The history of HMAS AE2 (AE2) dates to the decision in 1909 that Australia should create and control its own navy. Before then, the Royal Navy (RN) alone controlled and defended the interests of the colonies and dominions of the British Empire. Initially, the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) opposed the purchase of submarines in favour of torpedo boats and destroyers. However, in 1907, the Australian Prime Minister Alfred Deakin was convinced by British politicians and the RN to include submarines in its new fleet.

Two submarines, HMAS AE1 (AE1) and AE2 were built for the Australian navy by Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness in the United Kingdom. AE2 was launched on 18 June 1913 and commissioned on 28 February 1914. With new crews and commanding officers, the two submarines sailed for and reached Australia in 1914. The voyage took 83 days, 60 of which were at sea.


In comparison to modern submarines, the E-class submarines built before World War I were small, cramped and had limited armaments. The submarines were 181 feet (55.17 metres) long and displaced 660 tonnes surfaced (800 tonnes submerged). They had a speed of 15 knots on the surface, with a maximum speed dived of 10 knots. Each submarine had four 18-inch torpedo tubes, and carried eight torpedoes. AE1 and AE2 were not armed with guns. View the HMAS AE2 fact sheet for details about the AE1’s and AE2’s specifications.

HMAS AE2 Reconstruction © DSTO