Australia’s submarine at Gallipoli

In the early hours of 25 April 1915, Royal Australian Navy submarine the AE2 sailed up the narrow Dardanelles strait to disrupt Turkish supply ships. She faced strong currents, Turkish gun batteries on shore, and mines that had sunk two earlier submarines. Yet the AE2, commanded by Irish Lt. Commander Henry Stoker, successfully passed through the Narrows into the Sea of Marmara, making several attacks on Turkish shipping before she was hit by a torpedo boat. Stoker ordered his crew to evacuate and scuttled the vessel. He and his crew were taken prisoner for the rest of the war, and several died of illness in captivity. Forty years later, Henry Stoker recalled the nerve-wracking voyage.

Year:1915 (Recorded 1955)

Location:Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey

Close

Australia’s submarine at Gallipoli

In the early hours of 25 April 1915, Royal Australian Navy submarine the AE2 sailed up the narrow Dardanelles strait to disrupt Turkish supply ships. She faced strong currents, Turkish gun batteries on shore, and mines that had sunk two earlier submarines. Yet the AE2, commanded by Irish Lt. Commander Henry Stoker, successfully passed through the Narrows into the Sea of Marmara, making several attacks on Turkish shipping before she was hit by a torpedo boat. Stoker ordered his crew to evacuate and scuttled the vessel. He and his crew were taken prisoner for the rest of the war, and several died of illness in captivity. Forty years later, Henry Stoker recalled the nerve-wracking voyage.


Year: 1915 (Recorded 1955)

Length: 03:30

Production Company: BBC Transcription Service

Credits: Narrated by: Ewen Solon. Produced by: John Bridges

Source: Radio New Zealand Collection, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Catalogue Reference: 32681 Stories of Gallipoli. 1955


People: Henry Hugh Gordon Dacre Stoker

Location: Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey


Image Title: The crew of the Australian Navy submarine AE2 grouped on deck

Image Source: Courtesy of the Australian War Memorial, www.awm.gov.au/collection/H18370/


The Turkish forces at Gallipoli relied on ships sailing the waters of the Dardanelles for their supplies from Constantinople. British commanders tried for several months before the April landings to find a way to disrupt this supply route. It was a difficult job for submarines, as there were strong currents to contend with and Turkish gun batteries on the shore watching for enemy vessels. In addition, the straits had been heavily mined and the first two submarines to attempt the journey were lost.

The Royal Australian Navy submarine AE2 had a British and Australian crew under Lieutenant Commander Henry Stoker. He successfully negotiated the journey up the Dardanelles and into the Sea of Marmara and signalled a message to the Allied fleet that her journey had been a success, telling other vessels which route to use. However, the AE2 was spotted by a Turkish torpedo boat on 29 April 1915 and hit.

The commanders of two British submarines which followed AE2’s route into the Sea of Marmara were awarded the Victoria Cross but Henry Stoker did not get the same recognition, possibly because he and his crew were imprisoned and the story of the AE2 was not widely known until after they were freed.

After the war, Stoker left the Navy and had a successful career as a stage and screen actor in Britain. The wreck of the AE2 was rediscovered in the Sea of Marmara in 1998 and has been the subject of a joint Turkish-Australian maritime archaeological expedition.