Fortune favours the brave

Every submarine has a motto AE2’s was Fortuna Favet Fortibus – Fortune Favours the Brave, so with a motto like that we ought to have some kind of luck. [AWM: PR01466]

Stoker Petty Officer Henry J.E. Kinder, submarine AE2

According to Lieutenant Commander Stoker’s official account of the mission written in January, 1919, AE2 entered the Dardanelles at around 2:30 AM on the morning of 25 April. [AWM: 36/49] Searchlights from White Cliffs, Kephez Point, and Chanak were actively sweeping the Strait. Owing to the White Cliffs searchlights “sweeping the lower reaches of the Strait”, Stoker was forced to alter AE2’s course “towards the northern shore.” At approximately 4:30AM with AE2 “not quite abreast” of the Suan Dere River, she was fired upon. [AWM: 36/49] In Able Seaman John Harrison Wheat’s diary account of the mission held in the Australian War Memorial, a shell was heard to pass “just over” AE2 and an order was given to dive. [AWM: 3DRL/2965]

Picture of Commander Stoker
Stoker: AE2 in the Dardanelles minefields [1/3]
[AWM: 36/49]
Picture of Able Seaman John Wheat
Wheat: AE2 in the Dardanelles minefields [2/3]
[AWM: 3DRL/2965]
Picture of Henry James Elly Kinder
Kinder: AE2 in the Dardanelles minefields [3/3]
[AWM: PR01466]

To prepare a passage through the first of the two charted minefields, Stoker ordered the submarine to depth. [AWM: 36/49] At this point, “everything was very quiet ... as strict silence is maintained by the crew so that no order is missed.” [AWM: PR01466] The scraping sound of a mine mooring wire against AE2’s hull was a clear indication that she had entered the first minefield – over the next thirty minutes this noise was “almost continuous”. [AWM: 36/49] For Stoker Petty Officer Henry (J.E.) Kinder, the continued scraping made crewmen “hold their breath”. [AWM: PR01466]. In his memoirs he later observed:

The Captain remarked that the next few minutes might see us off sailing for Kingdom Come after our halo and wings as we were approaching the place marked on the chart where two stationary mine fields [were located] ... mines are one of the most dreaded things in submarines.

Risking contact with a mine, Stoker brought AE2 to periscope depth - twice while traversing Turkish minefields - deemed “necessary as E15 had run ashore in this vicinity.” Running aground was a clear and present danger to AE2. AE2 had no deck mounted gun, and once aground, would find herself not only exposed, but defenceless. The existence of fortifications on both sides of the Strait and presence of the Turkish Navy, meant that if a grounding was to occur, AE2 stood a good chance of suffering the same awful fate of submarine E15 on 17 April. In his role as Commander, Stoker had to balance the risk of obtaining visual confirmation of AE2’s position with the high probability of detection and attack. Once out of the minefields, in calm waters, AE2’s periscope wake could be readily detected by Turkish forces. On the other hand, in the absence of visual sightings, strong currents increased the likelihood of running aground. In his decision making, Stoker could not place all of his faith in the gyro compass fitted to AE2- this was new technology, largely un-tested in war conditions.

At “about” 6:00 AM, apparently out of the minefields, for a third time, Stoker brought AE2 to periscope where he observed her to be in “good position, rather over to the Northern side of the Strait” and on approach to the Narrows. [AWM: 36/49] Importantly, AE2 had cleared the minefields without any serious mishap.[1] Fortune had indeed ‘favoured the brave’. Meanwhile, an Australian and New Zealand infantry force was disembarking at Anzac Cove, forming the first part of an amphibious invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula with British and French forces. The day would subsequently be known in Australian and New Zealand history as Anzac Day.

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References:

  1. ^ a Stoker, H.G. (1925). Straws in the Wind. London. Herbert Jenkins. p. 109.