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History and Tradition

Explore the traditions and proud history of the Royal
Australian Navy's submarine service.

The Dolphins Badge

The Dolphins Badge is a point of pride for every Submariner. It is awarded to officers and sailors who have completed the comprehensive training required to qualify as a Submariner. Known as the Submariner's “dolphins”, this widely respected badge features two dolphins and a crown.

Close up of Submariners' Dolphin badge

The Jolly Roger

Skull and crossbones

The Jolly Roger, a sign of victory, is flown each time a submarine returns home from a successful wartime patrol. This tradition started over 100 years ago, at a time when submarines were quite unpopular. One of the most vocal opponents, Admiral Arthur Wilson, described submarines as "underhand, underwater and damned un-English", and declared that any Submariner captured during wartime should be 'hanged as a pirate.' So when a submarine, HM E9, sank the first enemy warship sunk in World War 1, she returned triumphantly into the harbour with her periscope raised and a black flag with the skull and crossbones flying proudly - a cheeky 'dig' at Admiral Wilson.

  • Nineteen Eighties

    Six new Collins Class submarines were built in the 1980s to replace the ageing Oberon class. They can cover large distances quickly and quietly, dive to depths in excess of 180 metres and travel at over 20 knots when submerged. Each boat was named after a distinguished former member of the Navy, some of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

    Colour photo of Collins Class submarine
  • Nineteen Sixties

    Four new Oberon Class submarines were introduced in the 1960s: HMAS Oxley, HMAS Otway, HMAS Ovens and HMAS Onslow. They were joined by HMAS Orion and HMAS Otama in the 1970s.

    Black and white photo of Oberon Class submarine
  • Nineteen Forties

    In 1949, a flotilla of three British submarines was based at HMAS Penguin in Sydney and this continued until 1969.

    Aerial photo of HMAS Penguin base in Sydney
  • Nineteen Twenties

    In 1919, six J-class submarines were gifted to Australia from the British Admiralty. And in 1929, two submarines were added to strengthen the Navy: HMAS Oxley and HMAS Otway. However, their arrival coincided with the great depression and, subsequently, both submarines were placed in reserve.

    Black and white photo of J Class submarine
  • Nineteen Fifteen: Gallipoli

    To support the Allied troop landings in Gallipoli, Australia's AE2 submarine successfully launched several attacks against enemy shipping in the Sea of Marmora. It was a perilous mission involving heavy fire, a destroyer attempting to ram her, and a twelve hour wait on the sea floor to avoid pursuers. But disaster stuck when she surfaced to rendezvous with a British submarine and was attacked by a torpedo boat. The sub sank quickly, though no lives were lost at sea.

    Black and white photo of AE2 submarine
  • Nineteen Eighties: The Beginning

    Australia's Submarine Service began when we took delivery of two British-built E Class submarines during World War I. The first task was to seize or neutralise German territories in the Pacific Ocean.

    Black and white photo of E Class submarine