HMS Eclipse - captained by Francis H. Mitchell - was to
escort the two boats to Ceylon (Sri Lanka). HMS Eclipse
carried spare relief crews for HMS Yarmouth, now
stationed in Colombo, spare crews for the submarines and
related ordinance. Her main task was to alternatively
tow AE1 and AE2 during the open sea voyages and allow
her crews maintenance time while under tow. The schedule
issued by the Admiralty allowed three days in each port,
to facilitate maintenance, but this proved to be a
After completing final
preparations, the three vessels left a bleak and
overcast Portsmouth at 0730 hours on Monday, 2nd March
1914. Tuesday, 3rd March saw the trio sailing in good
weather through the Bay of Biscay, when on the 4th, just
clear of the Bay, at 1700 hours - the AE2 lost the first
of two propeller blades. This was a blade from the port
propeller boss. the vibration was so bad, AE2 was taken
in tow by Eclipse.
They arrived in
Gibraltar at 1400 hours on Friday, 6th March.
By 1500 hours, a ship's diver had surveyed the damage
and reported a blade missing. The AE2 was then booked
into the dock for Monday, 9th, with chocks and shores
being altered and made ready.
At 2000 hours on Monday night, the job was complete with
the spare port propeller in place. The crew had a quiet
beer ashore and the two boats, with Eclipse were leaving
Gibraltar for Malta at 2300 hours.
The boats berthed in
Valetta Harbour alongside the 'Old Cruiser' (a receiving
or overflow ship) at 2100 on Friday, 13th March. The
following day was shore leave for a number of the crew
and John Marsland, an engine room artificer on AE2, with
a number of mates spent the day traveling to Citta
Vacchia, sight seeing the churches, convents and
catacombs before returning to Valetta.
Leaving Malta at 1730
on Monday, 16th, with AE2 on a tow line from Eclipse,
all went well until the tow parted for the first time at
0300, Wednesday, 18th. It parted again at 0930 that same
morning, much to the engineers' chagrin as minor repairs
had been commenced on the engines. The parts were
replaced and both AE1 and AE2 continued under their own
power until AE1 was taken in tow at 0700 hours on the
19th. AE1 was cast off just short of Port Said, Aden,
and the small fleet arrived at 1800, Friday, 20th March.
Next morning saw crew
members ashore for exercise and sight-seeing. That night
was spent in a hotel being back onboard the submarines
On Monday, at 0430, AE1
and AE2 cast off from Eclipse and entered the Suez
Canal, taking eight and a half hours through the canal
and tying up in Suez Harbour. The only mishap being the
second coxswain of AE1, ............... falling
overboard to be picked up by some passing Arabs.
The three vessels left
Suez at 1000 hours, Tuesday, sailing through the Red sea
for Aden. Understandably, the heat inside the boats was
almost unbearable with 50°C being recorded in the engine
room. Awnings were rigged on deck to provide some
relief. In his voyage summary Lieutenant-Commander
Besant commented on the excessive battery temperatures.
Awaiting the arrival of
the small fleet in Colombo, Ceylon was the HMS Yarmouth.
The next few days were taken up with the transfer of men
and equipment - with the returning sailors aboard HMS
Eclipse having the widest smiles.
Much time was spent in
Colombo by the submariners of the AE1 and AE2. The
exotic sights and smells of Colombo were a fore taste of
what they could expect as they passed through the Far
East on their way to Australia via Singapore and
Batavia. Their time spent in Colombo helped heal the
depression of the nine day sail from Aden.
HMS Yarmouth took AE1
in tow, and once again the erstwhile submariners were on
their way to Sydney. Proceeding out of Colombo Harbour
at 1800 hours on Tuesday, 14th April, all three vessels
arrived without incident at Singapore roads during the
early morning of the 21st. Miles covered 1,505.
The crews were soon
ashore - after making the boats presentable for
inspection - as an all night leave had been granted. The
submariners were soon in awe of Singapore's diverse
culture mixing, and taking in all the sights, including
the Botanic Gardens and Chinatown by night.
They quickly made
friends and had dinner and drinks at the Engineers mess.
These same engineers organised a Whist Drive and a dance
for the crews of the two boats on the night prior to
their departure for Batavia.
The Straits Times
Newspaper (Singapore) for April 21st 1914, gave the
submarines a fair write up under the sub-heading "Record
Voyage of Australian Craft". HMAS Sydney, a
cruiser, had been in Singapore for several days awaiting
the arrival of the submarines.
Contrary to the article
stating that the submarines had "made the voyage from
home under their own motive power" and "They have guns
on disappearing mountings," it otherwise contained
useful facts, of interest to the general public and