A HATCH. A boot. A guage frozen in time. Out of the murk of the Black Sea has emerged the first photos of Australia’s heroic submarine AE2 — lost just days after the ANZACs attacked the Dardanelles.
Almost 100 years ago, the boat and her brave crew of 34 sailors, led by skipper Lieutenant Commander Dacre Stoker, were ordered into the Dardanelles Strait near Gallipoli to ‘run amok’ and attack Turkish troop transports.
It was a mission timed to coincide with the allied landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula on the first ANZAC Day April 25, 1915.
In an extraordinary feat of seamanship the submarine entered the heavily mined ‘narrows’ at 2.30am and attacked a Turkish gunboat and other surface craft while under the guns of the enemy.
The submarine then slipped through the Dardanelles before entering the Sea of Marmara — between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean — on April 26 where she set about the task.
But her luck did not hold out for long.
Another Ottoman torpedo boat attacked the AE2 on April 30. The damage was significant.
Dacre ordered ‘abandon ship’ as the boat sank to the bottom. All the crew survived and were rescued by the Turkish vessel.
The crystal clear images, captured by a joint Australian-Turkish team under Project ‘Silent ANZAC’, show remarkably well-preserved details from within what is now a protected war memorial site.
A robotic arm from a remote vehicle forced open the conning tower hatch to the sunken submarine. The hatch is repportedly swinging freely on it's original hinges. Photo - Department of Veterans Affairs
They include original paint, shoes and flags stowed in a locker in the conning tower, instruments that can still be clearly read and barnacle encrusted valves and other machinery.
Project leader and chairman of the AE2 Commemorative Foundation (AE2CF), retired Rear Admiral Peter Briggs said the roving camera used to inspect the wreck has captured the entire length of the submarine including her forward and aft hydroplanes, rudder and tops of her propellers.
A guage remains readable inside AE2's control centre 100 years after the sub was sunk by a Turkish gunboat - Photo Department of Veterans Affairs
“The submarine interior is in amazingly good condition including what we believe was the battle ensign used by Lieutenant Commander, Henry ‘Dacre’ Stoker, DSO, 99 years ago,” he said.
“The Turkish Government will ensure ongoing maintenance of the buoy laid over AE2 — to protect her from further damage — acknowledging the importance of preserving this shared piece of Turkey and Australia’s maritime military heritage.”
Veterans Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson said project ‘Silent ANZAC’ was a joint Australian and Turkish initiative, led by a team from the AE2 Commemorative Foundation and Submarine Institute of Australia made up of 16 Australians, 19 Turks and two Americans including scientists, divers, academics, maritime archaeologists, film makers, submariners and historians all working together.
Lost messages - signal flags and boots still sit inside the quick access lockers at he base of AE2's conning tower. Photo Department of Veteran's Affairs
The AE2 is one of the last untouched Gallipoli battlefield sites and, with the dedicated work of a team of Australian submariners, scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Organisation and US remotely operated vehicle designers, SeaBotix, she will be protected and preserved where she fell for many years to come,” Senator Ronaldson said
Rear Admiral Briggs said one of the most significant discoveries was a portable wireless telegraph pole and antenna wire, the existence of which had long been the subject of discussion of military historians.
“It is most likely that it was this telegraph which transmitted the message to Army headquarters that AE2 had torpedoed an Ottoman gunboat at Çanakkale,” he said.