Four Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) personnel lost their lives when their plane lost contact with its base in Mount Gambier, South Australia on Tuesday, 15 February 1944. For reasons unknown, they tried to land the plane, an Avro Anson, on Lady Julia Percy Island. The plane is believed to have been on submarine surveillance at the time.
Small remnants of wreckage lie strewn across Prop Bay (aka Seal Bay), between West Cape to the north and Pinnacle Point to the south, but the GPS location is the main site where an engine crankshaft and propeller are heavily encrusted into the bottom.
On 15 February 1944, during WWII, Avro Anson AW-878 of 2 Air Observer's School (2 A.O.S.) took off from Mount Gambier airfield in South Australia at 0800L hours on Tuesday 15 February 1944 to carry out a radius of action navigation exercise. They were to fly from Mount Gambier to Douglas Point, radius of action to Lady Julia Percy Island, radius of action to Douglas Point and then back to Mount Gambier.
No radio contact was made with the aircraft but it was seen over Douglas Point by the pilot of one of the other aircraft engaged in the formal exercise. Endeavours were made continuously to contact the aircraft from 0830L hours but were unsuccessful. At 1230L hours by which time the aircraft had not returned to base, overdue signals were sent out. At 1300L hours a search was carried out over the route of the exercise and at 1430L hours part of the main plane of the aircraft was sighted on Lady Julia Percy Island. A fishing boat searched in the vicinity of the island that evening and passed through small pieces of wreckage strewn over about 3 miles.
A further search by boat was carried out the next morning in the same area which resulted in the recovery from the sea and the island of the port and starboard wing tips, the port aileron, the door to the gunner's cockpit, portion of a main spar, the top cover of a fuel tank bay and a Mae West. The top cover of the fuel tank bay had the number AW-878 in pencil on the underneath side and the Mae West was identified as having been drawn and signed for by Flight Sergeant MacLellan on 15 February 1944. The bodies of the 4 crew members were never located.
Those crew members presumed to have lost their lives in this tragic accident were as follows:
A Court of Inquiry into this tragic accident was held on 18 February 1944.
A memorial stone and bronze plaque remembering this tragic accident was unveiled at The Crags Car Park overlooking Lady Julia Percy Island on 14 February 2015. The memorial stone, made from local bluestone, was donated by Michael and Cheryl Steele. It was sculptured by stonemason Ian Knowles and placed into its position by Barnstone of Port Fairy. Air Force bereavement pins were presented to family members of the missing crew members. Crags Road was closed for the ceremony and attendees were ferried to the site by bus from Yambuk.
The initial idea for this memorial was triggered when Warrnambool resident Andrew Coffey spotted some of the wreckage of the aircraft whilst working as an abalone diver. He had been a member of the Warrnambool East Rotary Club for many years and suggested that efforts should be made to research the crash and erect a memorial to ensure that the men who lost their lives in this tragic accident are never forgotten. Andrew Coffey and Roger Cussen, both Rotary members, managed to locate a number of family members of the deceased crew members, who were able to attend the ceremony. Amongst them were LAC Brian Ladyman's sister, Elizabeth Hastings and Flight Sergeant MacLellan's daughter, Ann Sorensen.
The Avro Anson, known affectionately as "Faithful Annie", has a special place in RAAF history as more of them — 1,028 — were operated by the Service than any other type. It was also the RAAF's first low-wing monoplane, the first with a retractable undercarriage and with an enclosed gun turret.
Dive Type: Wreck Dive
Imported from The Scuba Doctor