Making your way from the Garden Island Wharf towards the RAN Heritage Centre you will encounter, by the shore on your left, memorials to HMA Submarine AE1 and HMA Submarine AE2 and the bow of HMAS Parramatta.
AE1 and AE2 were Australia’s first two submarines, acquired just prior to WWI and both lost during that war.
I have provided extensive detail on AE1 in my separate review – HMAS AE1 Memorial (…’the ocean bed their tomb’) so will not repeat that here. Suffice it to say that the memorial here on Garden Island, in addition to providing some detail on the submarine’s short life, incorporates an additional plaque listing the names of the submariners who lost their lives in the, still unresolved, loss of the AE1.
I include a picture of the bow of the HMAS Parramatta on account of the fact that it was the last Australian ship to sight the AE1 before it disappeared, for good, in the mist of Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, on 14 September 1914. The Parramatta, launched in 1910, had an illustrious career of its own before being decommissioned in 1928. Post decommissioning, the ship was used, for a time, as prisoner accommodation on the Hawkesbury River before being discarded and left to rust. In 1973 the bow and stern were salvaged and turned into memorials. The bow is here on Garden Island while the stern is on the south bank of the Parramatta River at Parramatta, over 20km away. The distance between bow and stern has given rise to the assertion that the HMAS Parramatta is now the world’s longest ship!
The AE2, after initially patrolling off Papua New Guinea in the early part of WW1, left from Garden Island bound for the Dardanelles on 19 December 1914. There, in the early morning of 25 April 1915, AE2 made a daring underwater dash through heavily mined and fortified waters becoming the first submarine to penetrate the Dardanelles. Having done so, it ran amok attacking Ottoman maritime supply lines to Gallipoli. It continued its disruptive antics for five days before being shelled and severely damaged by the torpedo boat Sultanbisar.
The crew surrendered with no loss of life and, having scuttled the AE2, were rescued and taken prisoner by the Sultanbisar. During their 3.5 years of imprisonment four of the 32 strong crew succumbed to disease and died.
The AE2 remained lost for 83 years until discovered by Turkish divers in 1998.
In my review on the separate AE1 memorial at the Australian National Maritime Museum (referred to earlier) I recounted that both submarines suffered mechanical problems on their long trip out to Australia from Britain, from which they had been acquired. On arrival in Australia both vessels underwent a major refit. The water pump depicted above and on show within the RAN Heritage Centre) is the original pump from one of the submarines and one of only two items remaining to-day from AE1 and AE2. I don’t know what the other one is! A decision has been made not to disturb the wreck of the AE2 in the Dardanelles.
Getting to Garden Island/ RAN Heritage Centre
Garden Island is an active naval base and public access is only permitted to the Garden Island Public Access Precinct on the north tip of the island. Unless you are on a bus tour, access is only permitted via Sydney Ferries using the Circular Quay to Watson’s Bay route. Ferries stop at the Garden Island Wharf during RAN Heritage Centre opening hours only and you must leave the island by the last ferry each day (around 4pm). The RAN Heritage Centre is a short walk from the wharf.
RAN Heritage Centre Opening hours
9:30am to 3:30pm daily except for New Years Day, Australia Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Eve.