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Bing News

  • Written by Republished with permission from Bing News

On September 14, 1914, the Royal Australian Navy suffered its first causalities of WW1 when the HMAS AE1 disappeared without a trace.

It went missing while on patrol in waters off the coast of Papua New Guinea with 35 Australian, New Zealand and British crew on board. There was no distress call, and there were no witnesses.

Exactly 104 years later a report has been released by the Australian Maritime Museum which uncovers what took down the pride of the RAN.

Solved: One of Australia's most enduring World War One mysteries The HMAS AE1 went down on September 14, 1914, off the coast of Papua New Guinea. (Supplied)The pride of the Australian Navy sank with 35 souls on board. The pride of the Australian Navy sank with 35 souls on board. (aap)

After 13 searches that uncovered nothing, the AE1 was finally discovered in December last year with the help of the Dutch-owned survey vessel Fugro Equator.

The fate of the AE1 and its crew, consisting of three officers and 32 sailors, remained unsolved with relatives searching for answers and explanations of what took the crew to their watery grave.

The last contact from the vessel was made with destroyer HMAS Parramatta at 2:30pm.

The site was surveyed, and comprehensive stills and video footage were taken in a recent expedition by Microsoft co-found Paull Allen’s research vessel, Petrel. They have been pieced together to tell the story of the men’s last moments alive.

Solved: One of Australia's most enduring World War One mysteries After 13 searches, the AE1 was finally discovered in December last year. (aap)Solved: One of Australia's most enduring World War One mysteries Computer modelling used over 8000 images to create a 3D recreation of how the HMAS AE1 sank to the ocean floor. (Supplied)

The images have revealed that a critical ventilation valve in the hull which should have been closed before diving was partially open. Once the sub dived, water would have flooded the engine room resulting in the loss of control.

The submarine without the ability to change its course descended below its crush depth of 100m where the resulting implosion would have killed the crew instantly.

Ms Vera Ryan, the niece of Engine Room Artificer 3rd Class Jack Messenger, expressed the heartfelt feelings of descendant family members. “We feel that our men have been brought home, to be remembered with their shipmates.”

The fact-finding mission was coordinated by a group called Find AE1 in partnership with the Australian National Maritime Museum, Curtin University, the Western Australian Museum and the Submarine Institute of Australia.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's research vessel, RV Petrel Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's research vessel, RV Petrel (Paul G. Allen, Find AE1, ANMM and Curtain University. )Solved: One of Australia's most enduring World War One mysteries The control room on board research vessel Petrel which played the pivotal role in uncovering what went wrong. (Paul G. Allen, Find AE1, ANMM and Curtain University)Solved: One of Australia's most enduring World War One mysteries Members of the HMAS AE1 survey expedition crew, from left, Rear Admiral Peter Briggs AO CSC RAN (Rtd), James Hunter, Andrew Woods, Rob Kraft, Patrick Travis, Richard Seabrook, Paul Mater, Rudi Schlepp and Roger Turner. (Paul G. Allen, Find AE1, ANMM and Curtain University)

“This report represents the combined efforts of a team of dedicated volunteers made up of retired submariners, maritime archaeologists, naval historians and specialists, who have worked tirelessly for many years to find AE1 and solve the mystery of her disappearance,” said Australian National Maritime Museum Director & CEO Kevin Sumption..

AE1 was one of two E-class submarines built in Britain for the new Australian navy. It was launched in May 1913 and commissioned into the navy in February 1914.

Commanded by Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander Thomas Besant, AE1 accompanied the Australian expeditionary forces dispatched at the start of WWI to capture then German-occupied New Britain.

Talking to nine.com.au newly minted Minister of Defence, Christoper Pyne said: "The loss of AE1 and her entire crew of 35 souls in 1914 was the RAN’s first major tragedy and, thanks to all involved with the search and analysis of evidence, we now know what happened and can bring a more complete sense of closure to her crew’s descendants, and our current and past serving submariners".

A memorial service commemorating the 104th anniversary of the loss of HMAS AE1 has been held today at the Australian War Memorial.

© Nine Digital Pty Ltd 2018

Authors: Republished with permission from Bing News

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