Contempt then respect in submarine story

"Submariners are nothing more than tradesmen and submarines are underhand, unfair and damned un-English. All submariners captured should be treated as pirates and hanged."

Little did he know, but in dismissing so readily in 1910 the capabilities of early submarines, Britain's First Sea Lord, Sir Arthur Wilson, expressed a view that submariners have delighted in proving wrong ever since.

And to celebrate the centenary of Australian submarines, a new book helps explain how the transformation in how submarines are viewed has come about.

The book, Century of Silent Service, by Professor Graham Seal, of Curtin University, was commissioned by the Submarine Institute of Australia under the guidance of Lloyd Blake, a former crew member of submarine HMAS Otway. The book presents a history of Australia's submarine fleets and the submariners.

It explains how Australia's first two submarines, AE1 and AE2, which were built in Britain, reached Australia after an historic long voyage in May 1914.

AE1 was lost in still unexplained circumstances off the island of New Britain in September 1914, but AE2 became the first submarine to breach the Dardanelles passage and harass Turkish shipping from April 25, 1915, thus reserving for itself a key place in the Anzac tradition.

The book traces the path of the submarines that came after, through to the present day, and explores their future prospects.

It has a detailed section on the AE1 and the search for it.

Professor Seal said submariners were a group with a strong sense of identity and tradition they had maintained through the years. "Once a submariner, always a submariner," he said.

He said there had always been a public interest in submarines in Australia.

"In the early days, they were an unknown, and there is still a mystique about submarines, their role and the nature of the people who sail them," he said.

Mr Blake said the launch of the book next month was one of a number of events planned for the centenary year.

The West Australian

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