No 19 Operational Training Unit
No 19 Operational Training Unit was originally formed at Royal Air Force Kinloss on 27 May 1940 as part of No 6 Group bomber Command. The unit converted crews to the Whitley Aircraft, the majority destined for No 4 Group Bomber Command.
The Satellite at Forres, was know colloquially as Balnageith, the name of the farmland requisitioned by the Air Ministry. RAF Forres became fully operational when 19 OTU D Flight moved in during the bad winter weather of January 1941. This was mainly due to the conditions at the parent unit of RAF Kinloss. C Flight 19 OTU moved to Forres 13 May 1941, and through out the rest of the year the training tempo continued to pick up.
The winter weather in the North East of Scotland usually means precipitation in one form or another, the effect heightened by the advent of the odd gale! January 1942 was testament to this, the airfield at Forres becoming waterlogged, the training continued at Kinloss, Dalcross and the relief landing grounds in the area.
1942 saw the operational tempo of Bomber Command increase, Maximum Effort were words that affected the OTUs. No 19 OTU contributed twelve aircraft to a raid on Bremen, on the night 25/26 June 1942. One crew failed to return, the crew becoming POW. [No10 OTU lost 4 a/c and No 24 OTU lost 3 a/c.] This loss was the only loss due to enemy action, though, many aircrew were to suffer accidents and emergencies during their operational training with the unit. No doubt bad weather and low visibility taking the toll.
There are many aircraft accidents in the ORBs. Any twin engined aircraft suffering an engine fire or loss at heavy weights was a major problem, and in the hands of a solo-ing less-experienced pilot possibly tragic. Not all the accidents were so. There are one or two ground incidents listed, in particular, where an engine fitter has just cleaned down an oil covered engine, when unbeknown to him an electrician comes along to clear the 700 of a magneto problem. The record does not show the fate as result of the consequent engine fire!
During 1942 No 6 Group was renamed No 91 Group, but still continued to administer the Commands activities in Kinloss and Forres.
Relief Landing Grounds :
Brackla OS NH-860520 located along side the B9990, about
three miles from Nairn.
No 19 OTU continued to fly the Whitley long after the type was removed from front line operations, the output crews later in the war moved on to an Heavy Conversion Unit prior to front line operations.
Forres was reduced to Care and Maintenance basis during October 1944, C and D flights returning to Kinloss. No 19 OTU disbanded 26 June 1945 bringing to a close the permanent operations of RAF Bomber Command in the Forres area. The airfield became home to Italian POWs and displaced units of the Polish Army up to 1947.
Flying of a twin engine variety was occasionally seen between 1960 and the late 1970's when a director of United Biscuits used a strip formed along one of the old dispersal taxiways alongside the river Findhorn.