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.
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
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".
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.
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