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Henry Hew Gordon Dacre Stoker

Commander Henry Hew Gordon Dacre Stoker D.S.O., R.N. 

B. 2 February 1885 at Dublin, Ireland 

D. 2 February 1966 at London, England 

 

Son of Dr. William Stoker (1843 – 1921) of Dublin 

 

Decorated submariner, who upon retiring from the military, enjoyed a successful career on the London stage and screen. As a sportsman, Dacre played polo, tennis at Wimbledon, and was Irish Croquet Champion. 

"Considerable doubt existed as to the possibility of a submarine passage through the Dardanelles; two unsuccessful attempts already had been made; submarines diving in the entrance of the Strait had frequently run ashore owing to the current. What if any, steps the enemy had taken to guard against a submarine passage were uncertain, and generally the task seemed to be both difficult and dangerous. "   - Lieutenant Commander H.H.G.D. Stoker

John Stoker of Southport, England attended the October 14 unveiling of the memorial to AE1 (the sister ship of AE2) at the Naval Heritage Centre, Garden Island, Sydney, Australia.

"Black Wood’s Magazine”  1919 

Volume 206 Page 118 

The Story of Our Submarines – VI 

By Klaxon (pseudonym of John Graham Bower) 

     I have mentioned the fact that Submarine "AE2" (Lieut. -Commander Stoker) was the first boat to get into the Sea of Marmora. Her experience is worth relating, especially in view of the fact that she was an Australian Navy boat, and that her trip was made simultaneously with the Gallipoli landing. 


     She entered the Straits at 2.30 A.M. on 25th April 1915, and continued upon the surface till, being fired on from the northern shore, she dived at 4.30 A.M., and proceeded at 70 feet depth through the mine - field. Her dispatches say:— 

"During the ensuing half-hour or 80 the scraping of wires against the vessel's sides was almost continuous, and on two occasions something caught up forward and continued to knock for some considerable time before breaking loose and scraping away aft." 

     Off Chanak she torpedoed a small Turkish gunboat in passing, and dodged the stem of a torpedo-boat that attempted to ram the periscope. "AE2" then ran aground (her compass having developed defects) under the guns of Fort Anatoli Mejidieh. She got off, and proceeded on at 90 feet, till she ran aground again on the Gallipoli shore for five minutes. This second bump damaged the hull somewhat. She got off and went on, pursued by all the miscellaneous small craft of the Narrows, all of them firing at and trying to ram her periscope. At 8.30 A.M., the pursuit being close, she intentionally ran aground on the Asiatic shore to wait, at a depth of 80 feet, till the chase should have passed on overhead. She waited there, listening to the propellers passing to and fro, until 9 P.M., when she rose and found nothing in sight. At 4 A.M. on the 26th she went on, having charged up her batteries and unsuccessfully attacked two unknown men-of war (one of them probably the battleship Hairedin Barbarossa) near Gallipoli. At 9 A.M. she entered the Sea of Marmora. Unfortunately, "A E 2" carried no gun, and had to rely on her torpedo armament, which at 9.30 A.M. failed her when she endeavoured to sink a transport— one of four coming towards the Peninsula. On 27 th April she had more bad luck with torpedoes, and another transport (escorted by a destroyer screen) escaped her. On the 28th another torpedo failed to hit a small ship convoyed by two T. B. D.'s, and in the evening her sixth torpedo missed on "two men-of-war approaching at high speed from westward." On the 29th, being chased by torpedo-boats and gunboats, she was forced to fire a chance shot in order to discourage the pursuit. The torpedo missed a yard ahead of a gunboat, and "pursuit then ceased." In the evening she met "E 14" at a rendezvous, the latter boat having followed her up the Straits. On the 30th, "AE2" met her end:— 

     "10.30 A.M.: Boat's bow suddenly rose, and boat broke surface about one mile from T.B. Blew water forward, but could not get boat to dive. Torpedo-boat got very close, firing, and a gunboat from Artaki Bay began firing at a range of about three miles; flooded a forward tank, when boat suddenly took a big inclination down by bows and dived rapidly. The 100-feet depth was quickly reached and passed. Went full speed astern, and commenced to blow main ballast. After some interval boat came back to 100-feet depth, so reflooded and went ahead, but boat broke surface stern first. Within a few seconds the shots fired holed the engine-room in three places. Owing to the great inclination down by the bow it was impossible to see the torpedo-boat through the periscope, and I considered that any attempt to ram her would be useless. I therefore blew main ballast, and ordered all hands on deck. Assisted by Lieut. Haggard, I then opened the tanks to flood and went on deck. The boat sank in a few minutes. . . ." 

     All the officers and men were saved, being picked out of the water by the Turkish torpedo-boat after "AE2" had sunk.  

The rest of the article may be found at: Blackwoods Magazine Volume 206 

Capt. H. G. Stoker 

The Times 

February 13, 1966 

 

    Captain H. G. Stoker, the actor, who died on Wednesday, his 81st birthday, will be equally well remembered as Captain H. G. D. Stoker, D.S.O., R.N., commander of the first submarine to travel half-way round the world and to dive through the Dardanelles during the course of operations against Turkey in 191. Hew Gordon Dacre Stoker, a younger son of William Stoker, was born in Dublin on February 2, 1885, entered the Royal Navy in 1900, and joined the newly formed submarine headquarters in 1906. He was lent to the Australian Navy as Captain of the submarine AE 2, but the offer of this ship for service in home waters was accepted by the Admiralty soon after the outbreak of war. AE 2 joined the Fleet off Gallipoli in February, 1915, dived through the strait on the day of the troops' disembarkation. but was hit and holed in the Sea of Marmora. Stoker remained a prisoner of war in Turkey for the next three and a half years. 

    On his return to England he felt unhappy in the postwar Service, and in 1920, while waiting for a naval appointment. he improved his acquaintance with the theatre, hitherto limited to a few performances in prisoner of war camps, by taking a small part in H. M. Harwood's The Grain of Mustard Seed. As Norman McKinnel his first director. had warned him, the question was not whether Stoker had talent-----McKinnel was satisfied on that score-but whether he would get engagements. Luckily he proved to be a "natural" for his next part, that of a country squire, a Philistine but no fool, in Harwood's A Social Convenience: a part of a type common in plays of that period and thenceforward, since he continued to show a flair for it, entrusted to Stoker on many occasions between the two wars. He made it seem especially plausible and at the same time comic in such small-scale performances as his Colonel in Journey's End and his Admiral in The Flashing Stream. His elaborately casual manner sat authentically on those characters. He gave the weight of whole speeches to their monosyllabic replies.  

    Stoker was in management when the Second World War began, but he rejoined the Navy and served for the duration, reverting to the Retired List with the rank of captain in 1946. He was back in the theatre that same year, and soon afterwards appeared in two of the last plays of Lonsdale and James Bridie respectively. In addition to publishing his autobiography Straws in the Wind, Stoker had collaborated in a play with a naval background Under the Surface and himself taken a part in it in 1932.  

    He married Miss Dorothie M. Pidcock, the actress, in 1925. 

Note to publishers and interested parties:

We have two scrapbooks which were compiled by Lt. Commander Stoker, and bequeathed to his godson, Dacre Stoker. The scrapbooks detail his military and acting careers, as well as his sporting life. Contact Dacre Stoker: bramstokerestate@aol.com