 25 April 1915, entering the Sea of Marmara.
Animation: Blow-by-blow account HMAS AE2’s perilous passage through the heavily protected Dardanelles at Gallipoli between 24-29 April 1915. Click graphic.
The HMAS AE2’s extraordinary accomplishment at Gallipoli is believed to be the first successful submarine campaign to deny an opponent use of the sea. The submarine also relieved the pressure on the Allied troops who were engaged in combat on the beach.
Despite her success, the HMAS AE2 was abandoned just days after the Gallipoli campaign began, after falling victim to enemy fire and losing power. Lieutenant Commander Henry Stoker ordered all hands on deck before scuttling his craft. The wreck of the HMAS AE2 remains where she sank, in the Sea of Marmara, Turkey, as a protected relic.
The Perth Mint is pleased to celebrate 100 years of Australian submarines with this pure silver commemorative coin featuring a design representing a modern-day Royal Australian Navy Collins-class submarine.
The coin is accompanied by a replica Royal Australian Navy Submarine Service badge featuring a dolphin and crown emblem with the inscription SUBMARINE FORCE AUSTRALIA SILENT SERVICE.
No more than 3,000 sets will be released.