19 OTU Title

Edward (Ted) Hutchinson, Royal Air Force
19 OTU Memories Pt 2

Connect to the Site Map The 1st Part of Ted's Contribution.
(I would like to thank Ted Hutchinson and his son Clive for the information on this page. Webmaster.)
RAF Forres flight structure and procedures

"D" Flight staff comprised:

2 airframe senior NCOs
2 engine senior NCOs
1 armourer junior NCO + 2 other ranks
1 instrument junior NCO + 2 other ranks
1 radio junior NCO + 2 other ranks
1 electrical junior NCO + 2 other ranks
4 airframe junior NCOs + 12 other ranks
4 engine junior NCOs + 12 other ranks

There were nine aircraft to each flight, ideally one undergoing a major and one undergoing a minor inspection, leaving at all times seven for operational use, broken down into five plus two in reserve.

Each aircraft was inspected daily and signed for by each allotted tradesman and countersigned by the junior and senior NCOs. Inspections comprised:

Replenishment of fuel, oil, coolant, oxygen and armaments,
Correct functioning of controls,
Correct tyre pressures,
Checking the complete exterior for any damage,
Running the engines to test for maximum efficiency of all functions,
Checking and testing all radio and electrical equipment.

Similar inspections were carried out during the day as each plane landed.

Major inspections were carried out after 320 flying hours, interspersed with seven minor inspections. Major inspections were carried out at RAF Kinloss and minor inspections at Balnageith. No aircraft was allowed to exceed its inspection flying hour limit. Flight commanders could not have more than their allotted number of aircraft unless authorised by the unit engineering officer.

Generally, work on the dispersal ran smoothly with everyone knowing their responsibilities and acting accordingly with very few exceptions. Bad weather hold-ups, crashes, engine and mechanical failures broke up the routine but were accepted and diligently attended to by everyone.

For night flying, a T-shaped flare path was laid out as there were no illuminated runways at Forres. This flare path comprised goose-necked flares, i.e. watering cans filled with paraffin with four inches of one-inch wick sticking out of the spout. A corporal, a signaller and three men were based at the lower end of the T to control take-off and landings and to maintain the supply of fuel to the flares. Such duty made a change from routine.

A tragic footnote of war

One of the RAF Kinloss billets was at Sanquhar not far from Balnageith. One groundcrew airman billeted there was Tommy Potts who used to bike to work at Kinloss.

One day he begged a lift on a Whitley being flown from Kinloss to Forres to cut short his journey time back to the Sanquhar billet. The Whitley crashed when the inside engine on a turn failed, hitting Findhorn Bank and falling into the river. All occupants were killed.

The lighter side of wartime

It was not all work and no play on "D" Flight. Thanks to all concerned, the half yearly Flight parties engendered tremendous esprit de corps amongst all personnel. Sergeant Foley, the chief organiser, procured out of the blue, four barrels of beer, bottles of spirit, chicken wings, scotch pancakes and other delightful delicacies only found in Scotland – such as orange filled coconut tarts!

Each Flight member brought his wife or girl friend to Number Two Dining Hall at Balnageith. Drinking started at 7pm: beer was free and shorts one shilling. Dancing started at 8pm to the by now well oiled camp dance band – foxtrots, waltzes and quicksteps laced with eightsome and Scottish reels. Everyone on the flight was involved. The lads without a lady friend voluntarily donned borrowed white jackets and served drinks to the ladies.

Ted remembers being able to read the newspaper outside at midnight in summer and watching the dancing and flashing lights of the aurora borealis from the middle of the drome.

Thoughts of faraway home would well up inside the lads while working on the drome when they saw the The Jellicoe Flyer gliding into Forres Station – a twelve coach train from Thurso to London via Aberdeen and Edinburgh, knowing it would be going through their home patch in the early hours of the next morning.

Goodbye to RAF Forres

When flying operations stopped at RAF Forres in 1944, in accordance with custom, the last flight of aircraft to leave, "D" Flight, shot up the drome – giving a spectacular flying display. The "D" Flight groundcrew at Pilmuir and Balnageith, still packing up, were given the most hair raising display they had ever seen. The operational flying officers of "D" Flight (see front row of the photograph), no mean aviators themselves, were joined by the RAF Kinloss test pilot, Flight Sergeant "Bungy" (pron. Bungee) Beadle, who could make a Whitley virtually sit up and beg while flying.

Three Whitleys line abreast, clipping the daisy heads, flying straight towards you with nowhere to run, was one hell of an experience, Ted recalls. Other Whitleys immediately roared over the huts at zero height, sounding as if they were towing twenty dustbins. © Ted Hutchinson

If any of Ted’s surviving contemporaries at RAF Forres wish to contact him, please contact his son Clive first at:

I have lost contact with Ted and his Son Clive, if they read this can one of them contact the webmaster through the address on the contact page please.

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