WWI submarine gives up its secrets

The Australian submarine that played a crucial role in the Anzac attack on Turkey in World War I has given up its secrets after lying on the ocean floor for nearly 100 years.

A joint Australian and Turkish project has used a high-definition roving camera to explore inside the submarine AE2 at the bottom of the Sea of Marmara.

The pictures, released yesterday, show amazingly preserved sections of the submarine including forward and aft hydroplanes, rudder and tops of the propellers.

Visible inside are instruments in the control room, a wooden flag locker containing material, most likely to be rolled signal flags and a naval ensign, and even a pair of sailor's sandshoes. Also revealed was a portable wireless telegraph pole and antenna wire.

Project leader and chairman of the AE2 Commemorative Foundation Rear Admiral Peter Briggs said the portable wireless telegraph pole and antenna were probably used by the AE2 to transmit word to headquarters that it was proceeding with its vital mission, giving hope to those in charge of the struggling Anzac landings at Gallipoli, not far away.

The AE2 entered the Dardanelles at 2.30am on April 25, 1915, to "run amok", divert attention from the landings and disrupt transports taking Turkish re- inforcements to the Gallipoli peninsula.

After torpedoing a gunboat, it was chased by surface vessels and found its way past Turkish mines. On the evening of April 25, its signal was relayed to Gen. Sir Ian Hamilton, commander of the Allied forces.

It has been suggested the signal convinced him to continue with the landings, although according to the Federal Government's Anzac history site, Gen. Hamilton had already decided he would order the attack to continue. "While it might not have changed the general's mind, here was a piece of news telling of an Australian success," the site says.

Gen. Hamilton sent a note to the Anzac commanders to say "the Australian submarine has got up through the Narrows and torpedoed a gun boat . . . now you have only to dig, dig, dig, until you are safe."

The AE2 entered the Sea of Marmara on April 26. On April 30 it was attacked by an Ottoman torpedo boat, hit by gunfire and scuttled by Lt-Cdr Stoker.

The AE2's crew were taken prisoner. Rear Admiral Briggs said that had the submarine not been so disruptive to the Turkish, it was "very likely' that the Anzacs might have been pushed back into the sea.

He said the AE2 would be left where it lay. Anti-corrosion measures have been installed around the hull and a marker buoy set up to protect it from shipping anchors and fishing nets.

The West Australian

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