I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published April 8th 2021
Coastal views with a mystery
The Crags Coastal Reserve is a scenic, often blustery section of Victoria's west coast and for thousands of years was a gathering place for indigenous tribes.
The Crags Coastal Reserve is just a short 2.9-Kilometre detour off the Princess Highway/A1 between Yambuk and Port Fairy. Photo: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
12-kilometres west of Port Fairy, The Crags provides some great coastal views and, in good weather, views to Lady Julia Percy Island 19-kilometres offshore. The island, also referred to by its aboriginal name Deen Maar or Dhinmar, is home to the largest colony of fur seals in the Southern Hemisphere as well as fairy penguins and various birds of prey. It's also Australia's only submarine volcano and the largest basalt island off Victoria's west coast.
Visitors to The Crags will be rewarded with some great coastal vistas .....
..... as well as spectacular views to Lady Julia Percy Island 19-Kilometres offshore. Photos: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Lady Julia Percy Island also guards an intriguing World War 2 mystery and The Crags is home to a monument commemorating it. On 15th February 1944, a Royal Australian Air Force Avro Anson (AW878) with a crew of 4 onboard departed its Mount Gambier base at 8 AM, on what is believed to have been an anti-submarine patrol along Victoria's west coast.
For reasons unknown, the crew attempted a landing on Lady Julia Percy Island, lost control and crashed. Rescuers were unable to recover the bodies and most of the aircraft, which fell into the sea at the bottom of the cliffs. Small pieces of wreckage were recovered but gave no clue as to why the aircraft crashed. Lost was the pilot Flight Sergeant JH MacLellen, Observer Instructor Flight Sergeant DL Baulderstone and two trainee observers Leading Aircraftsmen NT Kruck and BC Ladyman.
The scale model Avro Anson on a bluestone pillar co-sited with a plaque forms a fitting memorial to four young airmen lost on Lady Julia Percy Island in what is an enduring wartime mystery. Photos: Copyright Ian Gill / Footloose Media
Any number of theories abound as to how the aircraft was lost, including the possibility of it being shot down by a German submarine. A few days prior to the crash, seven Anson's were scrambled from Mount Gambier following reported sightings of an enemy sub on the surface near Beachport, South Australia. There was also a report that a young girl had seen a submarine surfaced off Yambuk with crew members on-shore possibly looking for freshwater. But sadly, we'll never know for sure what happened.
The Crags monument comprising a bluestone pillar with a scale model Avro Anson aircraft and plaque was unveiled in front of family members of the deceased airmen on Saturday 14th February 2015.
Weather conditions along this stretch of coast vary considerably with very strong winds and squalls frequently obscuring the coastline and Lady Julia Percy Island. But come on a good day and the coastal panoramas are magnificent. Either way, the short diversion off the Princess Highway will provide you with a memorable Victorian coastal experience.
Getting There ….
From Port Fairy head west on the Princes Highway/A1 for 11.7-Kilometres, turn left into Crags Rad and the carpark is 2.9-Kilometres ahead. From Yambuk had east on the Princes Highway/A1 for 8.9-Kilometres, turn right into Crags Road and then proceed 2.9-Kilometres to the carpark.
Great article Ian on a great location. The article brought back many memories as I was at the unveiling of the memorial. It was a very moving ceremony. The relatives of the deceased airmen were touched that the airmen's lives had been honoured and remembered.
Thanks Ian. Really enjoyed reading Grags Coastal reserve. I am taking a Probus club to the area and found your article would be of interest to them. Is there much walking to be done to reach the Plaque.
From a reader's perspective, this was a great article, I really liked the word vista - I rarely see it used let alone so fittingly, those ocean views are indeed pleasing, as per the definition of the word vista. Great subject to write about as well, I liked the air history as well as the lesson in Geography.