Harry Abbott, coxswain of the AE2, was also one of the oldest crew members. He was born on 18 April 1876 in Devon, England.
Abbott joined the RN at the age of 18 in 1894 and rapidly rose in rank to the position of chief petty officer by 1913, when he was officially loaned by the RN to the RAN to serve aboard its newly built and commissioned submarine, the AE2.
Taken prisoner of war, he was first interned at Afion Kara Hissar. At Belemedik, Abbott became the paymaster for all the AE2 crew, as well as their guardian. The money was delivered to the men only through the ingenuity of the RAN representative in London at that time, Captain Francis Haworth Booth. Haworth Booth wrote:
I … discovered that there was a Firm in the City who had a Branch in Constantinople, Messrs G. P. & J. Baker Ltd, and that this Firm has some special influence with the USA Embassy in that Town – also that they had some ‘Dead Money’ which they could not use in Turkey, or get out of the country, and that they were glad to effect remittances to prisoners, as long as the funds at their disposal permitted … I then decided on [payment] of 5 pounds each for the 29 crew of the AE2 captured on 30th April last, and 5 pounds each for the two RAN members of spare crew of AE2 captured with HM submarine E7. This was in addition to 30/- per month for each. I am now informed that the American Ambassador in Constantinople was requested to make payment to Harry Abbott as indicated above on 9th November.
Abbott also tried to shield his men. In his shorthand diaries, Corporal George Kerr records on 9 July 1916 that two Australian submariners, Thomson and Gywnne, had ‘set out [escaped] nearly a month ago, and had been gone a fortnight before the man in charge reported them missing. The Turks knew nothing for a long time, despite the fact that the men were counted every night. Two men from the night shift used to come off work and take their place for the counting. A few days after Abbott reported their escape we received news that they had been taken near Adana’. The cover-up was a dangerous gamble by Abbott, and showed real courage.
Abbott returned to England on 10 December 1918 via Alexandria in Egypt, and re-enlisted in the RAN. The navy approved passage for both his wife and son by April 1919, and the family later settled in Neutral Bay, Sydney. Abbott continued his career as chief petty officer on Platypus, Cerberus and Penguin until 1923.