Archibald McCullough Wilson was born at Oamaru, New Zealand on 1 March 1888. He joined the RAN in 1913 for a period of five years’ service. Known to his crewmates as ‘Tug’, Wilson was small but pugnacious. In the Dardanelles he was designated spare crew and re-assigned to the RN’s E7. He was aboard this submarine as it followed the AE2 through the Narrows under Captain Archibald Cochrane.
Wilson, Archibald McCullough; Leading Stoker/Petty Officer; RAN 7501
Archibald McCullough Wilson was born at Oamaru, New Zealand on 1 March 1888, into a family of Scottish Presbyterian ancestry. He moved to Australia as a young man, and joined the RAN in 1913 for a period of five years’ service. Known to his crewmates as ‘Tug’, Wilson was small but pugnacious. In the Dardanelles he was designated spare crew and re-assigned to the RN’s E7. He was aboard this submarine as it followed the AE2 through the Narrows under Captain Archibald Cochrane. A later and much better equipped submarine than AE2, the E7 sank several ships and shelled railway lines and a munitions factory, spreading terror among the Turks before being caught in Turkish nets and sunk. Wilson’s daughter, Mrs Rose Walpole, wrote to historian Bill Sellars in 1987 that when the submarine was sunk, ‘my father told the Captain that he couldn’t swim, and the Captain told him that now was a b—— good time to learn’.
Wilson linked up with his AE2 crewmates as a prisoner of war at Afion Kara Hissar, where he found a relatively secure job working as a cook for a mess of air force officers. A strong and assertive character, he clashed at least twice with Turkish guards at Belemedik and was beaten badly. His daughter Rose recalled that ‘he had a badly broken nose caused by a blow from a gun butt, inflicted by one of the guards’. Following these incidents, Wilson was transferred back to Afion Kara Hissar, and later to San Stefano with fellow AE2 men Nichols, Wishart, Churcher and Harding. Surprisingly San Stefano turned out to be, according to Alex Nichols, ‘on the whole about the best prison camp in Turkey’. Wilson and his mates were housed in what had once been a convent, from which, Nichols wrote, ‘the nuns had fled in terror since the war, and the only occupants when we arrived were three priests of the Franciscan order’. Although not all Catholics, the men were befriended by the priests, who used their influence to enable them to receive aid parcels via the Dutch Embassy and the Red Cross. On his release from San Stefano in November 1918, Wilson began a long voyage home, first on the Adamant, then the Hird, followed by a small boat which took him to Malta, and from there to Italy and overland to London. On arrival in London, Wilson’s mate Nichols observed, ‘Many of the men shed tears the Turks could not wring from them’.
Wilson re-enlisted in the RAN after the war on 1 January 1919 for a further five-year period, and advanced in rank to stoker petty officer. He set up home in Geelong, Victoria with his wife and seven children. In July 1924 he was approved to be discharged ‘invalided’. During the Great Depression, Wilson fell on hard times, and although he was a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ he enlisted the aid of both Commanders Stoker and Haggard to get assistance for himself and his family from the Repatriation Department. Both gave him strong references, and Haggard offered to personally represent him before a Commission hearing. Wilson died of a heart attack on 16 June 1953, aged 65.