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Commemoration of WWI submarine grabs attention

Date : 26 / 05 / 2015
Author : Jim Linton - VK3PC

The vital role of Royal Australian Navy (RAN) submarine AE2 and her brave crew in the waters off Gallipoli was highlighted during the recent commemorative event station VI4AE2 that activated from ANZAC Day. A group of former Australian Defence Force members, who are also radio amateurs, put VI4AE2 on air to commemorate the Centenary of HMAS AE2.

Michael Charteris VK4QS, said: "I decided to do something to show that the Royal Australian Navy was at Gallipoli, and it wasn’t just an all-Army campaign. "With the help of other radio amateurs experienced in the Australian Defence Force followed a well thought out publicity plan so the positive story of HMAS AE2 was told.

The program added a new element to ANZAC 100 in its ability to highlight the role of AE2. A model and pictures of the submarine also appear in the vast WW1 display at the National War Museum in Canberra. HMAS AE2, an E-class submarine breached the defences at the Dardanelles, survived shelling from Turkish shore batteries, and ran aground to narrowly miss netting and minefields. All previous attempts to penetrate the Dardanelles had failed due to mines, gun batteries, searchlight surveillance and patrolling Turkish warships. However, it was vital to control all shipping in the area to prevent the reinforcing and re-suppling of Turkish troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula. After resurfacing it signalled its strategic position, helped the invasion of Gallipoli, and given the mission to "Run amok in the sea of Marmara".
That signal was sent by Telegrapher William Falconer using the Submarine’s Marconi Type 10 Spark transmitter.

From ANZAC Day 2015 and for five days VI4AE2 paid honour to the submarine that was at Dardanelles and the Sea of Marmara. It had about 2,500 contacts around the world using both SSB and CW, plenty of visits to the website qrz.com seeking more information, and an article published in Navy News. That article gives Amateur Radio good publicity showing that those within it really care that a story of AE2 be told. Navy News has a readership of 15,000 current and past members of the Navy.

Michael VK4QS, a former electronic warfare systems sailor who left the Navy in 1995, said he and his fellow radio amateurs wanted to broadcast the AE2 story to the world. "I wanted the story put into the limelight. In some small way, through our hobby of Amateur Radio, we sought to shine the light of history on these brave Australian sailors, who risked death at every moment in the name of the freedoms we enjoy today," he said in the article.

After a game of hide and seek with enemy, the commanding officer and crew were captured as prisoners of war spending time in a Turkish prison camp. Four died there, with the remainder set free after the 1918 Armistice. The remains of the vessel found in 2008. The Australian and Turkish Governments decided to leave it in place rather than trying to raise and restore the submarine. The wreck of submarine is a war grave site. A highlight of the occasion for Michael VK4QS was when he spoke to Jenny Smyth (nee Haggard) the daughter of the Executive Officer of HMAS AE2, Lieutenant Commander Geoffrey Haggard. Courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald, a photo of her and the father’s war medals are on the qrz.com website.

Those involved operating VI4AE2 were:
Mike Charteris VK4QS ex-Royal Australian Navy
Mike Paterson VK4MIK ex-Royal Australian Navy
Doc Wescombe-Down VK5BUG ex-Royal Australian Navy
Alan Shannon VK4SN ex-Royal Australian Air Force
Peter Hewitson VK4QC ex-Maritime Coast Radio Operator
Bob Beck VK4RJ former Rabaul Plantation Manager



 

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