The Capture of the AE2 

Graphite on Paper 

56 43cm 

 On 25 April 1915, the day of the landing at Gallipoli, the Australian submarine the AE2 was the first submarine to penetrate the Dardenelles and enter the sea of Marmora in Turkey. Their mission was to “run amok” in the Dardenelles to create a diversion so the landing of the troops at Anzac Cove could take place, by drawing enemy ships away from the landing sights. Commanded by Lieutenant Commander Henry Stoker and his crew of 35 naval men, the AE2 passed through the Dardenelles and as they made their way through they bumped into underwater mines, escaped from Turkish gun boats who were firing upon them, and evaded searchlights. They navigated treacherous currents and had to continually surface to check their position where they were seen and fired upon. The AE2 also torpedoed and sank a Turkish ship.  

My drawing (top) is of the battle-weary crew of the AE2 who, desperate for fresh air, surfaced at Nagara Point at 9 PM after being submerged for 16 hours.  The scene shows the densely populated forests of the area which run straight down to a sheer rock face that drops into the sea. The AE2 made its way from there to the Sea of Marmora, their destination. 

On the 25 April, General Birdwood was considering evacuating the Anzacs from Gallipoli after the heavy losses. The ANZACS were clinging to the sheer sand and rock faces after hours of fighting in which they had lost hundreds of their mates. When Sir Ian Hamilton, nearby on the HMS Queen Elizabeth, received the message that the AE2 had got through to the Sea of Marmora he said “the Australian submarine has done the finest feat in submarine history” and he urged Birdwood not to withdraw, with the result that the ANZACS, revived and inspired, began their trench digging.  

For 5 days, the AE2 eluded the enemy. On 30 April 1915, the AE2 was rendezvousing with a British submarine when spotted by a Turkish gun boat and fired upon. The drawing (bottom) shows the scene of the capture.   The crew of the AE2 crew must have known before they entered the Sea of Marmora that they might not come out of there as Turkish and German armies and navies surrounded them on both sides. The AE2 crew were captured and taken prisoner, though Stoker made several escapes. Stoker received a DSO for gallantry and he and his crew have gone down in history for their daring, and the inspiration their actions had on the morale of the Australian soldiers at Anzac cove.