Last Contact with AE1

As dawn brightened and backlit the Tombara mountains of New Ireland on Monday, 14th September 1914, two vessels were preparing to leave their respective night locations for patrol duty.

AE1 was at anchor in Simpson Harbour and HMAS Parramatta, on war routine, patrolled east of Simpson Harbour between Praed Point and Raluana Point. Both crews heard HMS Encounter bombard German positions near Herbertshöhe at 0630 hours. These enemy positions were the temporary HQ on Toma mountain, 14 km inland.

No doubt both crews were feeling puffed up by the activity of the big naval guns on Encounter the day before and looking forward to the day's patrolling.

Even though AE1 had a duff starboard engine 1, and this problem had been mentioned to Rear Admiral Patey by Lieutenant-Commander Besant 2, they both must have felt confident enough that AE1 was capable of continuing her patrolling duties. repairs to the starboard engine were scheduled to take place within a few days. we don't know at this stage what mechanical repairs were required however, on past performance it is likely the clutch needed attention once again. This seemed a regular feature of the 'E' class boat maintenance. 3.

At 0650 hours, Lieutenant W H F Warren, RAN, Captain of the 'Parramatta', sent a signal to Lieutenant-Commander besant stating, "My orders are to search south with submarines. What time are you coming out?" 4. To my knowledge Besant never sent a reply. He weighed anchor at 0700 hours and by 0800 was proceeding east with 'Parramatta' toward cape Gazelle. (see map of the day's activities). The two vessels arrived in the vicinity of Cape Gazelle at 0900 and 'Parramatta' signaled to AE1, "Propose steaming to south'ard ahead of you keeping in touch. Do you concur? What speed do you wish to go?" Again Besant made no direct reply, but did signal, "What orders have you got?" 'Parramatta' replied "My only orders were to search to south'ard with submarine and anchor off Herbertshöhe at 5.30pm." 4.

Besant made the decision to go north-east from Cape Gazelle toward the Duke of York Islands. He did not however signal his intentions to 'Parramatta", Much to their chagrin.5. Even Vice-Admiral Patey made comment on this course of action by Besant. 6. We must ask ourselves whether rumour among senior officers gave indication that an enemy vessel was lying near the Duke of York Islands Group, and therefore there is the possibility that Besant went glory hunting!!

Both Aubrey Hodgson, 7, and Alec B. Doyle, 8, suggest a strong possibility that enemy craft were in the area. As Alec Doyle said, "... we have strong reason to suppose a small gun boat to have been lying in Duke of York Island observing all our frantic dashing to and fro ..." 9.

Did Besant head off to the Duke of york Islands hoping for an engagement?? We can only assume his courses steered that day. (see map) After leaving 'Parramatta' at 0900. he neither signaled to 'Parramatta' or was sighted until 1420 hours in the afternoon, east of Berard Point on the main Duke of York Island.

It would be safe to say that his patrol took him initially west of the Group, proceeding north rounding the top of the main Island and then steering southward on the eastern side, ending up in the vicinity of Berard Point when finally making visual contact with 'Parramatta'. AE1 asked 'Parramatta', "What is the visibility." 'Parramatta' replied "One to five miles".

'Parramatta' then headed east into Saint George's Channel and lost sight of AE1 at approximately 1530 hours. 'Parramatta's' Log states she 'stopped' at 1535 and the 'proceeded' at 1625 hours. This to me remains very suspicious. No explanation can be found for this action. In his report, Warren never mentioned he had stopped his ship for any reason. I can only that stopped means that the 'Parramatta' was hove to for that period of time.

During this time AE1 was proceeding south-westerly along the east coast of Duke of York Island and approaching Mioko Harbour entrance. 'Parramatta' steamed west back to Berard Point but never saw, or tried to raise via telegraph, the AE1. Assuming that the submarine was on her way back to Herbertshöhe, Lieutenant Warren steered north, went around the top of the main island, then south to Herbertshöhe and brought his ship to single anchor in three shackles of water at 1900 hours.
 

1. See Commander Stoker's report
2. See Admiral Patey's Report
3. See references in other publications
4. See Warren's Report. (I am unable to locate these signals in any of the other squadron ships' logs) [The use of the word 'were' in Warren's signal seems to indicate that the 'Parramatta' skipper, Lieutenant William henry Farrington WARREN , seniority date 1-12-'02, and signing on 'Parramatta' at 1-07-'14, may have been prepared to accept a change in plans if the senior officer, Besant, had so instructed.]
5. Alec B. Doyle, Admiral, RAN, War time Letters of ........
6. See Patey's Report, 23rd September 1914 "... Lt Cmdr Besant appears to have gone rather far to the northward of his beat."
7. Signalman, Aubrey Hodgson, OBE, in his diary, AWM .........
8. Alec B. Doyle, Admiral, ibid
9. extract from letter