Weight ‘lifted off family’s shoulders’ after sunk submarine is found

HMAS AE-1 on the seabed
HMAS AE-1 on the seabed
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THE family of a Portsmouth submariner, who perished in a tragic accident 103 years ago, have told of their relief after a mystery surrounding his resting place was finally solved.

Chief Engine Room Artificer Joseph Wilson, of Fifth Street, Buckland, was among the 35 men to die when HMAS AE-1 sank in 1914.

The resting place of the boat, which was the first submarine built for the Australian Navy, remained a mystery until researchers announced they had discovered the wreck off waters near Duke of York islands in Papua New Guinea.

Now Chief Wilson’s grandson has told how the revelation has ‘lifted a weight’ from his family’s shoulders, allowing them to finally grieve in peace.

Keith Wilson, 73, said: ‘This has been the missing chapter in our lives.

‘My father, when he was alive, told me about the loss of AE-1. He felt that there was no sense of closure.

Joseph William Wilson taken at a studio in Malta in 1914

Joseph William Wilson taken at a studio in Malta in 1914

‘He was never really able to grieve properly. To a certain extent, nor was I.

‘It sounds strange to say, but it’s nice to finally know where my grandad died. It’s lifted that weight off my shoulders.

‘I was delighted to see that they had found the submarine.’

Chief Wilson joined the Royal Navy on October 23, 1900 in Portsmouth. He married Elizabeth Jane Burton in 1903 and had six children.

He was among at least seven men from Portsmouth, who were part of the combined British-Australian crew, to have died when AE-1 sank.

The boat left Portsmouth in March 1914 and vanished off Rabaul, Papua New Guinea on September 14.

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

After the discovery of the wreck, the Australian government said it was looking at contacting relatives of those who had died.

But Mr Wilson, who was born in Portsmouth but now lives in Retford, Nottinghamshire, hopes the Australians do more than that.

He said: ‘I would love them to hold a memorial ceremony and invite the families to it. I went to a Submarine Association one in Barrow-in-Furness, where AE-1 was built, three years ago. There were quite a large number of people there. I know it’s a story that still means a lot to people.’