Kinder, Henry James Elly MID; Stoker Petty Officer; RAN 7244

Harry Kinder was born on 17 January 1891 at Kogarah, Sydney, the third in a family of four children. Kinder joined up at the age of 17, and was selected for submarine service four years later, having ‘put up his age’.

His diary records some of the colour of the submarine training of the Australians in Portsmouth, England:

Candidates had to be physically pretty good, and detailed family health histories were extracted from everyone. A six-month trial period was then required before anyone was considered capable of taking a place on a submarine. The slightest mistake on the part of one crew member could mean the loss of many lives and the boat.

Submariners were issued with unusual clothing because of the extreme cold. There were extra thick woollen underclothes, and thick stockings which came up to the thigh and which had very big feet, so they could be doubled back to keep the feet warm. This outfit was finished by a pair of leather seaboots a couple of sizes too big, which gave you the chance to kick them off if you should fall overboard.

I was pleased at having volunteered because of the extra allowances as danger money, or blood money as it is commonly called. Accidents were frequent, as [the submarines] were practically still in the experimental stage, and could not be relied upon. One was nearly as much in danger in peacetime as in wartime. The Australians had their share of narrow escapes while still under training.

Kinder enjoyed the kudos of being accepted as a submariner. An artistic man, he used the long hours during the journey to Australia to complete the most amazing pieces of exquisitely worked fine embroidery, including table-cloths. His family still treasure them.

Kinder was never able to speak or write about his terrible experiences as a prisoner of war, and his diary stops abruptly after he wrote of the AE2’s passage through the Narrows of the Dardanelles in April 1915: ‘In terror I counted 18 sets of scraping, menacing mine cables as I crouched in the darkness of the submarine . . .’

He never lacked courage, however. As the submarine was sinking he actually returned to the vessel to retrieve important ship’s papers for Captain Stoker, and for this was mentioned in despatches on 11 January 1919. Kinder was severely beaten in the prison camp, and suffered kidney damage as well as contracting malaria. He was very lucky to survive his Turkish experience, and was so ill on release that he was the only AE2 submariner sent directly back to Australia. Still suffering from his experiences, he left the RAN voluntarily at the end of his service period in July 1919. Although he never spoke of his years as a prisoner of war, he marched every year on Anzac Day, often accompanied by his little fox terrier.

Kinder settled with his wife and family in the Dorrigo and then Casino areas of NSW, where he was first a farmer and later a telegraph linesman. In old age he became increasingly eccentric and went off to live in a tent by himself at a beach near Evans Head, where he entertained the locals by producing large beach sand drawings and sculptures. He died on 25 April 1964—Anzac Day.