ON 23 JULY 1943

An RAAF Avro Anson AX-471 on a non-operational training flight, clipped a Pisonia tree on Heron Island off the central Queensland coast with one of its wings at 1040 hours E.S.T. on 23 July 1943. The Avro Anson, with its crew of five, crashed into the ground in the area where today's tennis court is located. Three crew members were killed instantly as follows:-

Flying Officer David Skene Paterson (405931), of 66 Squadron RAAF
Flying Officer Francis Joseph Robinson (264997), of 32 Squadron RAAF
Fabian Crothers McMaster (420102), of 71 Squadron RAAF

Two other crew members were seriously injured. One of them died from his injuries the next day (another source indicates 8 days later?). I believe this was Ronald Douglas Robertson (411951) of 71 Squadron RAAF who died on 1 August 1943. Ronald was the uncle of the famous Australian barrister Geoffrey Robertson Q.C.. The other seriously injured crew member was ACI T.G. Eastoe (124403).

US Navy Subchaser SC 648 of the Seventh Fleet, US Navy was dispatched from the Gladstone area to nearby Heron Island to attempt to rescue any survivors of the crashed Avro Anson. Ensign Ted Treadwell  was assigned to SC 648 as the Third Officer at the time of this rescue mission. 

87 Year old Ted Treadwell shared his recollections of this incident with me in September 2003:- 

"We found the crashed plane and brought back five flyers, three of them dead and the other two still alive but with critical injuries. We brought them back to Gladstone. One of the survivors died the next day but the other survivor eventually recovered. For many years his family sent a Christmas card to our Pharmacists Mate in appreciation. Our ship was too small to have a medical doctor so we had PhMs."

Five crew members of SC 648 went over to the island to rescue the two seriously injured crew members of the Avro Anson and recover the bodies of the three men killed.

Burial arrangements for the three crew members killed instantly in the crash were made by Mr. F. Spork, Undertaker of Gladstone. The Funeral was conducted on 24 July 1943 at the Gladstone Civil Cemetery.


NOTE:-  On 31 May 1943 the detachment of 11 Repair and Salvage Unit RAAF based at Goolman airfield departed to recover an Avro Anson that had crashed on Heron Island off the central Queensland coast. Could this be the same crash and the 31 May date is incorrect?



"Splinter Fleet - The Wooden Subchasers of World War II."
by Ted Treadwell

Heron Island - A Diver's Mecca Part 1 (Web Page)

"Units of the Royal Australian Air Force - A Concise History"
Volume 7 - Maintenance Units



I'd like to thank Ted Treadwell for his assistance with this home page. Ted was made Lieutenant (jg) in March 1944 and became Executive Officer of SC 648. In July 1944 he was made Lieutenant Senior Grade and took over as Commanding Officer of SC 648, an assignment that lasted until the end of February 1945.


Can anyone help me with more information on this crash?


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 Peter Dunn 2015


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This page first produced 29 September 2003

This page last updated 20 September 2020