Resting place of Portsmouth submariners killed in tragic accident revealed

In this undated image provided by the Australian Department of Defense, fish swim around the helm of the Australian submarine HMAS AE1 off the coast of the Papua New Guinea island of New Britain
In this undated image provided by the Australian Department of Defense, fish swim around the helm of the Australian submarine HMAS AE1 off the coast of the Papua New Guinea island of New Britain

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THE resting place of submariners from Portsmouth who lost their lives in a tragic accident more than a century ago has finally been revealed.

Researchers have finally found the wreck of HMAS AE-1, Australia’s first naval submarine, putting to bed a 103-year-old mystery.

The boat was lost during the First World War, vanishing off Rabaul, Papua New Guinea with 35 Australian and British crewmates onboard on September 14, 1914.

The 13th search mission for the vessel found it in waters off the Duke of York islands in Papua New Guinea.

Among the crew were at least seven men from Portsmouth, including Petty Officer William Tribe, whose family lived in Stamshaw Road, Stamshaw, and Chief Engine Room Artificer Joseph Wilson, of Fifth Street, Buckland.

The men are named on war memorials in the area; PO Tribe’s is located at Holy Trinity, Blendworth, near Horndean, and Chief Wilson’s is at St Wilfrid’s Church, Buckland.

Richard Bradshaw, a retired Petty Officer from Waterlooville, researched the life of PO Tribe, who grew up in Midhurst. He said: ‘I’m ex-navy myself so it means a lot to know where he is.

‘It’s nice to see these things have been discovered. It great for the families to finally have that little bit of closure.’

Records show Chief Wilson joined the Royal Navy on October 23, 1900 in Portsmouth. He married Elizabeth Jane Burton in 1903, and had four children when he died.

Other crew members from Portsmouth who died in the tragedy included: PO Henry Hodge, of Princes Street, Buckland, PO Thomas Guilbert, of Liverpool Road, Fratton, AB Arthur Fisher, of Coburg Street, Landport, Signalman George Dance, of West Street, Southsea, and Leading Stoker William Guy, of Cross Street, Southsea.

Keith Roberts, of Walmer Road, Fratton, uncovered many of the names.

He said: ‘Most of these men had wives and families. There could well be many grandchildren out there that this would mean a lot to.’

AE-1 sailed from Portsmouth in March, 1914.

The reason for the sinking is a mystery, with one theory suggesting the boat’s hull was punctured by a reef.

The Australian government is now looking to get in touch with surviving relatives.