A number of submariners
went ashore knowing that they had to be back onboard by
2300 hours that evening. They found Batavia (Jakarta)
more interesting than they had hoped, even though they
were having communication problems, not being able to
converse in either Bahasa or Dutch languages.
By 1800 hours on the 28th,
with AE1 in tow, the vessels had departed Tanjung Priok
for Port Darwin.
At 0130 hours on Friday, May 1st, AE2's tow rope parted.
So began a short series of events that nearly spelled
disaster for the two boats, and a hair-raising
experience for HMAS Sydney. The tow rope had parted in
the notorious Sunda Strait, which runs between Sumatra
The AE2 drifted out of
control in the current straight toward the AE1. The HMAS
Sydney, with the tow rope wrapped around a rudder lost
steerage way until corrected at the bridge.
The AE2 captain had
this to say,
incident occurred after leaving Batavia
which almost resulted in a calamity. The
cruiser Sydney (afterwards to become famous
as destroyer of the Emden) was escorting the
two submarines for the remainder of the trip
to Australia. After proceeding along the
north coast of Java, we turned to the
southward into the entrance of the narrow
Lombok Strait. There is a very strong
current in this neighbourhood, which runs
directly across the course of a vessel
passing through the strait, and which calls
for much extra caution in navigation -
especially as there are no lights on land to
assist in fixing the position of the ship.
midnight, pitch dark, cloudy and moonless,
when we approached the southern and most
narrow part of the strait; and the
cross-current was causing swirls and eddies
in the water which made steering a good
course very difficult. AE1 was being towed
by the Sydney, with AE2 following astern of
AE1 and out to port of her.
particularly violent eddie AE1 swung off so
suddenly and jerkily to port that the
tow-rope parted, leaving her drifting right
across AE2's course, little more than a
boat's length away. In AE2 we immediately
put the helm hard a-starboard so as to pass
ahead of her; but, being caught by the eddie,
the boat did not diverge one iota from her
course, and held straight on for the centre
of the other submarine.
as if a collision was absolutely inevitable,
as there could be no hope of the engines
answering to the order of "Full speed
astern" before the boats struck. As a last
resort, we in AE2 put the helm hard over the
other way; a lucky swirl caught the boat's
nose at the same moment, helping to swing
her off to starboard - and we whizzed past
AE1's stern at a distance of some three
course, all happened in much less time than
it takes to tell; and, had AE2 run straight
into the other boat at the speed she was
then going, certainly AE1 and probably AE2
would have gone immediately to the bottom
with all hands, A close shave.
AE2's helm was then found to be jammed and
we proceeded to drift towards Lombok Island
at a rocky and steep-to point.
AE1 saying we were not under control and
might want assistance; only to receive the
reply that she, too, was out of control. The
Sydney was too far off to help. By moving
our propellers now ahead and now astern,
according as the submarine's stern or head
swung towards the land, we just managed to
keep clear of the rocks until the helm was
again working properly.
under control at the same time, and we both
passed ahead of the Sydney and stopped to
wait for her. After a time she got under
way, and shaped a course to pass a hundred
yards off us in AE2. She was, perhaps, two
hundred yards away when, to our alarmed
surprise, she altered course and came
straight at us.
full speed ahead immediately, we got out of
the way in time to avoid being run down, but
not by a sufficient margin to make one feel
very comfortable. It then transpired the
broken tow-rope was foul of the Sydney's
At 1000 hours HMAS
Sydney's ship's divers cleared the obstruction, and by
1330, AE2 was again in tow. Rough weather was
experienced while passing through the Rotti Strait with
the sea washing over the bridge of the AE2, and it is
quite possible that it was this rough sea that washed
AE1's wooden wireless telegraph mast overboard.
On the 5th, the tow to
AE2 was let go at 0700 hours, and the boats were
anchored off Palmeston by 0830 hours. Leave was given
from 1630 hours that day until 0700 hours of the
following morning, and nearly all of the crew took the
opportunity of stepping ashore onto Australian soil for
the first time.
"Australia Welcomes Her
Defenders" was proudly displayed and everyone adjourned
to a hotel where thirsts were quenched and the
submariners were told that a day of Sports and an
Evening of concert had been arranged for the next day.
Wednesday, May 6th, saw
the boats open for visitors, and a Royal Salute was
fired from HMAS Sydney to commemorate the Anniversary of
Ascension Day. By 1400, the Sports day had begun with
about 300 sailors taking part. In the evening the
concert was held, after which the Aboriginals treated
the sailors to a corroboree. he evening's entertainment
being completed, the sailors gave a hearty three cheers
for the locals and returned to the boats.
They were underway by
0730 the following morning on their way to Cairns via
Thursday Island, in the Torres Strait, which was reached
at noon on Sunday, 10th May. AE1 was still under tow
when a motor launch arrived and delivered mail. By 1600
hours, the vessels were heading inside the Great Barrier
Reef that runs down the eastern coastline of Australia.
Good speed was made to
Cairns and anchors were dropped at 2130 on Friday 15th.
Next morning saw the boats anchored 200 yards from the
pier at 1030. A number of men went on an organised tour
of sight-seeing to Barrow Falls. The rest taking refuge
in the Mining Exchange Hotel.
The vessels left Cairns
on Monday, 18th May, for Sydney with ample time to reach
the harbour by noon of May 23rd. However, violent storms
with raging winds and hail slowed progress and as the
seas became worse, refuge was taken inside Moreton bay
and anchors were dropped for the night. Weighing anchor
the next morning, the boats headed into the gale and
finally on Saturday the 23rd, the weather moderated.
The small fleet arrived
in Sydney Harbour at 0600 hours on Sunday 24th, May and
berthed at garden Island "having completed a most
wonderful journey of endurance, both for men and