Pat Matthey (pictured) recalls how his father Percy helped retrieve a wrecked RAAF plane from Lady Julia Percy Island in 1944.
TOP-SECRET accounts of an RAAF plane crash on Lady Julia Percy Island in 1944 and rumours of enemy submarines operating off south-west Victoria have been brought to light by a former Port Fairy man whose father was the town policeman.
Pat Matthey has revealed a few of his many treasured memories after reading The Standard’s story last month about four airmen who lost their lives when their reconnaissance plane crash-landed on the island and toppled down the cliffs.
One of the theories was that it could have been hit by gunfire from an enemy submarine, either German or Japanese.
Mr Matthey, now of Hoppers Crossing, remembers his late father Percy Matthey coming back from the island with local fishermen after retrieving the plane’s wing and other debris.
“Dad must have got word from his superiors in Warrnambool, so he went out with Walter and Reuben Kelly and Reg Vawdon in their 34-foot (10-metre) shark and cray boat,” Mr Matthey recalled.
“They went ashore and got the wreckage. I was only a lad at the time and when dad came home I noticed something had upset him.
“He wasn’t too happy with what he saw. The plane structure wasn’t what it should have been. I won’t say any more than that.
“A few days later an RAAF truck came to Port Fairy to take the parts away.”
The four airmen lost their lives after their Avro Anson, which took off from Mount Gambier, disappeared while monitoring the coastline.
Parts of the wreckage are still on the ocean floor at the western side of the rugged island and some pieces have been souvenired by divers.
Warrnambool East Rotary Club has paid for a memorial plaque which will be mounted on a bluestone block and placed at The Crags in a ceremony on February 15, marking the 71st anniversary of the tragedy.
One of the Rotarians, Andrew Coffey of Warrnambool, has seen the plane wreck several times during his time as an abalone fisherman, and is helping contact families of the airmen.
Mr Matthew said he, like Mr Coffey, had heard stories claiming an enemy submarine had been spotted in the Yambuk-Codrington area and sailors were seen ashore, presumably gathering fresh water, during the war years.
Records show that a few days before the Avro Anson crash, seven aircraft were despatched from Mount Gambier when authorities were told of an alleged enemy submarine off Beachport.
Mr Matthey, a retired fisherman and former Port Fairy sports star, has his own experience with unidentified foreign vessels after his craypot snagged on a mysterious wreck in 1970 near the edge of the Continental shelf, south-west of the town.
He said when they dragged it up there were grey and iridescent red paint marks on the badly-twisted rope.
“I remember it well. It was one of those rare, calm seas and we were on my boat, the Kathleen,” Mr Matthey said.
“When we got back to Port Fairy we showed it to police and a few weeks later Federal Police from Canberra arrived and went over our story three times.
“I was told not to say anything about it. At 40 fathoms down it could only be a foreign vessel.
“They worked out the angle we found the wreckage meant it could have been heading towards Port Campbell and the Bay of Islands area.
“To me that means they were coming in to drop something off or pick something or someone off.
“I’ve heard reports of submarines laying mines off Cape Otway and also of a sub seen around Codrington.”
Several family representatives of the four deceased airmen from AW-878, James MacLellan, Dennis Baulderstone, Norman Kruck and Brian Ladyman have confirmed they will attend the memorial ceremony, along with Air Force representatives and other dignitaries.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.