History of the SAA

History of the Submarines Association of Australia

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During the ANZAC Day March in 1936 a retired PO submariner met up with six or seven former RAN and RN submariners who had served during World War 1, in the "J" class boats between 1919 and 1924 and/or in HMA Submarines Oxley or Otway between 1926 and 1931, and invited them back to his home for a few beers.

The submariners enjoyed themselves so much they vowed to do it again next ANZAC Day. In the interim contact was made with the Submarine Old Comrades Association (SOCA) London Branch in seeking permission to set up an affiliated Branch in Australia.

On 1 July 1937, PO Alfred "Bogey" Harris and his mates held the first meeting of the SOCA Sydney Chapter with Commander F.G. Getting RAN being elected President, the other members to hold office were W.C. Millar as the Chairman, W. Briggs, Secretary and J.F. Beauchamp asTreasurer. The name adopted at the time was the "Submarine Old Comrades Association".

Commander Getting, as a Lieutenant was the first Australian submarine officer to qualify at the Submarine Commanding Officers’ Course; commonly known as the "Perisher" and his first command was HMS/m H47 and he was appointed as First Lieutenant of the new Australian submarine HMAS OXLEY and joined her on April Fools’ Day 1927.

The object of the Association was stated to be "The reunion of Submarine Old Comrades annually and on other occasions as arranged, the membership fee was set at one shilling and the annual subscription at five shillings.

By July 1955 the original Constitution had been amended on five occasions and the object had become "To observe and preserve the Submarine Spirit and Comradeship created during service in HM Submarines".

Following the formation of the Australian Submarine Squadron in 1967 the Association grew and in 1980 further changes were made to the Constitution involving, amongst other things, a change of name which eliminated the words "Old Comrades", the object being to attract more younger submariners into the Association, particularly from the RAN.

In 1990 Elsie Harris, the wife of PO Harris, who always had the interest of the Association and its members at heart bequeathed the sum of $10,000.00 from her estate, which was used to establish the Association Welfare Foundation, set up under the control of elected trustees to provide financial assistance to members and/or their dependents in time of need.

With the exception of the Northern Territory, branches have been formed in all States and the Australian Capital Territory. Each branch operates virtually autonomously and national Co-ordination is effected through a National Committee comprised of an elected National President and Secretary/Treasurer together with Presidents of each State/Territory Branch. In Western Australia a branch of the RN Association still exists, as well as a branch of the SAA.

The Association holds its AGM in a different state each year and this annual reunion of members is called the SAA Submarine Conference - SUBCON.

* The Sydney Chapter of the Submarine Old Comrades Association was the first chapter to be formed with the assistance of the SOCA London Branch, the oldest submarine association in the world, making the Submarines Association the second oldest association. The other Chapters of SOCA in both United Kingdom and overseas, plus other international associations were not founded until after the Second World War.

Photo LCDR F.E. Getting RAN circa 1928-33 courtesy of the Naval Historical Collection.

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Badge circa 1940



Early Association 
Membership Badges

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Post WW2 Badge