Geoffrey Haggard’s grave in the Lilydale Lawn Cemetery is a vivid reminder of the bravery and resilience of Australia’s World War I submariners. The dangers they faced with the evolving technology of the day and persistent enemy actions were formidable. On 2 July 1998, an eight‑decade‑old maritime mystery was solved when Turkish marine archaeologist Selçuk Kolay located the wreck of the Australian submarine HMAS AE2. It lies 72 metres below the surface of the Sea of Marmara.
As the Anzac troops were storming the cliffs of Gallipoli on 25 April 1915, the AE2, with Lieutenant‑Commander Henry Stoker in command and Lieutenant Haggard as his second in command, was already on a mission on the other side of the peninsula. Its orders were to ‘run amuk’, creating a diversion from the Anzac landing, with the ultimate aim of reaching the Sea of Marmara to interrupt supplies being shipped to Turkish troops on the peninsula.
Threading through minefields, past shore batteries and numerous enemy ships, the AE2 succeeded in breaching the Dardanelles but was severely damaged by the Turkish torpedo boat Sultan Hissar on 30 April.The decision was made to scuttle the submarine to ensure that the enemy could not have access to its primitive but then state-of-the-art technology. The main ballast had already blown and all hands were ordered on deck. Assisted by Haggard, Stoker opened the tanks to flood the vessel. All the crew were rescued by the Sultan Hissar and taken to Constantinople (Istanbul) before being sent to Afion prison.
Haggard survived three and a half years of imprisonment, part of it in solitary confinement. Four others of the AE2 crew died. After his release he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander and in April 1919 awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He left the navy in late 1920 when he was offered the post of Aide-de-Camp to the Earl of Stradbroke, Governor of Victoria.
In 1923 he married twenty-year-old Marjory Syme and began life as a pastoralist and grazier at Pendleside, the Syme family property at Woori Yallock in the Yarra Valley. After an initial unsuccessful attempt to join the Royal Australian Navy, he finally succeeded on 10 October 1939. He was killed instantly that evening by a stone thrown up by a passing train.
Service record of Geoffrey Arthur Gordon Haggard:
Long silence: the story of GAG Haggard of submarine AE2, Jennifer Smyth, Toorak, 2007.
Straws in the wind, Henry Stoker, London, 1925.
Stoker’s submarine, Fred and Elizabeth Brenchley, Sydney, 2003.
Gallipoli and the Anzacs: submarines in the Dardanelles, 1915
For an animated account of the AE2’s operations in the Dardanelles, see: