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HMA Submarine Service




This section is for an old mate of mine, Wayne Sands, a most dedicated and professional submariner - According to him there were only two types of seagoing vessels. Submarines; and their Targets! To Sandy we were all just "Skimmers".


After the formation of the Royal Australian Navy, initial plans for Australian submarines were for three British "C" Class boats but only two of the improved "E" Class were authorised. At a submerged displacement of 810 tons and speed of 10 knots both submarines were commissioned at Portsmouth on 28th February 1914. They were named AE1 and AE2, and the 'A' in their name standing for Australian.


Beset with minor problems during their delivery voyage from England AE1 and AE2 arrived in Sydney on 24 May 1914, just three months before the outbreak of World War 1. It was a baptism of fire that was to see both these boats lost, one in action and one without a trace.


AE1 and AE2 were assigned to operations in New Guinea waters at the outbreak of the war. One month later AE1 was gone. On 14 September 1914 AE1 was on patrol with HMAS Parramatta of Cape Gazelle, New Britain. At the end of the patrol she was sighted by Parramatta apparently heading into harbour, but she never arrived.


After the loss of AE1, AE2 was offered for use by the Admiralty. She sailed under the tow of HMAS Berrima from Australia to the Middle East on 31 December 1914, and arrived as the preparations for the Dardenelles (Gallipoli) campaign got underway.


On the first Anzac Day, 25 April 1915, AE2 attempted to reach the Sea of Marmora through the straits for the purpose of disrupting enemy shipping. During the next five days AE2 was involved in a series of actions which saw her attacked repeatedy by enemy vessels. On the morning of 30 April 1915 she was attacked by a Turkish torpedo boat and forced to the surface. After being holed by the torpedo boat AE2 was scuttled by her crew and snak off Kara Burnu Point. All hands spent the remainder of the war as POWs. With the loss of AE2, the Australian submarine service ceased to exist for the next four years.


Submarine AE2


Then in 1919 as a gift package which included a number of destroyers, six "J" Class submarines were transferred from the Royal Navy to the R.A.N. The J boats were commissioned into the R.A.N. in March 1919 and in April sailed for Australia in company with HMAS Sydney and the submarine depot ship HMAS Platypus. They arrived in Sydney in July 1919 and being found in poor condition were immediately placed in refit.


In 1920 after extensive work, five boats sailed from Sydney to the new submarine base at Geelong, Victoria. The depot ship Platypus and the turret ship HMAS Cerberus were moored there also for support. The sixth boat J7, did not complete her refit until June 1922.


The only major cruise for the new submarines was to Tasmania in 1921. Apart from that the "J" Class spent very little time at sea and had very uneventful lives with the R.A.N.


With the exception of J7 all the boats were decommissioned and sold out of service by 1924. J7 was used for some years as an auxillary power plant at Flinders Naval Depot in Victoria. The remains of J3 can be seen as a breakwater in Port Phillip Bay. For the second time the R.A.N. submarine service was extinct.


Above is a post card sent from HMAS Encounter in New Guniea - The last ever photo taken of AE1 alongside.


HMA Submarine J2
Above HMA Submarine J2


In 1923 there was vigorous debate on the subject of whether Britain should build replacement submarines for the "J" Class or build them in Australia. Britain was chosen.


So the third attempt to establish Australia's submarine force began in April and June 1927 when HMAS Oxley and HMAS Otway were commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy.


On their delivery voyage which began in February 1928, cracks were found in their engine columns and both were laid up in Malta for over eight months. They both arrived in Australia in February 1929, just over a year after sailing from England.Unfortunately, Australia's third attempt at maintaining a submarine service was terminated when armament limitations and the deepening economic depression forced the paying off of both boats at the end of 1929. Both boats were transferred to the Royal Navy in 1931.


On 9 September 1939 the now HMS Oxley was the first allied naval casualty of World War II when she was sunk by a torpedo from another British submarine, HMS Triton. The apparent cause of this was an incorrect response to a recognition challenge. Apart from a small Dutch submarine (K9) used for training purposes during WWII, Australia would not operate submarines for the next thirty six years.


A liability rather than an asset, the K9 was used by the R.A.N. for less than a year in an anti-submarine training role. Commissioned into the navy in June 1943, she was manned by Royal navy personnel with some Australian volunteers. Her liability became obvious in that her batteries had a habit of exploding when she was dived, which was very disconcerting to the crew. She was paid off after nine months and passed back to Dutch control in 1944.


Although Australia had been short of submarines in WWII, Australian submariners were not as many British boats were commanded or crewed by Australian sailors. During the years 1949 - 1969 a total of ten "A" and "T" class were stationed in Sydney. Although never commissioned into the R.A.N., the running costs were met by Australia and New Zealand. They rendered valuable service to the R.A.N. and from this class were developed the later Oberon Class.


On the fifth attempt at establishing and Australian submarine arm the decision was taken to acquire a new force of four Oberon Class submarines to be built at Scotts on the Clyde. The first of this new breed was HMAS Oxley, commissioned in March 1967, followed by her sisters HMAS Otway, HMAS Ovens and HMAS Onslow. HMAS Oxley's arrival in Sydney coincided with the commissioning of the submarine base HMAS Platypus established at Neutral bay, Sydney. In 1977-78 two more units, HMAS Orion and HMAS Otama, joined the squadron and all were eventually modernized in an ambitious and successful program.


From a beginning which relied heavily on support from mother England, the Australian submarine service has matured into an elite branch of the navy with a company whose pride of service is unsurpassed.

The New Collins Class Submarine



The most important feature of a Submarine is its  ability to travel both on and under the water. Whilst on the surface the boat's propellers and  generators are powered by large diesel engines  which like all internal combustion engines require  large amounts of oxygen from the air to run.   Below the surface the air stored within the vessel  is needed for the crew to breathe so the diesel  engine power is replaced by electric motors.   Underwater, the entire power needed to drive and  operate the boat are obtained from huge and  powerful battery units.

To Submerge, valves in the large steel ballast tanks around the outer hull are opened to allow them to flood with sea water.  This reduces the boat's bouyancy (called negative bouyancy) and causes it to sink. Ballast Tanks Run Simulation Next Screen Horizontal Rudders called 'Planes' are  operated by an  operator in the boat to control the rate of the dive  and maintain an even keel or Trim.  SURFACING Alternatively compressed air stored in cylinders whilst surfaced is  pumped into the ballast tanks forcing the water from them and  restoring positive bouyancy thus allowing the boat to surface. The boat maintains a constant depth by adjusting the amount air and water in the tanks to give it a 'neutral bouyancy' i.e. niether sinking nor rising, and also by correct adjustment of the 'planes'.


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