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Avro Anson AW 878

Wreck Dive Wreck Dive | Boat access Boat access

Abalone Dive Site Crayfish Dive Site Open Water Rated Reef Dive Site Wreck Dive Site

RAAF Avro Anson Aircraft | Max Depth: 12 m (39 ft)

Level: Open Water and beyond.

The RAAF Avro Anson AW-878 aircraft wreck sits in about 12 metres of water on the western side of Lady Julia Percy Island. This dive site is effectively a WWII war grave, so due respect should be given.

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.

RAAF Avro Anson AW-878 Plane Wreck — 15 February 1944

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:

  • Flight Sergeant James Henry MacLellan (410684) Pilot
  • Flight Sergeant Dennis Leslie Baulderstone (416712)
  • LAC Norman Thomas Kruck (433368)
  • LAC Brian Carter Ladyman (436921)

A Court of Inquiry into this tragic accident was held on 18 February 1944.

Heritage Warning: Any shipwreck or shipwreck relic that is 75 years or older is protected by legislation. Other items of maritime heritage 75 years or older are also protected by legislation. Activities such as digging for bottles, coins or other artefacts that involve the disturbance of archaeological sites may be in breach of the legislation, and penalties may apply. The legislation requires the mandatory reporting to Heritage Victoria as soon as practicable of any archaeological site that is identified. See Maritime heritage. Anyone with information about looting or stolen artefacts should call Heritage Victoria on (03) 7022 6390, or send an email to

RAAF Avro Anson AW 878 Memorial

Avro Anson AW 878 Memorial
Avro Anson AW 878 Memorial

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.

Avro Anso Aircraft

Avro Anson Aircraft
Avro Anson Aircraft

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.

Technical Data

  • Description:
    General reconnaissance bomber
  • Other Roles:
    Multi-engined trainer
  • Power Plant:
    Two 355 hp Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah IX Radials
  • Weights:
    Empty 2500 kg (5512 lb);
    Loaded 3608 kg (7955 lb);
  • Dimensions:
    Wingspan 17.22 m (56 ft 6 in);
    Length 12.88 m (42 ft 3 in);
    Height 3.99 m (13 ft 1 in).
  • Performance:
    Max speed 302 km/h (163 kt);
    Cruise 256 km/h (138 kt);
    Service Ceiling 19,500 ft (5,944 m);
    Range 1315 km (710 nm).
  • Armament:
    Two 0.303 machine guns, one fixed in nose and one in dorsal turret;
    Bomb load 163 kg (360 lbs).

Lady Julia Percy Island

Lady Julia Percy Island
Lady Julia Percy Island
Lady Julia Percy Island (also known by its Aboriginal name Deen Maar) has to be one of the most incredible diving destinations in Victoria. Ringed by cliffs, with a flat treeless top, the 1.33 square kilometre (329 acres) island is owned by the seals.

The island lies 12 kilometres south-south-west of Yambuk, and 22 kilometres south-west of Port Fairy. Lady Julia Percy Island is about 2 kilometres in length by 1 kilometre wide, comprising a plateau in height from 32–46 metres above sea level, surrounded by cliffs, rock platforms and reefs. Access to Lady Julia Percy Island itself is restricted, and landing is by permit only.

The diversity of marine life, crystal clear water (frequently), rock walls, caves, sand flats, and boulder fields all combine to make this place just stunning. Dolphin, southern elephant seals, Australian sea lions and even killer whales have been observed here. The island can have a particularly ominous feel to it, particularly on an overcast day, but on the right day it is just paradise above and below the water.

Lady Julia Percy Island is famous as the home to the largest colony of Australian Fur Seals in the Southern Hemisphere, and infamous for large Great White Sharks. The sheer number of seals can be a little overwhelming (sight sound and smell), but they are just a part of the wildlife attraction. Mention Lady Julia Percy Island and everyone immediately thinks of sharks, but as any honest abalone diver will tell you, sightings are rare, and they don't eat much anyway.

This island is home to breeding little penguins (2000 pairs), common diving-petrels (1000 pairs), fairy prions (1000 pairs), and short-tailed shearwaters (15,000 pairs). There are also peregrine falcon and sooty oyster catchers. A number of small but unusual plant species survive in the caves in the cliff walls.

Diving Lady Julia Percy Island

Diving at Lady Julia Percy Island is often restricted to the northern or leeward side. The broken bottom and varying depths make this a very interesting dive area.

With the exception of North East Reef, the best underwater scenery is generally found close in to the cliffs. The best terrain generally lies within a 40 metre radius of the island's cliffs, where depths will range from 1 to 20 metres. Whilst some sections are more interesting than others, none will disappoint!

On very good, calm days when you can dive in front, on the ocean side, of the island it becomes simply amazing. There is a very big drop-off across the front of the island, 50 to 70 metres offshore. This drop-off descends from 10 metres to 40 metres deep.

There is at least one very large cathedral-like cave near the base of the drop-off at the south-west end of the island. In the waters on the western side of Lady Julia Percy Island in Prop Bay lies pieces of the RAAF Avro Anson AW-878 aircraft wreck which crashed there on Tuesday, 15 February 1944.

Lady Julia Percy Island is a wonderful dive site but you have to take into account the possibility of shark attacks. Diving here should be avoided during the summer seal pupping season as that can marginally raise the shark attack risk. It's recommended to use a Shark Shield when diving near the island.

Access is by boat from the Port Fairy, Griffiths Street Boat Ramp. Best dived in good conditions with a low swell with light north or northerly winds. You're also a long way from port if the conditions turn and the sea cuts up rough. See WillyWeather (Lady Julia Percy Island) as a guide for the tide times and the height of the tide.

Dive sites at Lady Julia Percy Island include:

Lady Julia Percy Island History

Lady Julia Percy Island is Australia's only submarine volcano formed some seven million years ago. When lava erupts underwater a typical type of lava called pillow lava occurs. These are tube like structures where the interaction with water forms a crust on the outside and molten lava continues to flow inside. It is Australia's only off-shore volcano and the only large basalt island off the coast of western Victoria.

Deen Maar was well known to the Gunditjmara people. It is believed that the spirits of the dead were conveyed across the sea to the island from a cave called Tarnwirring ("the flowing of the wind") at the top of a rocky sea cliff. The island was also known as Tirngoona, meaning "where the sun go away longa night".

The island was given the name "Lady Julia's Island" in 1800 by Lt James Grant after either the wife or daughter of Hugh Percy, 2nd Duke of Northumberland. In 1802 Matthew Flinders expanded the name to Lady Julia Percy's Island as he sailed past on his ship the Investigator. Also in 1802, Nicolas Baudin sailed past the island in his ship the Geographe, and recorded the island as "Ile aux Alouettes", a name that has not persisted.

During the early 19th century, sealing took place with sealing gangs living on the island often for months at a time. There are two graves on the island — one of a sealer buried in 1822, and one of a man named Hardman buried in 1828 by Captain Wishart of the Fairy. Guano was mined on the island for fertiliser until 1861, being transported to Port Fairy in barges.

In January 1936 a scientific expedition from Melbourne University's McCoy Society visited the island for six weeks and carried out a comprehensive ecological survey.

The local Gunditjmara people have a spiritual, traditional and contemporary connection to Deen Maar (Lady Julia Percy Island). This land is the traditional home of the Peek Whurrong speakers of the Dhauwurdwurung (Gunditj Mara) Nation and is of special cultural significance to local Aboriginal people. Bunjil, the Creator, left this world from Deen Maar, and the adjoining mainland and wetlands are also of great spiritual significance.

Abalone Dive Site
Abalone Dive Site
© Mark Norman, Museum Victoria

Divers have the opportunity to catch Abalone at this dive site. Remember your catch bag, legal abalone tool, current Victorian Recreational Fishing Licence, and abalone measure. Please abide by all current fishing regulations if you intend to catch abalone.

See article-catching-abalone for practical abalone hunting advice from The Scuba Doctor, plus melbourne-abalone-dives for a list of other Abalone dive sites near Melbourne.

Crayfish Dive Site
Crayfish Dive Site | © Ian Scholey

Divers have the opportunity to catch Southern Rock Lobster (aka Crayfish) at this dive site. Remember your catch bag, current Victorian Recreational Fishing Licence, rock lobster measure, and cray tags. Once you get back to the dive boat, or shore, make sure you clip the tail and tag your Crayfish as per Fisheries requirements. Please abide by all current fishing regulations if you intend to catch crays. See article-catching-crayfish for practical cray hunting advice from The Scuba Doctor, plus melbourne-cray-dives for a list of other crayfish dive sites near Melbourne. For tips on cooking your Crays, please see article-cooking-crayfish.

Gunditjmara country
Gunditjmara country

Traditional Owners — This dive site is in the traditional Country of the Gunditjmara people of far south-western Victoria which continues over the state border into a small part of south-east South Australia and is bordered by the Glenelg River to the west and the Wannon River in the north. This truly ancient Country extends 100 metres out to sea from low tide and also includes Deen Maar (aka Lady Julia Percy Island) where the Gunditjmara believe the spirits of their dead travel to wait to be reborn. We wish to acknowledge the Gunditjmara as Traditional Owners. We pay respect to their Ancestors and their Elders, past, present and emerging.


Avro Anson AW 878 Location Map

Latitude: 38° 25.221′ S   (38.420353° S / 38° 25′ 13.27″ S)
Longitude: 141° 59.655′ E   (141.994247° E / 141° 59′ 39.29″ E)

Datum: WGS84 | Google Map
Added: 2021-07-12 08:30:32 GMT, Last updated: 2022-05-14 15:14:13 GMT
Source: Peter Ronald GPS
Nearest Neighbour: Haystack, 137 m, bearing 142°, SE
RAAF Avro Anson Aircraft.
Crashed: 15 February 1944.
Lady Julia Percy Island, Discovery Coast.
Depth: 12 m.

DISCLAIMER: No claim is made by The Scuba Doctor as to the accuracy of the dive site coordinates listed here. Should anyone decide to use these GPS marks to locate and dive on a site, they do so entirely at their own risk. Always verify against other sources.

The marks come from numerous sources including commercial operators, independent dive clubs, reference works, and active divers. Some are known to be accurate, while others may not be. Some GPS marks may even have come from maps using the AGD66 datum, and thus may need be converted to the WGS84 datum. To distinguish between the possible accuracy of the dive site marks, we've tried to give each mark a source of GPS, Google Earth, or unknown.


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